"A disappointing and shallow sequel of an intriguing contagion horror film."
Eric England’s Contracted became an instant cult horror film back in 2013 as it studied the sexual politics of a harassed bisexual woman who later became an instrument for spreading an STD-like contagion. Two years later, the story continues with England entrusting the directing and screenwriting reins to Josh Forbes and Craig Walendziak, respectively. In Contracted: Phase II, “patient zero” is eyeing a new victim.
The sequel begins exactly where the original film left off. Four days have already passed since Samantha (Najarra Townsend) was sexually assaulted and met a gruesome death. With the virus she left behind, Los Angeles is now experiencing an epidemic that turns the infected into rotting blood-puking beasts. Among them is Riley McCormack (Matt Mercer), a social worker who counsels drug addicts and who had acquired the virus during a hapless one-night stand with Samantha in the first movie.
Still in the early stage of contamination, Riley’s sanity is still within his check. He even gets to attend the memorial for his friend Alice, an early victim of the plague, which his pregnant and self-help writer sister, Brenda (Laurel Vail), has organized. He also dates Harper (Anna Lore), the caregiver of his sweet and loving grandmother Margie (Suzanne Voss). But the symptoms grow stronger as Riley begins pissing and sneezing blood and worms begin crawling under skin. With female detective Crystal (Marianna Palka) investigating his connection to a series of dead bodies, Riley desperately runs around the city trying to find the villainous “patient zero” named BJ (Morgan Peter Brown) who possibly holds the cure for his infection.
Contracted: Phase II is a disappointing continuation of an otherwise promising horror franchise. From its original premise that the infected turn into zombie-like monsters in three days, both films happen in that length of time. While the first film is an intriguing character study filled with horrifying gore and violence, the sequel manages to be only sickening without any depth of characterization or tension in the story-telling. From being non-entity, Riley has risen to be the lead figure. While Mercer is a likable actor who passably delivers the necessary despair and fears, his character is simply shallow and uninspiring. There is nothing more beyond Riley being a frustrated victim exacting his revenge. A number of characters are also introduced, too many for the feature’s running time of roughly 80 minutes. It is pointless to follow multiple characters we do not care about or root for.
With several characters carrying little subplots of their own, the movie is depressingly cluttered. Considering that an outbreak has occurred, it is far too contained and localized. Desperate to tread new grounds, “patient zero” is revealed to be simply not a serial killer but a terrorist plotting to spread massive scare.
For genre fans, the film will be a delight as it has an overabundance of blood and viscera. Notable scenes are when Riley pisses blood profusely, when he picks worms out of his lesions, and when Harper accidentally takes her eye out. Yet, such gore only has short-lived sense of cringe and nausea; it never really creates genuine tension or fright.
With no cure in sight, Contracted: Phase II pegs the next instalment at its conclusion. Hopefully, it will not only retain, if not surpass, its present degree of gore but also offer a better narrative with more exciting characters and truer suspense.
Production Company: BoulderLight Pictures
Cast: Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Morgan Peter Brown, Anna Lore, Laurel Vail, Peter Cilella
Director: Josh Forbes
Screenwriter: Craig Walendziak
Producers: Raphael Margules, JD Lifshitz
Executive producer: Nate Bolotin
Director of photography: Mike Testin
Production designer: Mike Valenzuela
Editor: Ruben Sebban
Costume designer: Alexandra Serna
Composer: Jonathan Snipes