THIS is why Gator’s btches better be wearing Jimmies!

Main Cast: Najarro Townsend
Director: Eric England

Samantha (Najarra Townsend, 2012: Supernova) wants two things in life. She wants to enter and win the flower competition she’s trying to get into, and she wants her girlfriend, Nikki, to take her back. What she doesn’t want is to get too wasted at her friend Alice’s party. But when a strange man named BJ slips a roofie into her drink and rapes her in his car, she gets a whole lot more than she, or anyone else, could dream.

See, BJ has something of a strange past, at least according to the movie’s opening scene where it is implied he has sex with a corpse in a body bag marked Biohazard. So when, over the course of the three days following her rape, Samantha begins to fall apart, literally, we can only imagine what kind of story could possibly be behind the events of writer/director Eric England’s 2013 horror movie Contracted.

There’s not much more to the plot than what’s told above. Samantha’s job as an LA server is at risk when her eyes are bloodshot, her fingernails start coming off in the food, and she’s painting the toilet in blood. Her mother thinks she’s back on drugs. Her doctor thinks she has a head cold and a rash. Samantha refuses to tell anyone about the rape because if Nikki knows she had sex with a man, she’ll never take Samantha back.

So over the course of three days, Samantha tries to hide her symptoms–very badly–and try to keep her life on track and get things back to where she wants them to be. But the constant puking of blood, the nerve damage to her skin–she insists there’s no hot water even though her flesh is blistering from it–her hair falling out, her teeth turning black and her bottom lip beginning to rot sort of gives away the ruse.

England’s gone out of his way to play up the body horror in this movie, but it works so well and comes across as completely terrifying watching Samantha deteriorating in the wake of something that’s been forced upon her without her knowledge or consent. She’s the ultimate victim, in a situation she didn’t ask for, and feeling forced to hide the truth of what happened because she fears the consequences to her own life. Maybe he plays a little heavy-handed at times with it, but it works, and the end result is a very engrossing movie with heavier themes than this reviewer is prepared to dissect.

Najarra Townsend is perfect in her role as Samantha. Her desperation for Nikki comes across well, but it’s when she starts falling apart and trying to hide it that she really comes through. There was so much about her performance of the quiet shy girl trying hard not to be noticed that was so familiar and reminded me of so many people I’ve met in my life with low self esteem who’ll do anything to avoid being confronted face to face. What an excellent job she did.

The rest of the cast is inconsequential for the most part. No one’s got enough to do here to make much of an impact. The supporting characters are just that, supporting characters, giving Samantha someone to react to and a reason to speak, But Townsend carries the movies so well on her own, that none of them matter anyway.

I’ve only seen one other Eric England movie–Madison County–and remember so little of it, I can’t even say if he did a good job as writer and director. I only remember the title and a bit of the premise. But good or bad, he did a nice job on Contracted.

I felt the third act was the weakest and probably suffered from a case of England writing this incredibly powerful first two acts and then having no idea how to end it with the same force, so the story sort of devolved into what I saw as a typical cliché last act, which I won’t spoil here because, weak act three or not, I don’t want to scare anyone off from enjoying those first two acts. And by the time you get to the last act, you’ll be so invested in Samantha anyway, you’ll finish it off just to see how it ends.

Now, I’m sure I’ve seen body horror done better than this, done more effectively than this. For me, The Exorcist will always be the pinnacle of body horror, with Return of the Living Dead III a pretty close second. But Contracted gets it so right almost from the beginning of the movie to the end and makes it so hard to look away. It’s not a GREAT movie, but it’s great at what it sets out to do, and sometimes that’s good enough. This is definitely one of those cases. And if I can ever track down the sequel, Contracted: Phase II, I won’t hesitate to give it a shot, too.

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