US | 2013 | Directed by Eric England
Logline: A young woman has a one-night stand, and, much to her dismay, discovers she has contracted some kind of extreme infection.
Samantha (Najarra Townsend) is having a bad day. Actually turns out she’s gonna have a bad few days, but let’s start at the beginning. She’s having trouble with her new lover, Nikki (Katie Stegeman), or to be precise, Nikki has lost interest. She’s having issues with her mother (Caroline Williams), or to be precise, Sam’s mum suspects her daughter has slipped back into bad habits. But, the worst is yet to come.
Her best friend Alice (Alice Macdonald) is having a house party, and Sam arrives in a glum mood, only to be hit on by Riley (Matt Mercer), and reminded of her illicit habits by local drug dealer Zain (Charley Koontz). Alice coerces Sam to have several shots, let her hair down, get happy. Nek minnit, Sam is unknowingly sipping from a Mickey Finned red cup from some guy called BJ (Simon Barrett) and having unprotected sex in his car.
Over the next three days Sam’s physical health deteriorates rapidly. It’s pretty obvious she’s caught some kind of heinous venereal disease from that asshole at the party. Sam is preoccupied with winning back Nikki, keeping her mother and Riley at bay, and having to explain her situation to Alice. But that ghastly pink eye is enough to ring anyone’s alarm bells, not to mention the crotch rash and vaginal bleeding. Oh, and that maggot is a bit of a worry too.
Contracted begins with an intriguing prologue sequence; a corpse in a morgue appears to be interfered with. Was that a tag with a radioactive sign tied to the dead girl’s toe? A man zips up the body bag. He leaves the hospital in the dead of night.
The extremity of Sam’s physical decay is very reminiscent of another movie released earlier in the year, Thanatomorphose. Both movies deal with a female perspective, and revolve around sexual conquest and communication frustration. Thanatomorphose is a more surreal, expressionist, and ultimately claustrophobic journey down the river Styx, whereas Contracted ultimately reveals itself to be a close-up, singular vision of zombieism.
Eric England’s directorial style is strong, and he elicits solid performances from his cast, especially Najarra Townsend, a darling of the Californian indie short film scene, but also Katie Stegemen and Alice Macdonald. Nice to see 80s cult final girl Caroline Williams from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986) in a role (a couple of face lifts down the track!)
The moody ambient electronic score from Kevin Riepl was excellent, and the special effects makeup from Mayera Abeita was also notable, especially those “infected” contact lenses. Although England shied away from showing anything gross, the suggestion was adequate for the movie’s tone. I had more of an issue with having to suspend my belief on some of Sam’s decisions regarding her well being, and the actions of her doctor. And, unfortunately, the final scene of the movie lurches into unintentional comical territory.
Flaws aside this is a low-budget indie dark delight, mostly due to Najarra Townsend’s natural charisma and assured performance, the throbbing atmospheric soundtrack, and the fresh (!) approach to a genre staple.
Contracted plays as part of Melbourne’s Monster Fest, Thursday November 28th, 6:15pm, at Cinema Nova.