31 Days of Halloween — Day 24: Contracted (2013) — by Dr. Shock

hmp-contractedEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

When done right, Body Horror can be one of horror’s more disturbing sub genres. Over the years, directors such as David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Brood, The Fly) and Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) have proven themselves masters of this particular subgenre, while movies like Altered States, Street Trash, Body Melt, and The Human Centipede have taken Body Horror in some stylish, and occasionally quite disgusting, new directions. With 2013’s Contracted, writer / director Eric England throws his hat into the Body Horror ring by relating the unique story of a young woman who, after contracting a disease during unprotected sex with a stranger, must deal with the terrifying fact that her body is disintegrating at a rapid pace.
It all started when Samantha (Najarra Townsend), trying to get her mind off her troubled romance with Nikki (Katie Stegman), attends a party thrown by her good friend Alice (Alice Macdonald). While there, Samantha is drugged by a guy who says his name is “B.J.” (Simon Barrett), and before she knows what’s hit her, she is in a car having sex with this mysterious individual. Over the next several days, Samantha suffers the consequences of this encounter time and again when her body begins to fall apart.

Her mother (Caroline Williams) is convinced that Samantha is back on drugs (a habit she kicked some time earlier), while the doctor (Ruben Pla) has no idea what to make of her sudden deterioration. What’s worse, Samantha learns that the police are searching for B.J. as well as anyone who may have come into contact with him. Frightened and confused, Samantha tries everything from ski caps to make-up to hide her condition, all the while wondering whether or not there’s a cure for what appears to be a life-or-death struggle against her own body.

Contracted has its share of repugnant scenes, almost all of which revolve around the lead’s “illness”. The morning after the party, Samantha awakens in a dazed state, wondering how she got back home, and is further concerned by the discovery of a pool of blood under the covers. This is nothing, however, compared to the terror that awaits her (the scene in which her eyeballs start to bleed was troubling enough, but pales in comparison to what Samantha finds while applying a lotion to a rash between her legs), and director England ensures that we’re subjected to every nauseating detail.

Najarra Townsend delivers a passionate performance as Samantha, who, over the course of the movie deals with emotional issues as well as physical trauma (even when her body starts to deteriorate, Samantha’s desire to reconnect with Nikki is never far from her mind), and Caroline Williams is equally good as the mother who can’t seem to resist judging her daughter’s every action. And while some may have issues with the lead character’s questionable behavior towards the end of the film, Contracted is, at all times, a fine example of Body Horror at its most gruesome.

— Dr. Shock

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4 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 24: Contracted (2013) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 24 – Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

    Despite being a fan of the Chainsaw films, this was the first time I had gotten around to seeing the (For now) most recent Leatherface movie. While the series has never been perfect, and certainly was never concerned with continuity, I’d say for the most part the Leatherface series has been mostly enjoyable. The original film from 1974 is without question, a horror classic. It’s a movie that with each view, I pick up something new or look at it from a different perspective. The first sequel from 1986 changed the tone and created a stupid, yet really fun follow-up with plenty of great gore. Leatherface, the third movie, is one I consider to be greatly underrated, although the forced edits by the MPAA did hurt the movie some. I’ve only watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation once and I’m perfectly content with not watching it again any time soon. The less memory I have of it, the better. The 2003 remake was not only really good, but I’d claim it played a huge role in the remake craze that took over the world of horror in 2000. Finally, the follow-up to the remake in 2006 was a bit pointless, but it was an excuse to see Leatherface again and it wasn’t an embarrassment like TCM: The Next Generation.

    As for 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D, I feel you can break the movie down into two halves with an exposition filled transitional segment combining the two. The first part was yet another re-telling of young adults driving a van in Texas while picking up a mysterious hitchhiker. I’d compare it to both Leatherface and TCM: The Beginning where it’s just an excuse to see Leatherface do his thing again and I’m just fine with that. To the credit to the filmmakers, they did a swell job at keeping Leatherface in the shadows or rarely showing him during this period. It was all about keeping Leatherface mysterious. There were a couple of times during this first half where Leatherface jumped out and made me jump. Furthermore, this first half made me really curious about what was behind Leatherface’s big metal door that they refused to show the audience. It was all about having to wait to see what was behind the door.

    The transitional scene was my least favorite of the film. While Heather (Alexandra Daddario) is in the police station learning the truth about what happened on August 19th (The events that took place immediately after the original TCM ended), a lone police officer follows a bloody trail back to Heather’s mansion and going all the way down into the basement and into Leatherface’s hidden rooms while streaming what he was seeing back to the police station. I hated this scene. It lacked any sort of logic that one police officer would actually follow this trail without waiting for backup. For a good portion of this scene, the police officer wasn’t even concerned about his safety, only near the end realizing that this may have been a dangerous situation. Yet, the scene keeps going on and on. We’re shown the bodies of the male victims and the police officer accidentally shoots and kills Nikka after opening a freezer and she jumped out. Finally, I’m put out of my misery when Leatherface shows up and kills the officer. This scene alone nearly ruined the movie for me. It dragged on and I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that a police officer could be expected to go into a building by himself when it’s so clearly the scene of some grisly crimes.

    The second half of the film is where the script gets flipped and the police are the antagonists and Leatherface is positioned as a hero of sorts. While Leatherface had been a neutral character before, this was the first time he was fully the hero. I found myself really into this idea. He’s hardly the first horror killer to be changed so that he’s saving the day. It fits the character and it doesn’t feel forced. It’s a bit of a shame that the next Leatherface film doesn’t just focus on Leatherface being the hero from the start. It’s something different from simply telling the same story over and over. The handling between Leatherface and Heather was also well done. Leatherface never becomes Heather’s lovable monster. There’s respect there, but Leatherface isn’t interested in bonding with Heather and Heather seems to realize that she needs to treat her cousin Jedidiah as if he’s a wild animal and to always be on alert. My assumption by the end is that while Heather and Jeb won’t be having any lazy Sunday picnics, they’re going to be able to get along and if anyone ever messes with Heather, they’re going to have to deal with her “Cuz”.

    Other than that scene with the sole police officer investigating the bloody trail, I had a few other problems with the movie. In the first half, there’s a lot of time devoted to the sub-plot of Heather’s boyfriend, Ryan, cheating on her with Heather’s best friend, Nikki. Yet, it never goes anywhere. Ryan and Nikki apparently hooked up once before and they do again in the barn during the events of the movie just as Heather is running for her life from Leatherface. I’m not even entirely sure if Heather ever realized that the two closest people in her life was screwing her over. If she never found out, what was the point of that sub-plot in the first place? I was also disappointed by the lack of chainsaw based kills. For a movie that has “Chainsaw” in it’s title, there sure wasn’t a lot of chainsaw related deaths. Off of the top of my head, the only death caused by the chainsaw was to Kenny. However, even then, this was after Kenny was struck by a meat hook and later dropped on another meat hook. The chainsaw was just the final way to put Kenny out of his misery. If you’re not going to give your audience chainsaw based kills, why bother including “Chainsaw” in the title? The line, “Do your thing, cuz!” spoken to Leatherface by Heather may be the single most embarrassing horror quote of the 2010’s. It’s so cringeworthy.

    Since I had went a few years without seeing Texas Chainsaw 3D, I was able to read a lot of reviews and random thoughts on the film. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can conclude that the most common criticism I’ve heard is not worth complaining about at all. The issue is tied around the fact that Heather was a baby during the events of the original TCM in 1974 and now that she’s in her early 20’s, it seems impossible that this movie could take place in 2012. The problem is the film goes out of it’s way to avoid years. Whenever you see references to August 19th, they never include what year it took place in. It’s a bit of retconning to tell the audience that the year of the original TCM isn’t relevant. Don’t worry about. For whatever reason, it seems as if many viewers failed to pick up on this and still felt the desire to complain about the year problem, as if it’s an obvious goof rather than something the filmmakers fully realized what they were doing.

    Overall, my 3+ year avoidance on this movie seemed to be without reason. The movie certainly had it’s flaws, particularly with the scene with the lone police officer and other logical problems, but for a movie that lost me in the middle, they managed to suck me back in before the end. I’m all for any excuse to see Leatherface again and this film seemed to put special care in treating the character well. Even something as small as Leatherface putting his mask on seemed like a big deal due to actually stitching it to his cheeks. If I had to rank the TCM series, Texas Chainsaw 3D would be ranked behind only the original and the 2003 remake.

    Rating: 7/10

  2. Day 24: The Break-In (2016)

    Rating: 2.5/10 (avoid)

    — — — — — Contains spoilers — — — — —

    What I liked:
    – The film builds some suspense with each break-in getting closer and closer.
    – The final “break-in” sequence is pretty tense.
    – The ending, while mildly predictable, is extremely messed up.

    What I didn’t like:
    – Security camera footage aside, probably the flimsiest excuse to always be recording in a found footage movie… ever.
    – Dialogue is very unnatural.
    – Acting is sub-par.
    – The ominous music added in post-production totally wipes out the “found footage” effect.
    – Characters do stupid horror movie dumb stuff.
    – Nitpicking for an indie film, but there is some tech and cars that are in the film that were not available in 2011 (when the film supposedly takes place); also, not sure why it had to take place in 2011.
    – The movie is extremely slow and boring in the lead up to the final scene.
    – The ending, while deliciously messed up, makes absolutely no sense – why and how would we be seeing what Jeff saw in his sleep-walking dream?!

  3. Day 24: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
    Rating: 7/10

    I haven’t seen this film in a while and I found it funnier than I remembered. It’s a classic zombie film and a must see.

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