Contracted follows a young woman after a one-night stand who believes she may have caught a sexually transmitted infection, but what she really has turns out to be much worse. The film opens in a morgue, where we see the feet of a body lying on a table. The table is rapidly shaking, which given that it is a zombie film shouldn’t be a surprise, but it quickly becomes clear that the table isn’t shaking because the deceased is ‘reanimating’. Barely a minute into the film and we’re treated to bit of necrophilia, not shown but implied, and this isn’t the most disturbing part of the movie.
As far as zombie movies go, the prevalence of gore is assumed, but Contracted takes it that little bit further. As the narrative revolves around the pretense of a sexually transmitted infection in a young woman, you would be right to expect some menstrual bleeding scenes, of which there is plenty. But as the infection gets worse, so do the symptoms, including but not limited to: bleeding eyes, vomiting blood, tooth loss, hair loss, rotting skin, and rotting nails. The latter of these offers one of the most repellent scenes in which our protagonist slowly peels off one of her bloody, rotten fingernails.
If the make-up and gore was the only thing to go by, this would be a highly rated zombie film, but Dawn of the Dead it is not. The narrative is poor at best, and while it offers a slightly different spin to the classic zombie narrative, it follows too many clichés to be considered unique. It infuriatingly follows the horror movie trope of having a female protagonist who does the opposite of what she should be; as she gets sicker, instead of seeking emergency medical attention she tries to hide her illness; when she does eventually visit a sexual health clinic, she doesn’t allow or request the doctor to examine her vagina, despite the massive and traumatic amount of blood that has exited from there; additionally, she is more interested in saving her dying relationship than her dying body, refusing to cooperate when her friends and family try to help her.
While the special effects and make-up stand-out in this film, the narrative lets it down. A zombie film that doesn’t actually feature a zombie until the closing moments, it had the potential to offer a unique take on a zombie epidemic. However, the stilted scripting and clichéd plot ensured it remained below par. The initial party scene where Samantha meets Mr. Necrophilia offers little to the narrative except to demonstrate how she contracts the virus. The conversation between the characters, intended to introduce them to us, is unnatural and forced, making it cringeworthy to watch. While the scripting gets more bearable the longer the film goes on, it takes half of the film to pass before it gets interesting because that’s when the gore begins.
CONTRACTED / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ERIC ENGLAND / STARRING: NAJARRA TOWNSEND, CAROLINE WILLIAMS, ALICE MACDONALD, KATIE STEGEMAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW