Contracted: Phase 2 Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Josh Forbes
Written by Craig Walendziak
2015, 78 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on January 12th, 2016
Matt Mercer as Riley
Marianna Palka as Det. Crystal Young
Morgan Peter Brown as BJ
Anna Lore as Harper
Laurel Vail as Brenda
Peter Cilella as James
Suzanne Voss as Margie
When we last saw Riley (Matt Mercer), he was flipping out in the bathroom following some unprotected sex with Samantha that ended abruptly with the discovery of maggots in her vagina. Before I go any further, let’s pause for a moment to explain how we got to this nightmare scenario. Contracted: Phase 2 is the middle chapter in a proposed trilogy of films that run with the premise of sexually-transmitted diseases as a metaphor for something much darker. The original Contracted (2013) deals with issues of slut-shaming, sexual identity and the ravaging effects of an STD. In the film, our hero Samantha is a troubled lesbian, recently drugged and raped at a party, trying to identify her attacker and maintain a level of sanity while her world falls apart. Samantha’s physical condition rapidly deteriorates as her relationships with friends and family spiral out of control. The film ends abruptly on a surprising note and fans will be happy to learn that Phase 2 picks up at the exact moment where the original left off.
Through some creative story editing, Riley is elevated from supporting player to leading man. He is called to the police station for questioning where he meets Det. Crystal Young, a woman with a muddled Scottish/ Canadian accent and apparent love of large coffee mugs. Riley plays it cool and is less than forthcoming with details regarding a series of recent disappearances and deaths, including his friend Alice. At the end of the original film, Alice’s lifeless body is discovered in a bathtub, but in a flashback here, we see her re-animated corpse attacking Riley until he stabs her in the mouth. He is not terribly shaken by this turn of events and does not feel the need to report it. At this point, we are introduced to Riley’s family and friends and witness how he responds to a rapidly spreading disease. He repeatedly places others in danger by failing to share critical information like “I have an STD” or “I just killed a zombie” or “I know who is responsible for this outbreak.” It is unfortunate that his character has been promoted from casual stalker to passive-aggressive hero, but this is the protagonist we get, so let’s make the best of it.
Contracted: Phase 2 attempts to further the mystery established in the first picture, but muddies the waters by focusing on the wrong questions. Screenwriter Craig Walendziak misses a prime opportunity to explore the stigma of social diseases from the male perspective, opting instead to cram his script with clichés from sloppy police procedurals and countless zombie pictures. We learn little of the characters beyond the basic: this guy is good, that guy is bad and she should know better. The shortcomings of the screenplay force people to make poor decisions for the sake of manufacturing “suspense” and consequently it is difficult to root for anyone. First-time feature director Josh Forbes makes a lot of rookie mistakes with this scattered sequel and the end result feels like a placeholder until the next episode in the franchise cleans up his mess.
Contracted offers an interesting concept, but fails to live up to its full potential. Phase 2 is a sequel that undermines what worked in the original by focusing on gory set-pieces instead of character development. Samantha is barely mentioned despite being the one-time protagonist and Riley is a weak substitute in the hero position. Matt Mercer does a fine job in the role, but is kept at arm’s length by a script determined to make him behave like an irresponsible jerk. The real stars of this picture are returning cinematographer Mike Testin and make-up effects artist Mayera Abeita, whose efforts elevate the material dramatically. Eagle-eyed genre fans will want to watch for Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the Final Destination franchise, in a brief cameo as a science teacher. He doesn’t add anything to the story, but it is a nice moment that made me smile.
Contracted: Phase 2 is too scattered to be a proper sequel and not strong enough to be a stand-alone film. It is a shame Scream Factory was unable to release both Contracted films as a double feature, but perhaps a trilogy box is in the future when the inevitable Phase 3 goes into production. Fans of the mutating-body horror subgenre will find some joy here, but they would be better served by revisiting the infinitely superior works of director David Cronenberg, particularly Shivers (1975), The Fly (1986) or Dead Ringers (1988).
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Contracted: Phase 2 looks every bit like a feature shot on digital equipment in 2015 should. The picture is sharp, black levels are solid and there is plenty of small-object detail.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix does not go out of its way to impress, but does a fine job balancing both the quiet dialogue-based scenes and the more aggressive moments of horror and violence.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The only special features offered are a pair of theatrical trailers.
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