After a lapse in her relationship with her lover (Katie Stegeman) forces twenty-something party girl Samantha (Najarra Townsend) to move back in with her overbearing mother (Caroline Williams), things seem to be at an all-time low. But the devil-may-care Samantha soon finds escape in a one-night stand with a mysterious man (Simon Barrett) who leaves her hung-over, guilt-ridden and infected. Uncertain of the disease or the man who gave it to her, Samantha attempts to hide it from her loved ones. But she soon realises that she is not just the victim of an STD, but rather the host of something much more catastrophic, and that she and those around her are in mortal danger.
If you listen closely to Contracted, you can hear the faint whispers of a message. Wedged in between its decent attempt at body horror is a voice that is so loud it becomes indecipherable. Is it a gruesome satire of sexually transmitted diseases or a sinister love-letter for lesbianism? Is it saying something about a stuck-up generation or is it merely dancing in the relatable shadows of dramatic youth? Or is it just plain awful writing for some gory money shots? Whatever the intent, it’s just poorly executed in a story that gives little reason to care about who is sleeping with who or who is killing who.
I just wasn’t too sure what to make of Samantha since so little of her character is revealed. She appears as little more than an average 20-something stood up by her female ex at a party. Her present friend at the party encourages her to drink until she’s drunk. After reluctantly taking some shots, a tipsy Samantha converses with a man who easily woos the influenced woman to his car for a rape. She awakes the next morning with a wicked hangover at her mother’s home where she regrets living. Every conversation seems to be a battle even when her mom is genuinely trying to care for her. So she naturally won’t want to talk about being raped the previous night or the gushing tsunami of blood spewing from her genitals. It’s probably just a big period, she figures. She later fills the toilet at work with another big batch of dark red. It’s probably just cramps, she brushes off.
It isn’t until she fears for her chances of getting back with her ex Nikki does she even consider going to the doctor. The doc merely writes off as an infection as Samantha’s condition continues to eat away at her body. Hair falls out, teeth pop out and fingernails slowly peel away. The disease must be doing something to her brain as well since she seems more concerned with her social status than her own health. Her mother displays great concern fearing she may be on drugs to which Samantha hisses back with her “I’m a lesbian, mom, deal with it” offense. She seems to have contracted that portion from Nikki who is twice as snarky and hostile with her thick English accent and punk body accessories. Nikki is clearly bored and uninterested in Samantha, but she strings her along until the climactic and expected call-out scene.
Nikki’s words ring all too true seeing as how Samantha is not a likable character. I only care for her in the sense that I don’t want any human being to bleed out their butt and puke teeth out of their mouth. Outside of that, there’s hardly a reason to care about what happens to her. I guess you could root for her as a rebelling young lesbian, but rebelling against what? There are certainly people who don’t like her, but most don’t seem to harbor any deeply resenting hatred. Samantha’s religious mother appears more concerned about her health than being gay. The only person who seems to be pure evil towards her is Nikki and, sure enough, she’s the one character Sam gravitates towards. Samantha is a stereotype who associates with other stereotypes, hoping she can reach the same level of absurdity.
So what exactly are you supposed to take away from a film such as Contracted? Through its vague script, you could draw plenty of conclusions about safe sex and sexual identity. You could even trace its themes to both feminism and misogyny the way it brings a ferocity to Samantha, but still punishes her body for being raped. The finale spoke more comically to me seeing as how the zombie apocalypse comes at the hands of a stuck-up lesbian who was too mad at the world to deal with her rape-acquired STD. It’s about all the emotion I can muster for a film that’s as confused and mixed up as the protagonist.