Monday, October 5, 2015

Contracted: Phase II (2015)

Director: Josh Forbes
Notable Cast: Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Morgan Peter Brown, Anna Lore, Laurel Vail, Peter Cilella

There seemed to be a decent amount of fanfare for the first Contracted film when it dropped. However, I wasn’t nearly as keen about it as some folks and ended up giving it a fairly luke warm review in the end. It had some solid effects and some great atmosphere, but when the audience doesn’t care about the characters or some of the silly plot progressions it’s hard to really enjoy a body horror flick like that. Contracted was popular enough that it did end up with a green lit sequel, the somewhat awesomely titled Contracted: Phase II. Unfortunately, the film is not nearly as strong as even the first film as it lacks a lot of the execution needed to pull off its progressive plotting. Forewarning, this review is going to be a bit spoiler-ish to the events of the first film. Keep that in mind as you continue.

Samantha left her mark. She was all that Riley (Mercer) wanted, but now she’s dead. In their last intimate moments of horror together, she gave her disease to Riley and now he’s starting to feel it. With the help of a new friend Harper (Lore) and a determined detective (Palka), he’s going to have to hunt down the source of the disease to find cure…or he will die.

"A franchise?! BUY WHY?!"
Contracted nailed its somewhat crafty ending. The film went from a deranged STD awareness body horror flick to slyly twisting it into a zombie apocalypse origin story in its final moments. So it only makes sense that the ‘phase II’ in the title of the sequel would be the spread of the zombie plague outside of the personalized horror film that the first one encompassed. However, Contracted: Phase II has some serious issues at getting this work. Firstly, the film spends the first half essentially recreating the events of the first film – this time with a male lead character and one that’s not nearly as interesting. Fans were going to be looking for some replication of the body horror elements that the first film executed so well, so it almost feels like this film is simply catering to that expectation in the first half. It’s unfortunate though that we care naught for Riley and his familial issues or his decaying world and this completely undermines a lot of the tension and atmosphere that’s needed to make the gratuitous gore sequences as horrifying as they could have been. When Riley’s newest girlfriend-ish person Harper (turns out Riley is a playa!) goes to take out a contact lens and her eye pops out, it comes off as unintentionally funny rather than terrifying. This happens again and again and again throughout the film too. The tricks and treats of the body horror elements might be fun for some gore hounds, but it doesn’t work for the sake of the narrative like it wanted.

From there, Contracted: Phase II even struggles when it morphs a full fledge zombie film. The addition of a detective trying to figure out the case earns nothing but confusion from its audience as she seems to be the most inept person for the job. Go to the guy’s house? Who would have thought? The film also desperately tries to go for a more epic worldly tone as it turns the source of the disease from the first film – a dude named BJ – into a sort of ‘end of the world’ terrorist. However, his plan seems scattered and lacking vision. Half of the shit he does is unexplained like kidnapping Riley at one point and his appearance in the final moments seems forced and ill executed. There is a lot of potential for the investigation and terrorist angle for the film, but Phase II has no idea how to go from point A to point B without leaving a plethora of plot holes and poorly built characters in its wake.

Contracted: Phase II certainly had potential. I love how the film puts in subtle spins on the rising chaos of its back drop and the strange “vendetta” spin that occurs in the final act. Unfortunately, the film does not have the time (it runs at a lean and mean 78 minutes) nor the artistic execution to pull off its ambitious concepts. It spends too long giving us repeated sequences we saw in the first one, without characters we care about, and it doesn’t spend enough time developing the new spins and angles about bio-terrorism, vengeance, and the more global scope of the zombie outbreak to make that work. It really doesn’t help that the acting seems subpar and director Josh Forbes lacks the style to inject the atmosphere to keep it horrifying.

Even he sees sequel potential in this's contagious!
Fans of the first one might get a kick out of the new twists and turns that this sequel pans out, but even then the execution is so hit or miss that it’s hard to justify the already patchy script and poorly developed ideas. As a bonus, it hints at another sequel and new development for plot in the ending. So don’t be surprised if we get a Phase III in two years.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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