Contracted

contracted

This movie doesn’t really come into its own and make as much sense as it needs to until the final 30 seconds. Until then, it’s thought provoking and frustrating in equal measure.

Pretty but vacuous Samantha (Najarra Townsend) is at a party only because she’s hoping her new girlfriend Nikki (Katie Stegeman) is going to turn up. Instead, she’s cajoled into drinking far too much by friend Alice (Alice Macdonald) while she fends off the shy advances of Riley (Matt Mercer).

With too many under her belt and saddened that her lover hasn’t shown up, Samantha stumbles into the car of a guy whose face we never see for a coupling she doesn’t enjoy and is sure to regret later.

She wakes up at home with a raging hangover headache, where he caring but twitchy mother tries to cheer her up. Samantha evidently hates her mother and doesn’t want to be living there, and there’s also a sense of some past familial trouble that has led to a fragile peace between them.

From there everything goes downhill – from Samantha’s relationships with the people around her to her body. Fearing she’s contracted a sexually transmitted disease, she goes to the doctor but doesn’t really want to admit to anything, even though she’s filling the toilet bowl with blood every time she goes.

Over the next day or two, Samantha’s eyes grow horribly bloodshot, her pallor pales sickeningly, her teeth start to fall out and scabs form around her mouth. Worst (and grossest) of all in one horrible sequence, maggots drop out of her vagina. It’s obvious Samantha has something much worse than the common clap, all the while trying to get her girlfriend to pay attention to her while rebuffing everyone else’s attempts to do so.

It’s a strange melding of worlds – airheaded twentysomething Los Angelenos meeting body horror, a kind of 90210 by David Cronenberg, but the plot holds your interest and the cinematography is clean and clear, not going for the grungy, blood-smeared, lurid colours of a horror film.

The fatal flaw is the character of Samantha. For someone who commands most of the screen time, she’s as unlikeable as she is uncommunicative. It’s fair enough for someone suffering such an obviously horrible sickness not wanting to parade themselves around, but the extent to which she hides what’s wrong with her from everyone who wants to (and could) help is counter-intuitive. She’s also a spoiled little brat who doesn’t know what’s good for her and shuts everyone that cares about her out, and part of you can’t help feeling like she deserves the terror she’s going through.

Of course, it all comes together in the final seconds and shines a new light on a very shopworn genre, but a more likeable heroine would have made it easier to get there.