Review: Contracted slowly rots away, one tooth at a time

There’s something about watching the human body slowly transform into unspeakable terror that will always find a way under my skin, and director Eric England delivers just that in his body horror feature Contracted. There are a few moments in the film that make this one a solid enough entry in the body horror genre, but its story and the questionable decisions made by its characters turn this one away from what could have been something great. It centers around 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 journey.

I love the set-up for the film as we see a gorgeous girl, played by the talented Najarra Townsend, have a one-night stand with a mysterious guy who ends up giving her a gift that keeps on giving—a sexually transmitted disease. It doesn’t take long before we find out that this isn’t your ordinary case of the itch, instead it’s something much more terrifying. And this is where Contracted gets it right as far as body horror goes. Watching Townsend’s character, Samantha, slowly rot from the inside out was pretty horrifying at times and is without a doubt the film’s strongest element. What was great about watching her body fall apart was that you also hear it as well. The sound design was phenomenal, making that sweet sound of slowly peeling off a fingernail all the better.

My problem with the film is that while the story takes its time building tension and grossing you out along the way, there’s no real reward. It’s essentially an hour and half of watching this girl fall apart one tooth at a time, and that’s about it. And then there’s the characters that make some decisions that are almost more disturbing than watching Samantha’s body decompose in front of our eyes. Who in their right mind would put their mouth in and or around a girl that looks like she just crawled out of a Romero flick? Exactly, no sane person would do something like that. And not one, but two characters in the film completely ignore the fact she’s basically a walking corpse and decide kissing and bumping uglies would be a good idea. Thanks, but no thanks. If someone that looks like that tries to put their tongue down my throat I’m only thinking one thing: Kill it with fire!

I think that Contracted got right what it was trying to do, for the most part. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t hit the mark beyond its gross-out moments. This was a tough flick for me to give a rating because I enjoyed the body horror elements of the film, but in the end I had much higher hopes so I ended up leaving this one disappointed. I hope you guys check this one out for yourselves because the film offers some horrific moments and Townsend dials in on a very entertaining performance.

2/5

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

38 thoughts on “Review: Contracted slowly rots away, one tooth at a time

  1. “The gift that keeps on giving.” That’s a dark joke my friend, having just watched this myself lol. I rather liked it, had a lot of fun when the killing began. I don’t have a problem with this flick as much as you do, but I do sympathize with your opinions regarding its shortfalls.

    1. Thanks, man! I’m glad to hear that you dug it, and it appears that my opinion of this film is in the minority. I’m seeing a lot of positive words for it so far, and that’s great! For me though, I guess I just wanted more.

    2. Man, this review completely gives away the entire movie. I am so happy that I caught it before reading this incredibly spoilery summary. There is no reason for anyone to watch it now that they know what’s going on with the star of the film.

      1. Yeah, I don’t see anything here that gives anything away. I have not seen this film, but I do know this is a site that actually doesn’t do that. I am not sure what you read here that gave you that impression.

  2. This looks wicked! I think I’m going to have to watch this one if only for the body horror aspect. It is such a disturbing premise, and I might regret watching it, but oh well. And yes “the gift that keeps on giving” – how terribly ironic! Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I’m glad you’re going to give this one a go. The body horror elements are where it excels, so hopefully you’ll enjoy this one more than I did!

  3. I feel the exact same way – this was going SO GOOD until the last act and then it just fell apart – NO ONE would make it with this chick. No one.

    1. Okay, I just watched this, and I think that Riley hadn’t seen her face; the room was fairly dark, and she had her head down with her hair covering her face. All Riley did was hear her voice. Even when he was having sex with her he wasn’t looking at her face. I actually cracked up laughing when he said “You’re really wet!”. lol.

      “Oh, that’s just blood and maggots!” LOL.

      Now when Alice kissed her I thought was far-fetched. “Is this what you want? Here I am!” lol. But Riley actually didn’t see how messed-up her face was.

      I actually really liked the ending; after she transformed and was attacking everyone I thought was pretty creepy – and I honestly hadn’t realized she was turning into a zombie all along – so props to the makers for taking a tired sub-genre and giving it a fresh and interesting spin.

      1. Gary – I agree with your thoughts BUT…. BUT if it had got to the point where maggots are dropping out of the V there’s no amount of perfume that could disguise that…

      2. Yes I know, but isn’t that the point when he stopped? It wasn’t like he saw the maggots and then ignored them and kept going. Now THAT would be over-the-top. But he stopped after he saw the maggots.

        Quit watching movies when you’re drunk and you’ll get your facts straight! lol.

      3. Glad you watched it! I appreciated the very last scene and I liked how they set it up. It was an interesting take for a zombie flick. However, the shit that goes down before hand was just too much. There’s just no way that guy could not have known that she was a walking pile of rotting flesh. Even if he didn’t see her face, the taste from kissing her should have immediately been a red flag. Didn’t you see all that black shit that was covering her teeth. I can only imagine that would taste like a dumpster full of dead bodies.

      4. I completely get what you’re saying, but if you (and Isaacs) can get over that one aspect, I think you’d enjoy it a lot more. I mean, maybe he just thought she had bad breath. lol.

        I will say this…I thought a lot of the acting was terrible, and some of the dialogue was pretty bad…but it was something I was willing to forgive in this case b/c even though it fell short in the acting department, it was a unique premise and wasn’t predictable, therefore it held my attention.

        The films that I hate are the ones that feel like they follow the same old formula. Since this one didn’t do that I was able to forgive its shortcomings and focus on the positive.

        I admit when she took her glasses off and screamed at her mom and the counselor, that freaked me out for about 2 seconds. lol. That was pretty awesome.

      5. Yea, that part was pretty awesome! Like I said in my review, this was a tough one for me to give a rating. I liked a lot of what the film offered, but that part just really ruined it for me.

      6. I agree with you about the sound; that was pretty excruciating to listen to, which means they did their job right.

      7. Spoiler Alert! Um, I’m not trying to pick a fight here, but I might have missed something (saw it on VOD)-was there anything to indicate she was a zombie at the end? She looked animalistic and making the same raspy inhuman growls, and sort of lashing out, but I didn’t see her trying to eat anybody. Also, at what point did she die and return from the dead? Slumped over the wheel of her car? See, I took it as more that they couldn’t come up with a payoff or satisfying ending, and figured if she got to the point where there were actually cops with guns surrounding her because THAT is how diseased and insane with rage she was, they’d end it right before she went flying at her mom. Please tell me if the zombie thing was indicated and I missed it, in which case I feel might stupid for missing what would be a decent twist.

        Oh, and sorry about the long-ass post on the 8th, I was on over-the-counter cold medicine and was not all there, which is why it turned into an essay-length novella with typos. Feel free to take it down…

      8. They never come right out and say anything about zombies, but I do think that it’s implied. I think the entire movie was just a slow transformation of her turning into one because by the end of the film she’s finally completely dead. Also, if you remember, she does take a bite out of someones neck; very zombie-like if you ask me! It could have nothing to do with zombies but that’s the impression I got, at least.

      9. Mrs. Horror Boom, as Ryan said, it was implied.

        Think back to the doctor saying “Your heart rate is so slow!” and maggots falling out of her as her flesh rots; these are also things to imply one is dead. But since she is still active while slowly deteriorating it implies she is half-dead; then at the end while driving she finally dies, which is when she gets out of the car officially a full-on zombie, and then attacks her mom.

        The ending was actually genius. I have to give this movie props for the originality and creativity on this tired genre. They came at this from an entirely different angle. I for one have been complaining about zombie movies being dull, recycled and lackluster due to pretty much the same thing happening in nearly every zombie film; therefore I appreciate some filmmakers out there trying to do something different.

        As far as your complaint about Samantha throwing up blood and then returning to work, etc. I also thought it was a bit far-fetched as I would imagine someone in that situation would want to get to the doctor ASAP. But I can forgive the writing in this case b/c as you know how annoying living with a nagging parent can be, Sam wanted to work to earn money to get the heck out of her mom’s place. Yes, probably realistically one would still immediately head for the hospital, but it seemed Sam thought the worst had passed.

        I don’t think there was anything wrong with your previous post – except you should use paragraphs to break down your points and make it easier on the reader’s eyes; other than that, say what you want.

  4. First Eric Isaacs, and now you’re reviewing this in the same week. I am going to have to see this soon and report back to you guys. I went ahead and quit reading after your first paragraph b/c I like to go into these kinds of movies fresh. This looks like the kind of movie I may like. I hope I like it better than you…but I probably won’t.

    1. Definitely check it out, Gary. My rating is pretty low compared to a lot of others that I’ve read so there’s a good chance you walk away from this one satisfied. You and I usually tend to disagree, so we’ll so how this one pans out!

      1. I wouldn’t say we “usually” disagree. I think about half the time. After all, we share a lot of the same films in our horror favorites list. We disagreed on VHS2, Carrie (remake) and Insidious 2, but agreed on Conjuring, Evil Dead and You’re Next. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts about “The Hidden Face”. I plan to watch “Contracted” tonight or tomorrow and will let you know. I hope I do disagree with you and EI here, but since you both are so adamant about the ending, I am thinking you guys are probably right.

  5. Reblogged this on HORROR BOOM and commented:
    Horror Boom would like to agree 100% with this assessment of “Contracted” (though Ryan of Rhino’s Horror was a little kinder than I was). I’ve started jotting down notes a few times for a review, but it kept turning into a bulleted list of items that pissed me off, and I’d remember that I spent [REDACTED AMOUNT I PAID COMCAST TO WATCH ON VOD, I’m embarrassed I spent anything to see this] that could have been much, much better spent on buying a couple episodes of HBO’s Oz from Amazon Instant Video. I’m a sucker for body horror combined with gruesome practical special effects, but Eric England ain’t David Cronenberg …not even close. You will see some horrible, cringe-worthy sights (and sounds to accompany them) that made me wince and suck air through my teeth. My rule of thumb for a good, worthwhile horror flick–something I would recommend and probably re-watch– is that it contain two of the following three elements: a good plot/story, good scares, and good effects (not going to lie, practical gore is a plus …up to a point). Of those three elements, I look for and enjoy movies with the first two qualities most The plot to Contracted had potential, the trailer seemed solid. The source/scientific details of the disease are kept vague (other than the fact the unfortunate heroine is extremely drunk and possible stoned, then has unprotected sex with a mostly faceless stranger at a party. OK, I’ll forgive her for that; her backstory hints at a recent break-up with her female lover that hit her hard, she had to temporarily move back in with her born-again Christian mom due to shrinking finances, and pretty severe substance abuse in her past. However, it’s her choices (and the writer’s) that had me rolling my eyes, sighing, and saying things to her character as though she could hear me. Not fun talking-back-to-the-screen, instead things like, “Oh, COME ON!” and “You’re not seeking medical help yet? Are you out of your fucking MIND?” Imagine that you (male or female) had a big gap in your memory right after you started sipping a drink in a red plastic cup from a total stranger of the opposite sex. You notice blackish, very abnormal veins are visible through your skin, appearing to start at the groin and spreading up to your stomach. You’re not hungry and can’t keep anything down (I’m not even listing all the symptoms she notices here), ears ringing, on the verge of fainting. You take a break from your job AS A WAITRESS IN A CLASSY RESTAURANT to use the bathroom, stand up and see, horrified, that the toilet bowl is completely full of blood and some unfamiliar black clotted stuff. Would you: A. Ask anyone else who works there for a ride to the emergency room B. Call some 24-hour hotline (assuming you don’t have a regular doctor) and ask for advice, followed by a ride to an urgent care clinic, or C. Panic quietly for a minute tops, then GO BACK TO WORK AND KEEP WAITING TABLES after a concerned co-worker has asked if you’re OK and you mumble you just have cramps AS IF NOTHING GODDAMNED HAPPENED. I’m going to guess it would be some version of the first two. Oh and later, when things get even uglier (parts of you are visibly rotting off), would you decline a ride from a guy you knew who was worried about you (who’s clearly not dangerous) to an ER? OK, now I’m getting worked up again. I might have been able to overlook–or at least not get taken right out of the movie–these unrealistic reactions from her and other characters, if the wheels of what flimsy narrative there is hadn’t completely come off in the last 20 minutes or so. The movie didn’t stop, it just ended (and we have bad found-footage movies for that already, thanks) right before it was about to come to a climax or satisfying denouement. The lead actress does the best she could with what she was given; her performance wasn’t one of the problems. Still, I can’t recommend this movie for anything other than hardcore body-horror or gross-out gore fans, even though the cast boasts a strong female lead, plus the excellent Caroline Williams (best known to horror fans as “Stretch”, the tough female lead in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2). I also wouldn’t send over $1.99 tops to watch it; my advice it so wait and rent it from Netflix (if and when it comes around).

    1. I completely agree with HorrorBoom. I was enjoying it, even though I couldn’t figure out why she was not urgently seeking medical help. I totally LOST IT when she was standing there in front of Alice, “this is what you want”, and Alice actually kissing someone/something looking like that. Then when that guy kissed & had sex with her… Need I say more? That ruined the whole movie for me.

  6. I watched it and thought why people don’t notice how really bad off she is and call for help, then working at a restaurant looking like that, nobody in their right mind would want a waitress serving food. The ending sucked, they should have made it longer. And the guy having sex with her he must have been hard up! Nobody in their right mind would have sex with someone looking like that!

  7. It’s streaming on Netflix. What a huge disappointment! It had a great premise and the decay makeup was great but it all went so wrong. Plus all the characters were not likeable and thus you don’t care what’s happening to them. Total bummer. If I had paid to see this I’d be very pissed.

    1. Yeah, that was a huge problem with this one, Jill. The characters just come off so unbelievable that it’s just too hard to take anything they do seriously. It had a lot of things going for it but in the end just couldn’t fit the pieces together because of some ridiculous character flaws. Disappointing.

  8. I didn’t know anything about the movie going into it, other than the brief description provided by Netflix. I thought it was a decent movie, though I’m not sure I’d classify it as a horror flick. Also, I wasn’t expecting the outcome… a big of a zombie fan as I am, I should have seen it coming. But I liked that it was basically a “zombie-in-the-making” in a way that i don’t think has ever been done before.

    My criticisms of the movie, though may not be so much with the actors but with the script. The characters seem very non-chalant about this girl who is clearly very ill. For example, the medical doctor she sees doesn’t seem to be too concerned with her. At no point in her first visit to him does he ever say, “Since you had unprotected sex and are exhibiting some disturbing systems, we need to admit you to a hospital”. Sure this may have been an oversight, but upon her second visit to him, I would have expected him to say, “Whoa, you’re going downhill fast! You need to be admitted to an emergency room right now!” He instead just basically tells her to take it easy and try to avoid contact with other people incase she is contagious. Really, that’s it?

    Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but if this stuff were happening to me, I’d be practically living at the doctor’s office. I wouldn’t say, “Even though I’ve got something that would make the Ebola virus look like a common cold, sure I’ll come to work and fill in.”

    And one would think that her friends or family would be like, “Ok, something is up with you, you need to go to the hospital right now. Not tomorrow. Not after work. Not an hour from now, but right now.” But no one seems too concerned about her other than telling her that she looks like crap.

    Overall, I thought it was a good movie, but it’s not something I’d be able to watch over and over.

    1. You nailed it, man. I had a huge problem with the characters in the film. Just too many bad decisions took me out of it. It’s a fantastic idea and it was nice to see this kind of a take on the genre, though.

  9. Somehow just found this review, it popped up in my feed for some reason and I now see this is almost a year old! Wow. This sounds cool though, might have to give it a whirl. I”m pretty easy to gross out when it comes to horror, so the physical transformation here might be all I need. 🙂

    1. Haha, nice! It’s weird how WordPress will do that from time to time. I’ve come across quite a few people who really liked the film. If body horror grosses you out, this film nails it; it’s the one thing they really nailed with this one. The characters are just dumb, unfortunately.

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