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Article posted: 11/29/2013 5:30 AM

'Contracted' certainly shocks, but feels unfinished

A doctor examines Samantha (Najarra Townsend) to determine what kind of sexually transmitted disease she might have "Contracted."

A doctor examines Samantha (Najarra Townsend) to determine what kind of sexually transmitted disease she might have "Contracted."

 
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Eric England's indie horror thriller "Contracted"combines the styles of two of the genre's giants.

From David Cronenberg, England's movie makes liberal use of the Canadian filmmaker's fascination with oozy, gooey organic alterations in the human body.

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From zombie king George Romero, "Contracted" borrows characters who, despite being confronted with horrible certain death, simply cannot let go of their petty concerns, self-absorbed egos and self-righteous attitudes, even to save themselves.

"Contracted" stars doe-eyed actress Najarra Townsend as Samantha, a young lesbian waitress who, at a party thrown by her buddy Alice (Alice Macdonald), becomes overly intoxicated and easy prey for a mysterious guy called B.J. to have his way with her in the tight confines of a Toyota Prius.

We only see B.J. as a blurry figure, fitting, since we never know his true identity or why the cops are tracking him down.

Starting the countdown with "Day One," writer/producer/director England chronicles poor Sam's slow deterioration into Cronenberg hell.

She vomits and urinates blood. Her eyes start bleeding. Her teeth and hair start falling out. Worms emerge from orifices we can't talk about in a family newspaper. Eeek!

Sam's cold-blonded lover Nikki (Katie Stegeman) is more upset that Sam engaged in relations with a hated male than she is about Sam's obvious health problems.

"I'm sick!" Sam tells her mom (Caroline Williams). Mom asks, "Are you pregnant?"

We quickly pick up that Sam has a history with drugs and alcohol that has driven a stress wedge between the mother and daughter.

"I don't need any help!" Sam shrieks, determined not to let Mom run her life, what's left of it through Day 2 and 3 (the last day) as she paddles down Denial River.

"Contracted" possesses enough physically gross shocks to gratify fans of transformational horror (thanks to Mayera Abeita's superb makeup effects), but the entire movie feels like Act One in a regular feature film. You want much more at the end, but not in a good way.

Blame it on the "auteur" theory gone wrong. By being the director/writer and co-producer, England the writer didn't have an independent director to say, "Hey, the ending needs to be stronger!" or "What's the movie saying about lesbians having sex with men?"

If nothing else, England's more-gross-than-scary tale makes for a great Public Service Announcement reminding women not to excessively drink, especially at parties and with guys called B.J.

"Contracted" opens at Facets Multimedia in Chicago. Go to facetsmultimedia.com. Not rated; for mature audiences. 78 minutes. ★ ★

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