Review: Contracted: Phase II (2015)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #758

Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 4, 2015
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 78 minutes
Director: Josh Forbes
Producers: J.D. Lifshitz, Raphael Margules
Screenplay: Craig Walendziak
Special Effects: Steve Costanza, Hugo Villasenor
Visual Effects: Jason Richard Miller
Cinematography: Mike Testin
Editing: Ruben Sebban
Studio: BoulderLight Pictures
Distributor: IFC Films
Stars: Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Morgan Peter Brown, Anna Lore, Laurel Vail, Peter Cilella, John Ennis, Najarra Townsend, Richard Riehle, Suzanne Voss, Charley Koontz

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Richard Cheese “Down With The Sickness”
[2] The Sisters of Mercy “This Corrosion”
[3] Faith No More “Digging The Grave”

Nobody wants to come down with the dreaded lurgy. We seldom know how it strikes or the full extent of its cruel intentions; but the one sure thing is that it will entail feeling downright lousy. Traditionally we dose ourselves up with prescription antibiotics, drink a ton of water, and feel tremendously sorry for ourselves, letting out the occasional weary groan to make our nearest and dearest privy to our suffering and earn additional sympathy points in the process. With a little bit of luck and couple of good nights’ decent sleep, we’re soon feeling right as rain again and can find something else to bitch and gripe about instead. However, a dash of influenza is one thing, and watching sexually short-changed socialite Samantha rot from the inside out in Eric England’s Contracted: Phase I is quite another. I shall work under the assumption that we’re all up to speed as to how that corrosion turned out and head straight over to the morgue to pay our final respects.

It’s strange. I only knew Samantha for around 78 minutes and, to be brutally honest, she wasn’t the easiest person to warm to. That said, during the brief time we spent together, it was hard not to form some kind of vague attachment. Granted, she did little to endear herself to me personally, but bygones became bygones around about the time when a maggot dropped out of her clunge amidst an unforeseen gusher. A funny way to bond I know but it would take an unfeeling wretch not to feel mildly melancholic on her behalf and I felt obliged to pin a few hopes on Samantha making a full and speedy recovery. Looking at her now laid out on her gurney, I’d be inhuman not to entertain a twinge of sadness. But it’s tempered with relief as nobody deserves that kind of festering denouement, no matter how questionable the manner in which they conduct their business.

At any rate, it’s Riley (Matt Mercer) my heart should be aching for right now as, due to one grossly unsatisfying bout of “I bagged me a lesbian” sex, he is now showing the same kind of symptoms as the deceased. If Samantha’s three-day decomposition is anything to go by, then he has 72 hours give or take (most likely the latter) to attempt to find a cure for this time sensitive affliction.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing right? I mean, it shouldn’t take two-day cycles to suss out that he’s headed for the mortician’s locker unless he manages to punch the clock in some way right? That may be, but with wisdom comes fresh responsibility as tracking down the carrier before his milk curdles so to speak is a tense nervous headache all by itself.

Riley’s success will hinge largely on his ability to prioritize. That means no going out on dates with sexy young district nurses no matter how into him they clearly are. To be fair, a wake is hardly the most romantic setting for an exercise in getting to know you, but it’s the drinks afterwards that bothers me. Harper (Anna Lore) seems like a sweet girl, the kind he’d have no problem taking back to meet grandmother as she effectively hooked this shit up in the first place. But still, dick move Riley. Real responsible of you fella. A kiss may be but a kiss under normal circumstances, but when an unknown pathogen with 100% mortality rate is coursing through your system as she puckers up, would a handshake not have sufficed?

I’m being far too hard on Riley as he hasn’t negated his other duties and detective Crystal Young (Marianna Palka) has assigned herself tirelessly to his case, so that’s another pair of ears to the ground. Should I be feeling pernickety, then perhaps you could have filled her in with all relevant data as the clock is ticking and it would help if she wasn’t flying blind here. But who am I to tell you how to suck eggs when you’re far too busy digging maggot larvae out of your cheek with a box cutter?

And what of the mysterious BJ (now played by Morgan Peter Brown)? He’s evidently a very sick boy, figuratively speaking, and any man who plasters the wall of their dingy workshop with self-related newspaper clippings is unquestionably a little loose around the hinges. But it’s more than just a dash of narcissism and another of the sociopathic we’re dealing with here. BJ’s gripes are with humanity on the whole; not just a handful of lustful twentysomethings with shoulder chips. And he appears to be, not only holding all the cards right now, but already toasting the windfall from his winning hand six days back.

Contracted: Phase II is a curious strain. Director Josh Forbes and screenwriter Craig Walendziak work well within rather an unyielding brief to tie up any loose ends and create more tethers for the inevitable Contracted: Phase III. As a result, some of the intimacy from the first film is surrendered as it is no longer just about a singular plight and not all of the more outreaching stuff feels sincere or necessarily ring true. At the current rate of knots, the third phase should be one big free-for-all, but the second forms something of an awkward bridge and relies more on briskness of pace than stating a cast-iron case.

Riley himself is required to undertake something of an overnight transformation from the timid wallflower of yesterphase to the plucky scrapper shown here. Lest we not forget the deadly virus currently breaking him down and Mercer takes to a more physically and emotionally challenging role with more than sufficient oomph. However, it’s Lore and Palka who keep us grounded, supplying us two bona fide reasons to care about how this sorry mess scrubs itself up at the close. Both Harper and Crystal are directly implicated through Riley’s blinkered actions and both politely request our investment, rather than demanding it by way of “take me or leave me. Like I give a rat’s ass”.

I was aware on insertion that Contracted: Phase II would require a fair deal of readjustment as it markets itself as one side of a gender coin and a change of director isn’t ordinarily the best of omens. However, it dares to be different, and Forbes deserves kudos for taking a punt at opening this can of worms up to wider suggestion. What it takes by spreading itself thinner it reimburses by way of numerous shots of adrenaline, each administered with a fair degree of creative flourish.

As with the first phase, its true relevancy will be unclear until the trinity has been completed. But the fact that my bathroom cabinet currently resembles a pharmaceutical stockpile should say everything that ultimately needs to be said here. Until the next phase arrives, I think I may just continue to work on my handshake.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Riley’s deterioration doesn’t feel anything like as gradual as his one-time fuck buddy’s. That said, Forbes finds new and improved ways to test those stomach linings and anyone who struggled watching John Rambo cross-stitch his nipple may still be due a visit or two from Mr. Queasy. Aside from the whole steady decomposition deal, we are provided for with a smattering of less contagion-themed sickness to savor and I can but pray that Phase III doesn’t squander this momentum.

Read Contracted: Phase I Appraisal

Read Thanatomorphose Appraisal

Read Rabid Appraisal

Read Honeymoon (2014) Appraisal

Read It Follows Appraisal

Read Starry Eyes Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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