Monday , 26 June 2017

Contracted: Phase II infects undead genre with fresh blood – review

Contracted-Phase-2-1

“Abaddon is coming….”

Back in the 70s and 80s, while zombies from George A. Romero to Lucio Fulci to Peter Jackson saw plenty of action, they still remained more of a cult favorite among the horror crowd. It was 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake that opened the door to a wider audience, and since then, Resident Evil, Zombieland, World War Z and, of course, television’s The Walking Dead, have made zombies all the rage (including, or not, 20 Days/Weeks Later, depending on whether you consider them ‘zombies’). Such popularity has made it more difficult to put a fresh, bloody spin on the genre. Along comes Contracted: Phase II, which succeeds in doing just that.

In 2013, writer/director Eric England, from Arkansas, gave us the film, Contracted, which {spoiler alert} told the story of a woman who was essentially date raped, and, in turn, contracted a virus that eventually rotted her from the inside out. It was a slow burn movie which followed its lead’s gradual transformation to its inevitable conclusion. Contracted: Phase II picks up right where its predecessor left off, making it a true sequel in every sense of the word. This time, we follow Riley (Matt Mercer), who had an encounter in the first film with the main character, and is now coming down with symptoms of his own.

Contracted II - Riley

Whereas Contracted was more low key and took its time in getting to the horror aspect of its story, Phase II basically gets right to it before going into full-on zombie mode. As the virus starts to spread within himself and to others, Riley searches for answers and discovers a more sinister plot may be at hand. In the meantime, a detective (Mariana Palka), who suspects Riley in the events of the first film, also comes to realize more may be at stake.

While the first film took a more straightforward, serious approach to its story, screenwriter Craig Walendziak injects an element of dark humor throughout this sequel. It’s a welcome addition amongst all the gross-out moments in the film. Indeed, at the recent NYC premiere at the IFC Center, hosted by Tony Timpone and Fangoria, the audience could be heard groaning a multitude of times, but in a good way, over the various cringe-worthy scenes in the movie. (Word of advice-when it comes to fondue and the like, look before you dip!) Screenwriter Walendziak, who also attended the NYC showing, said he was a big fan of ‘body horror’, specifically mentioning David Cronenberg and his version of The Fly, as well as Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, and the love of that particular horror sub-genre clearly shows up on the screen. It is extremely disconcerting to find one’s body deteriorating right in front of your bloody eyes, and realizing there is little you can do about it.

Director Josh Forbes keeps the story moving briskly while ratcheting up the action from the first film, as he unveils the mystery behind the possible conspiracy layer by layer. Though the film is certainly lower budget, it doesn’t look it, with expertly staged horror sequences and excellent F/X work.

This has all the earmarks of a new franchise, and, as Wolendziak told the IFC audience, he is indeed working on a third film, which will hopefully come to fruition and be one that he will direct as well, expanding the scope of the story and spreading the virus even further throughout the Los Angeles where the film takes place. There is most definitely more gore to explore.

During the slasher era, teens who engaged in sexual activity were the ones who met grisly ends, while the virginal character became the surviving heroine – its message being that ‘sex kills’. Here, as opposed to a physical killer dispatching victims who’ve had sex, it’s the sex itself that spreads a virus and ultimately kills, a plot device we saw earlier this year in It Follows. Like that film, Contracted: Phase II also looks to end up as one of the best horror films of 2015.

Contracted: Phase II opens today, Sept. 4, in select theaters, and on VOD (Amazon, iTunes, PlayStation, Xbox, etc.) You can catch the original Contracted currently on Netflix. For more on the NYC premiere and what future may be in store for further Contracted, check out Fangoria.

3 comments

  1. I really want to see this movie!
    I just saw contracted it was so amazing!!

  2. If you liked the first one that much, you should really like this sequel – it takes it up several notches, sort of like Aliens to Alien. And it throws in some delightful dark humor to boot!

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