Contracted (2013) – Eric England

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It’s always nice to see a new spin on a familiar genre. Eric England’s 2013 entry Contracted, gives us just that. It’s a great body-horror film with a twist. While it certainly achieves its goal of gross-out film making, Contracted does still fall a bit flat in terms of the plot and character development.

I’m not 100% sure of what the film is trying to say either. Is it a commentary on the vapid culture of the millennial generation? Is it a study of a complex character? Or simply a condom PSA? I know there’s something he’s trying to get across, it’s just hard to pin down exactly what that is.

Some of my loyal readers may remember my last review of this director didn’t go so well. Mr. England actually read the negative review and commented on the blog. It was…uncomfortable for everyone involved. Fortunately, I found this film to be better than that in almost every way so hopefully, if he reads this, he won’t come to my house and beat me to death with a shovel. Granted, this film is not a masterpiece, but it’s a big step in the right direction

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Contracted is about a troubled 20-something, Samantha (played by Najarra Townsend), dealing with the struggle of life, relationships and transitioning from the end of adolescence into adulthood. While drinking heavily at a party in an effort to forget about said struggles, she gets taken advantage of by a mysterious stranger. The next morning it becomes very clear that she has caught what she believes to be an STD. Over the next few days it turns out to be more than your average case of the clap. And it becomes pretty clear that she’s going to need more than just a shot of penicillin.

I’ve explained why I love body-horror before. It’s easy for us to identify with characters and feel like these things could be happening to us. By ‘these things’ I mean, bleeding from strange places, discolored skin and eyes, sores, fingernails and hair falling out. Its very upsetting and disturbing to see people literally rotting from the inside. England’s film handles the decomposition of young Samantha very well with just the right amount of blood, guts, and maggots.

That leads me to the biggest problem I had with this film. People don’t seem to react properly to Samantha’s varying states of decay. Particularly her doctor. She goes and sees a doctor twice and he remains uninterested even though she’s literally falling apart in front of him. Later our heroine develops a huge open bloody sore on her mouth and proceeds to make out with not one, but TWO people. Though it’s totally nonsensical, it adds to the gross-out factor – which I found to be the film’s strong suit – so I’ve allowed myself to suspend disbelief.

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In terms of scares, Contracted follows a familiar body-horror recipe. The horror comes from watching this girl disintegrate in front of us. She seems unable (or unwilling) to get the help she needs. We can put ourselves in her shoes in that respect so the fear is transmitted to the audience in that way.

The acting is okay – not great. And I had some trouble really identifying with, or even really liking the characters, which is probably the biggest shortcoming of the film. All that being said, I really liked it. There’s a cool punchline at the end that I wasn’t expecting, so kudos on that. I usually see these things coming a mile away. Though I wonder if it detracts from the overall message of the film (whatever that may be).

At any rate, the moral might just be ‘Always wear a condom, and keep an eye on your drinks at parties’. I think that’s a moral we can all get behind.

Is it scary: 6 – Solid body horror experiment. Definitely upsetting and haunting to watch a beautiful girl rotting on the screen.

Originality: 5 – It’s a clever twist on a story we’ve seen a thousand times before.

Blood: 7 – This film is soaked in blood. Delicious decaying blood.

Believability: 2 – As I mentioned before, I had a hard time following the reactions of other characters to Samanta’s illness. Most people didn’t react realistically at all.

Setting/Cinematography: 5 – The setting was mostly out in bright sunny southern California which isn’t ideal for horror, but the cinematography was executed perfectly. They way it was shot to expose each new symptom was great.

Final Score: 25/50

Verdict- Not a perfect film, but definitely entertaining and worth a viewing if you like watching people decompose, that is.

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Tusk (2014) Kevin Smith

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First, I’d like to make a quick apology to those loyal few followers of this blog. The blog has been pretty dead over the past few months. I’m living in Thailand, teaching English and I have another blog (that I’ve also been neglecting) so I’ve been pretty busy. Sorry for the hiatus. Not sure If I’ll keep up with this regularly but I felt like writing about this movie so here we are…

There are two types of people on this Earth: Those who love Kevin Smith and those who hate him. I am definitely one of them. That is, I’m not sure which group I fall into but I’m sure I’m in one of them. Traditionally, Smith has been rooted in the comedy/dramedy genre. Usually he’s at least a bit satirical. In his recent foray into horror (Red State and Tusk) he’s held on to his comedy and satire roots and against a horror backdrop.

Tusk Howard Howe

In Smith’s most recent installment, 2014’s Tusk, he makes a commentary on the direction our society is headed. And his prognosis is not good. The film is about a man named Wallace, a Howard Stern-type shock jock podcaster. In search of another weirdo to exploit and humiliate on his show, he meets a psychotic old man. The only problem is the old man has some ideas of his own and ends up doing most of the exploitation in the form of an extreme and unnecessary medical procedure.

Through the use of some flashbacks, we see that Wallace has sold out his nice-guy past and become a rude, cruel asshole with a microphone who is infamous for mocking strange or weird people on his show. Essentially we see this man, who has become a monster figuratively, becoming more and more like a literal monster. To Smith’s credit, we really dislike the guy at the beginning of the film and throughout his ordeal as he physically becomes more and more monstrous, his humanity is revealed and we begin to sympathize with him. It’s an interesting twist.

Tusk Wheelchair

Lets not get too sappy though. This is still a Kevin Smith movie. And a pretty serious body-horror nightmare. Even Smith’s comedies are – we’ll say unpleasant – so you can imagine how his horror movies are. This one is downright disturbing. If you can sit through this without squirming in your seat, you should probably get checked by a psychiatrist. To pull it all together, if the same film was made by another director, it would probably be a piece of shit. But we know its Kevin Smith. We know he’s making a statement about something rather than just making a scary movie. It’s not meant to be taken seriously or literally. This one sets out to be upsetting, and it achieves its goal in a big way.

Here’s a quick note: I really, really wanted to include some pictures of the “after the experiment” part of the movie, but it would really ruin the effect so just go watch it yourself.

  1. Is it scary? 6 – It’s not that scary but it’s definitely unsettling. If you showed it to a kid on Sunday night, you’d be getting a call from the guidance counselor pretty early Monday morning.
  2. Originality: 6 – Not sure what to say about this. It’s a bit like Human centipede meets Steve Irwin, but it’s done in an unfamiliar way. Definitely not something I’ve seen before
  3. Blood: 5 – There are some scenes that are pretty bloody, and the result of the ‘medical experiment’ is disgusting. Respectable score here.
  4. Believability: 3 – I don’t think I need to explain myself too much. The dialogue was clever (par for the course for KS) but the storyline isn’t realistic.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6 – Smith does a pretty good job here. The tone of the scary scenes is dark and that shows in the cinematography.

Final Score: 26/50

Tusk Dark

The Fly (1986) – David Cronenberg

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All throughout the bible, it states that “your body is a temple.” Regardless of your religious feelings on this, you have to admit that we all do take our bodies very seriously. Have you ever spend 10 minutes staring into a mirror trying to fix your hair or hide of a pimple? The thought of even something very small being wrong with our personal temple is upsetting. And it’s disturbing to watch bad things happen to others’ bodies as well. There’s a whole genre of horror movies out there called Body Horror dedicated to this very idea.

When you think about it, it’s all very relatable. It’s one of the few things we all have in common- the human body. When you watch something happen to someone else, it’s easy to put yourself in that situation. Body horror movies focus on the details of destruction of the human body. David Cronenberg’s 1986 The Fly is a body horror masterpiece depicting the slow, graphic mutation and decay of a man’s body after being spliced with fly DNA.

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 The film opens with Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) being awesome and trying to pick up/show off to Veronica (Gina Davis). He’s a scientist; She’s a reporter doing interviews at a university meet-and-greet party with the press. For some reason, she gets in the car with CREEPY-ASS JEFF GOLDBLUM and goes to his apartment/lab to see some mysterious new invention that’s supposed to change the world: a teleportation pod. Only problem is that it only transports inanimate objects. When they try to use it on a living baboon, the thing comes out looking like Omaha beach right after the first scene of Saving Private Ryan. Don’t worry. After a post-coital eureka moment and a couple of keystrokes on his Apple 2, the machine works perfectly. Baboon #2 comes out unharmed.

Seth and Veronica have struck up a nice little romance/business arrangement where she’ll document the development of his experiments and give him BJs and stuff in exchange for exclusive reporting rights. After a dispute one night, Veronica runs off and Seth gets drunk tries the machine out on himself. It works fine, except for the fact that a fly buzzed into the pod with him and the machine has spliced their DNA together. At first everything is great. Seth is smarter, stronger, more energetic, but this starts to fade into a sort of mania as the fly personality begins to take over.

Then we start to see his body changing. Fingernails falling off, teeth coming out, skin getting blotchy and peeling off. Basically puberty from Hell. Each time we see him he gets more and more disfigured. He can’t eat food normally anymore- he has to puke up  this milky acid and melt his food and then slurp it back up. The whole thing is pretty revolting. Veronica is surprisingly cool through the whole ordeal and tries to help him out, but becomes clear that her BA in journalism is not going to cut it.

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 Not only is The Fly a great horror movie, but it’s just a great movie in general. It’s not overly complicated (it’s based on a short story). We really just have a short list of characters, whom we get to know very well. Jeff Goldblum as the half-man half-fly mad scientist monster is pretty much the best casting I’ve seen since Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest. And they used all practical effects and makeup to create this bloody monstrosity that Jeff Goldblum will become. If you’re interested in seeing a step-by-step progression of his deterioration. I found a great pic. It’s pretty spoileriffic, so if you haven’t seen the film, don’t click:

http://www.intoleravel.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/the_fly_pic_08_BrundleStages-1024×497.jpg

  1. Is it scary? 6Watching this guy literally rot alive in front of your eyes is bound to terrify you. You can almost feel it happening to you.
  2. Originality: 5Well it’s a movie based on a short story for which there was already a movie made in the 50’s. I can’t give them big points here but they definitely made it feel new and unique.
  3. Blood: 7 – By the end Jeff Goldblum has no skin and he’s just a pulsating mess of guts and hair and two giant eyeballs.
  4. Believability: 7 – I thought it was very believable. The plot was simple enough, the casting, directing and acting were right on. The only thing I’ll say is that Gina Davis’ character should have been a little more freaked out.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7Jeff Goldblum’s house/lab in a warehouse is the perfect mad scientist lair. They do some cool walking on walls and ceiling shots too.                

Final Score: 32/50

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