By Jerome Reuter
Earlier this year, I sat down with Canadian horror film Thanatomorphose. I also reviewed it not to long ago, and praised it as a bold new addition in the annals of body/extremity horror. Aside from that, it’s an interesting character study of degeneration—of both the mind and flesh. I had almost nothing negative to say about it. The film I’m reviewing today however, I have quite a few bones to pick.
Contracted is an American extremity horror film released only a year after Thanatomorphose. It’s not only a cheap copycat—it’s downright despicable in some aspects. It’s a film that teeters on the borderline of being homophobic, and being anti-woman. I’m someone firmly against film censorship. I’m also someone who feels the necessity for a horror film to push the envelope. In some cases, ripping it to shreds. However, I believe this film might have taken things a bit to far.
Much like the film it’s based on, Contracted follows the story of a female lead rotting from the inside. As far as the character arc of degeneration goes, it’s somewhat well put together. It’s the cause that I have a slight issue with. Much like It Follows, the degeneration is spread through sexual intercourse, which harks back to Shivers by Cronenberg. When this is presented as a rape scene referred to as a one-night stand, that’s the first problem. The second problem is when we have a protagonist that’s a lesbian, the writing is right there on the wall. Scenes of simulated rape are nothing new to the exploitation/horror genre. It’s how they’re presented that makes all of the difference. This same angle was used in Thanatomorphose, but the sex was consensual. As it turns out, this is an issue many have found with Contracted.
Aside from the obvious misogyny, there are a few more faults to address. Thanatomorphose did an amazing job at keeping its events confined to a single location. It showed very little about the events of our protagonist’s life in the outside world. As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, real horror is what you don’t see, or in that case what you didn’t know. Contracted shows too much, in my honest opinion. I’ll give credit were credit is due; the character arc is well done for the most part. The films first two acts, while having a few flaws, do a great job at illustrating degeneration. As the audience, we see almost everything in her life collapse around her. However, it’s another case of keeping the terror confined makes for a much better narrative. Contracted even goes so far as to utilize the EXACT same narrative device used in Thanatomorphose—breaking the plot into the events of a few days.
The third act of Contracted is so flawed; even Tommy Wiseau would call shenanigans. Once I had gotten to this part, I couldn’t help but be completely flabbergasted by what I saw. Aside from it being the end result of poor writing, it’s another example of what we’ve come to see in a lot of modern American horror films, a cheap jump scare–one that doesn’t match the rest of the film. If you get the chance to watch both of these films back to back, you’ll see what I’m referring to.
I won’t be watching this again anytime soon—if at all.