The situation is regrettably faced by many: after a rough night of partying, one wakes up with a foggy memory but a clear sense that something inside them has been horrifyingly altered within the past 24 hours. Not an easy thing to openly talk about or even admit, but a reality just the same, and one that should not go overlooked for too long. Eric England’s 2013 “Contracted” is the worst-case scenario of this real-life nightmare. For sexual risk-takers and first-time viewers of this film alike, I have but one word of caution before delving any further: maggots.
Twenty-something Samantha (Najarra Townsend) has reached her breaking point. On the outs with her indifferent girlfriend, recovering from a drug addiction, forced to move into her overbearing mother’s apartment, hounded by pseudo-stalkers and working a dead-end job while scrambling to find success as an amateur botanist, life as an adult hasn’t exactly been a smooth transition. Her attempt to find temporary relief at the bottom of a bottle during a party backfires when she is coerced into sex with a stranger and awakens the next day in her own bed with a nasty hangover and a mysterious STI. Her symptoms include a rash, pelvic discomfort, and a three-day deterioration leading to something worse than death.
Always Use Protection.
From start to finish, Samantha ignores the severity of her condition to the point of absurdity. “It’s nothing,” she declares more than once as her eyes hemorrhage, her teeth rot and her hair falls out. Since she visits a doctor only twice and carries on with her daily errands, Samantha’s condition is exacerbated by her maddening refusal to rush to the hospital and accept that she is suffering from a little more than pinkeye. Because of this, she is not the easiest character to initially relate to. But therein lies what I optimistically hope is the moral of this gross-out little tale, which is to be vigilant in taking care of oneself, despite whatever pressures life brings. Hinting towards Samantha’s risky behaviour from even before her tragic contraction, the subplot revolves around its detrimental effect on her relationships and self-esteem. In a culture known for glamorizing irresponsible behaviour in its media, “Contracted” deserves a tidbit of credit for going the other way and painting an oozing, albeit exaggerated, picture of the consequences.
Does This Look Infected?
Townsend’s depiction of an angry, decaying young woman is strong enough to keep audiences piqued between frustrated and sympathetic, all the while squirming and wincing as they silently pray for the merciful release from her disgusting ailment in death. This small budget feature showcases an impressive array of makeup effects, each one progressively unpleasant than the last. Although the circumstances under which Samantha falls victim are not the most pleasant to view, her character’s sexual identity is more normative than exploitative and thus she becomes an interesting and rather subversive subject for examination under the microscope of the body horror genre.
You’ve Been Warned…
“Contracted” is not for everyone, simply because not everyone wants to watch a film about a girl slowly dying from an STI. For those who can stomach it, or at least think they can, the film offers a disturbing storyline paired with great effects, decent acting and a touch of dark humour. Best of all is its twisted finale, which bridges the film to yet another surprise sub-genre. Shocking, edgy, and hard to keep your eyes off of, “Contracted” may be the next horror film you’ll want to get cozy with. Just make sure you’re prepared to handle any repercussions.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10