Starring Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams and Alice MacDonald
Written and Directed by Eric England
Horror used to be fairly simple. There was big-budget horror you could see in the theaters and low-budget horror you caught on video or on television. With multiple mediums (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant, hundreds of channels on DirecTV, et al), it has become impossible to catch every single horror flick that is released. Certain independent horror films are simply too good to miss and they are, sadly, victims of a saturated market. When one finds an incredible film, you almost have a duty as a genre fan to make sure other horror fans become aware of said film. Such is the case with Eric England’s ‘Contracted.’
Released in November, 2013 (now available on DVD and streaming services) ‘Contracted’ is the quintessential low-budget horror film: solid script, smart cinematography, tight casting, and brilliantly delivered effects that are devastatingly gross without being ostentatiously gratuitous. A fantastically disgusting film, England has taken a very interesting (albeit twisted) approach to answering one of the biggest questions in the horror genre. In order to spare readers any ‘spoilers,’ I won’t tell you what that question is, rather I will say that we’ve all wondered, from time to time, just how certain things start. Maybe I’ve already said too much…
Set in L.A., England has found a group of unknown actors (Najarra Townsend stars as Sam) to bring his twisted vision to life. The only actress you may recognize, in fact, is Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Rob Zombie’s H2) who plays Samantha’s disapproving mother. Townsend delivers a wholly believable and tortured performance as a young woman, fallen on hard times after a break-up, who has had to move back into her mother’s tiny apartment. While drinking her relationship blues away – Townsend is incredible in the role of perennially hopeful but hopeless, pining after her cruelly indifferent ex-girlfriend, Nikki (played by Katie Stegeman) – Sam is drugged and raped by a stranger. Though we do not see his face clearly, the tattoo on his hand tells the viewer that this is the same man who was involved in some very disturbing grotesqueness in the film’s opening scene.
Sam wakes the next morning to find she has contracted some very (ahem) alarming symptoms. As her symptoms increase in magnitude (and repulsiveness) she begins to succumb to the mental anguish brought about by some truly horrifying effects caused by her strange disease. As her illness progresses, England (through strong writing and clever camera work), clues us in to Sam’s background implying that she is, perhaps, not the most stable person to begin with. Her past colors her mother’s perception of what is happening to her and this only adds to Sam’s anguish and deteriorating mental state as her symptoms grow progressively more horrible. England also gives us further insight to a very well-developed main character (not common in this genere) as we see her worsening health strongly impact her social life while at the same time we notice that her manic reaction to her health crisis is exacerbated by having such a poor social support system.
The film’s climax, which England somehow manages to stretch out for close to twenty minutes without being tedious, goes from disgusting to shocking, back to disgusting, to ‘oh my God, I thought that might be where this was heading!’
Strong performances balance a strong script and an even stronger concept to make this an indie horror film you simply cannot miss. When you make it to the film’s end and see England’s idea fully realized, you will applaud his originality and forgive him for making you retch. But, let’s be honest, that part was fun too.
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