Contracted: Phase II Review

by Larry Dwyer

Last year on Jay Kay’s Horror Happens Radio Show, Jay and I were discussing some of our favorite films that we had seen that year. While Contracted was released in late 2013, neither of us had seen it until 2014 so it made both of our lists of top films for the year. We really appreciated Eric England’s fresh (and gross) take on the zombie/virus film and agreed that Najarra Townsend was fantastic in the lead role and that Mayera Abeita straight-up knocked it out of the park in the makeup/fx department.

While this is not a review of the original film, I felt that I needed to let you know that I loved the original before discussing its new sequel, Contracted: Phase II. The ending of Contracted definitely left room for a sequel so I was not surprised when I heard that it was a go but what did surprise me was when I heard that Eric England was not going to be involved in this go-around. I’ll admit that once I heard that, I was a bit nervous for this installment but like a true horror fan (and hacky writer), I would watch and review nonetheless.

Then the bomb dropped that a friend of mine, Craig Walendziak, had been tapped to write the screenplay. Craig is newer to horror writing but had been doing good things and getting lots of acclaim for a script he had written titled The Devil’s Hammer. I was excited not only for Craig, but also to see what he could deliver with this sequel to a film that I so dug.

Reminding me of Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981), Contracted: Phase II picks up exactly where the first film left off. We see Samantha (Najarra Townsend), now in full-on zombie mode, exit the car she was driving and almost attack a few people before settling on tearing her mothers throat out which earns her a bullet to the head from the nearby police and thus ends her role in the Contracted saga.

The role that has not ended however, is that of Riley. You’ll remember him as the dude who was having sex with the “almost zombie” Samantha in Contracted and when he pulled out, a bunch of worms fell out of her cooch? Ring a bell? Yeah, well he is our reluctant hero in this one. Matt Mercer, who is reprising his smaller role from the original, does a heck of a job playing up the honest despair of his character as he tries to cope with what’s happening to him. Riley eventually comes to terms with his condition (as much as one can) and devotes himself to try to track down the person that he believes to have started all of this; the guy that he saw rape Samantha outside of the party in the first movie.

While the film seemed to mirror the original at the beginning, showing Riley dealing with the gross shit that is happening to him as it happened to Samantha in the first movie, it definitely takes a sharp turn later on as we see Riley (and the police) looking for BJ who seems to be the source of the infection and is happily spreading it about town. Unfortunately Riley himself is mistakenly infecting some of his friends and family which leads to further gruesomeness (as I’m not one to give stuff away, I’ll just say ‘contact lens’ and ‘queso dip’ – you’ll thank me – or not – after seeing it).

Director Josh Forbes does a solid job of building the tension throughout the film and he leaves a large gap for a part three to slide right into. Writer Craig Walendziak was able to take the tight story of the original and help it grow out of Samantha’s bathroom and onto a much larger stage as the infection spreads; he was also able to bring the funny at the right moments which is always appreciated. Matt Mercer, as noted, did a great job in his role and with the support of Anna Lore as Harper, the always welcome Charley Koontz and the incredible make-up/fx skills of Mayera Abeita, Contracted:Phase II leaves me wanting only one thing…Contracted: Phase III.

Great job, guys.

Stay gory my friends,

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