Contacted is a nasty indie Body Horror written and directed by Eric England. While it’s definitely a disturbing and intriguing watch, this film is incredibly problematic on a variety of levels.
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Contracted tells the terrifying tale of a young girl who has a one-night stand with a stranger and contracts what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease – but it is actually something far worse. As things begin to crumble around her, she is sent on a disturbing and bloodcurdling journey sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
Problem Number One: Both the synopsis and the tagline for Contracted refer to the transition event as a “one night stand”. Wrong. Samantha (the film’s lead played by Najarra Townsend) is raped. She may have gone to B.J.’s car willingly—she may have even allowed him to initiate a sexual encounter. But we hear her in no uncertain terms asking him to stop, at which point the event can only be described as a rape. Any shred of ambiguity is abolished when we later learn that B.J. was equipped with “roofies” (aka, the date-rape drug). Calling it a “one night stand” is misleading for the audience and offensive to victims of sexual assault.
Problem Number Two: Contracted presents itself as a morality tale (a story of actions and consequences), but there is no logical morality at play. It could have been different if Samantha had willingly engaged in dangerous casual sex, or if she had used sex as a way of getting back at her ex—then her affliction might be coughed up to karma. But she didn’t have stupid sex or vengeful sex—she was raped. That makes her affliction tragic and creates a nihilistic undertone in the film. It’s not that bad things never happen to innocent people (happens all the time—especially in Horror movies) but Samantha is only innocent when it comes to the assault. We learn throughout the film that she has a rocky relationship with her mother and a drug addiction. While these insights give her character depth, these seem like normal growing-pains—nothing deserving of plague.
Other problems include:
- The fact that the “carrier” shows no symptoms whatsoever, which is pretty unrealistic for a virus that can completely transform a person in just 3 days.
- The character Nikki (Kate Stegman) is a two-dimensional, stereotypical lesbian man-hater. Come on England, isn’t that bullshit getting kind of old?
- No restaurant manager in his right mind would insist that an employee come to work when they are noticeably sick.
As Samantha’s body deteriorates, so does her sanity. But it’s unclear whether this is a symptom of the virus or if she was crazy to begin with. The result is a protagonist who is difficult to understand, relate to, or even like. All of this, in my opinion, stems from poor writing—which is a shame since Townsend is actually a talented and impactful actress. Of course, the final act of Contracted makes Samantha out to be almost maliciously manipulative, so any sympathy we might have been harboring for her flies out the window.
I suspect England was going for an innovation of the Virus/Infected sub-genre of Horror, something akin to 28 Days Later—except the virus is spread via sex as opposed to bites. It’s an interesting idea, one that might have succeeded under the helm of a more experienced/mature director. As is, Contracted is a nasty flick with good acting, decent effects, but little substance.
2 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Release Date (VOD/Limited)||November 22 2013|
|Starring||Katie Stegeman, Charley Koontz, Najarra Townsend, E-Kan Soong, Matt Mercer, Simon Barrett, Alice Macdonald, Jennifer Gonzalez, Ruben Pla, Lionel D. Carson, Caroline Williams|
|Tagline||Not your average one night stand…|