A young girl has a one-night stand with a random stranger and contracts, what she thinks is, a sexually-transmitted disease – but is actually something much worse.
Samantha (Najarra Townsend) has all kinds of personal problems. She’s a former drug addict working hard to stay clean, she lives with her over protective mother (Caroline Williams), is in a decidedly one sided lesbian relationship & works as a waitress for very little money. One night she goes to a party being thrown by her friend Alice and after drinking a bit too much she accepts a drink from a stranger. And of course the drink was spiked so she ends up in the backseat of a car having sex with him. Unprotected sex. And that’s when her problems really begin…
She wakes up the next day and notices some vaginal bleeding and she literally paints the inside of her toilet with blood after using it but she decides it’s just a especially heavy period and after putting on a tampon, she goes to work. But after her condition worsens she goes to the doctor who (after a perfunctory examination during which he NEVER asks her to disrobe) prescribes a moisturizer for her rapidly drying skin. As the film continues, her appearance steadily worsens as she attempts to maintain some semblance of normalcy in her life. But her surroundings and the people that dwell within them seem hellbent to make her life miserable.
And she continues to deteriorate. Both physically and mentally.
There are those who’ll watch CONTRACTED and immediately cry SHENANIGANS at what they’re watching, and they have a point. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure that most, if not all, women would go to their doctor if they wake up & expel what looks like gallons of blood into their toilet. I’m also fairly certain that if I was in a restaurant and my waitress looked like a corpse as she handled my salad I wouldn’t be in the restaurant much longer. And I know for sure that I wouldn’t have unprotected sex with anyone who’s literally rotting in front of me, yet these are things that go on in this film. I can’t argue with the logic against these actions, they literally don’t make sense.
But there is a method to the madness taking place here. Samantha has lived a fairly miserable life with her drug addiction and sexual confusion clouding her judgement. All she really wants is to get through her day in one piece and when pieces of her start to (literally) break off all she wants is to try to keep her day as normal as she can possibly make it. She has no time for any more complications in her far too complicated life already. So she initially writes off the excessive bleeding as something that all women go through every so often. As she gets sicker and her appearance becomes more unsightly, she simply applies more makeup to her face. When her eyeball changes color she puts on sunglasses. She’s trying to remain above the fray because her life has already been nothing more than a big shit stain. She’s achieved a small semblance of normalcy and is loathe to lose it so she chooses to ignore the changes her body is going through. But she can only ignore them for so long…
Samantha also has romantic problems to deal with. Her girlfriend Nikki (Katie Stegeman) has no interest in continuing the relationship despite the fact that Samantha is madly in love with her and there’s a man named Riley (Matt Mercer) who has a mad crush on her but is such a wet dishrag that Samantha barely notices him. And her best friend Alice (Alice Macdonald) also harbors a sexual attraction towards her so on top of all of her physical issues she finds herself confused by her friends. Her mother has good intentions but is so overbearing that Samantha can barely stand to be near her so her personal, professional, emotional & physical well being are all in question. And all she wants is to get through her day.
What CONTRACTED does especially well is gross you out. I can guarantee you’ll feel skeevy at least once during this movie, it’s that potent at times. The physical changes Samantha’s body experiences are evident to the naked eye but the mental ones aren’t and its obvious that whatever disease she contracted from her one night stand is no mere STD. Najarra Townsend really nails all of the varied aspects of Samantha’s mental/physical conditions, she gives a great performance here and in the hands of a lesser actor the role wouldn’t have as much heft as it does with her in it. All of the other actors do well enough in their roles but Samantha is such a polarizing character that it’s pretty easy to forget about them.
What CONTRACTED doesn’t do well is explain what’s happening to Samantha but that might be on purpose. Although we do eventually find out what’s happening to her we never find out why it’s happening. There is a slight subplot dealing with the police actively looking for the man she had sex with but we never find out why. The film also opens with a quick scene in a morgue featuring that same man doing something really foul to a corpse so we know that he’s mentally unhinged but we learn nothing more about him. Actually we never even get a really good look at him, he’s always just out of frame or filmed in soft focus so we can’t make out what he looks like. I appreciate the air of mystery that the script is attempting to foist upon its audience but a little bit of explaining what’s going on would’ve gone a long way.
Bottom line is that you’re either gonna love or hate CONTRACTED, there is no middle ground to be traversed here. I thought it was well directed (by Eric England) with a terrific lead performance from Najarra Townsend. It’s an extremely visceral & at times outright disgusting film as well but if nothing else it will promote active debate wherever it plays. And if it helps to inspire someone to practice safe sex in any way, shape or form then it’s done its job. One thing is for sure though, you’ll never look at a restaurant salad the same way ever again.
CONTRACTED – Four out of five shrouds.