Editor’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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