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Review: ‘Contracted’

Body Horror

Above: Samantha (Najarra Townsend) is not well in "Contracted."

Contracted” (playing tonight and Saturday at 10 p.m. at the Digital Gym Cinema) is the perfect post-Christmas gift for horror fans courtesy of The Film Geeks.

“Contracted” is a nifty little horror flick hurt by the lack of a bigger budget. I keep seeing trailers for “47 Ronin” with the kind of CGI excess that suggests a bloated budget. I imagine that the catering tab for "47 Ronin" was far bigger than the total cost of “Contracted.” And that’s a shame. With a little more money, maybe Eric England could have knocked this film out of the park.

Samantha (Najarra Townsend) is looking to have a good time but has a fight with her girlfriend and decides to drown her sorrows at a party. She drinks too much, and hooks up with a strange guy who drugs her and rapes her. If that’s not bad enough, she soon finds out that she has what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease from her unwanted encounter. But it turns out to be far worse than that.

“Contracted” falls into the genre of body horror, and joins “Upstream Color” and “Antiviral,” two earlier examples from this year. England takes a little too long to ramp up his story, but once he does he takes it to a logical and fittingly disturbing conclusion. The lack of money shows in some occasional inconsistency in the make-up effects but England has a good sense of how to depict the disturbing decay of the human body. Fear of disease and infection has long been a horror standard, but it has gained even more traction with real-life scares ranging from Ebola to SARS.

“Contracted” (not rated) delivers some fine “Ew!” moments (let me just say that she works as a waitress and doesn’t want to take sick days off) and taps into a variety of fears as it follows Samantha’s downward spiral. I hope that England gets a little more budget with his next film, I’d like to see what he can do when not limited by a lack of funds.

Companion viewing: “Upstream Color,” “Antiviral,” “Thanatomorphose

Just a reminder, I am one of the main forces behind The Film Geeks at the Digital Gym. The purpose of the group (literally film geeks from a number of local film festivals) is to bring independent genre films from both the U.S. and abroad to San Diego at the Digital Gym's new micro cinema. We are all volunteering our time and often putting out money to insure these films show in San Diego. That's how passionate we are about these movies. My geeky cohorts in this mad adventure are Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, Phil Lorenzo and Brian Hu of Pac-Arts, Michael McQuiggan of FilmOut, and Victor Laruccia of the San Diego Italian Film Festival.

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