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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Madison County (2011) – Eric England

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Have you ever said to yourself “I really like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but I hate chainsaws, logical and original plotlines, and actually being scared?” Then you should watch Eric England’s 2011 southern-fried horror flick, Madison County. That’s right. Texas Chainsaw without the chainsaw. Not only is it completely derivative, it’s poorly executed. It would be like if you invented a peanut butter and Vaseline sandwich because you know people like peanut butter and jelly. Also, if I put together a list of rules for horror movie writers, “Don’t name your movie almost the exact same thing as one of the most famous Romantic books/films of all time” would be near the top of the list. Just saying.

So, unless you’re scared by seeing Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep rubbing each other and whispering into each other’s ears for 2 and a half hours, then this movie is already in trouble and you’ve just read the title. And it’s pretty much downhill from there. The overall construction of the movie just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not even talking about horror, I’m just talking movies. The movie doesn’t work. It’s cast terribly. The way it’s written, in the actual dialog, the characters identify themselves in ways that are clearly not the case. I don’t know who the main character even is- but one of them is super nerdy but he talks about himself like he’s some kind of badass lady-killer with a mysterious and troubled past. It would be as if you cast Rick Moranis in Ryan Gosling’s role in Drive. It just doesn’t work.

Now, let’s get to the plot. In general, it’s one of these, “You yuppie, liberal, Nancy-boys are not welcome in our little redneck town” kind of horror movies. We’ve got two college dudes traveling to a backwoods redneck town to interview a local author about a book he wrote chronicling a series of murders that took place there a few years ago. One guy brings along his girlfriend and she brings her other friend. The girlfriend’s inexplicably dickish brother insists on coming too so that nobody bangs his sister (he doesn’t know that the other two are dating). Then there’s some equally distracting and inane romantic drama between the other guy and the other girl. What am I talking about? I know it’s stupid. But it’s basically the first 45 minutes of the movie. Nothing scary happens till they show up in the town about half way through this piece of crap.

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So now they’re in the town, and everyone is acting weird- staring at them, sneaking up on them, going on gratuitous skinny dipping adventures in front of them. Anyway, throughout this poorly-directed mess, the friends decide to split up to try and solve a mystery that’s arisen between the author, the murderer, and the weirdo townspeople. Oh and there’s like a big redneck dude in a pig mask who kills everyone. Well not everyone. Actually very few people. It’s so bad. Anyway, there is one kind of cool scene towards the end but even that is wrought with inconsistency and confusing plot twists that the effect is totally lost.

If you’re making a movie and the killer gets hit in the arm with an axe, make sure that he has a wound for the rest of the movie. He can’t just magically not have a wound 5 minutes later. It’s distracting. And also, I realize this wasn’t a big budget Hollywood movie, but if the killer stands over somebody chopping them with an axe for a while, there should be a wound there too. Not just red dye dumped on the back of her shirt. There weren’t even holes in the shirt. Finally, if you’re the sort-of hero of this movie, you could save everyone a lot of time and just kill the murderer in the 3rd act instead of continually knocking him down with a shovel and running away. Or you could have run him over with the car. Or you could have stabbed him more than once with the butcher knife. Any rational person would have killed this dude by now instead of repeatedly subduing him and trying to run away. Sloppy filmmaking.

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Anyway, there’s not really much else to say. It’s poorly written, poorly directed, poorly acted, and just downright not scary. Thumbs down. (And for the record, the pictures I’ve included are deceptively scary. The movie is not as scary as you might think by looking at these pictures.)

  1. Is it scary: 3- There are a couple of moments towards the end that were kind of intense, but to call this scary would be misleading.
  2. Originality: 2- Texas Chainsaw Massacre without the chainsaw.
  3. Blood: 4- It started off slow but it got a little bloody towards the end. Still not much for a slasher flick.
  4. Believability: 1- No. Just no.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 4- There are some cool shots of the killer in the pig mask, and I guess the isolation of the rundown backwater town gives you a little feeling of hopelessness.

Final Score: 14/50

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