Contracted (NR)

Drama November 22, 2013
By Rob Staeger
As Contracted begins, there's a whiff of after-school special about it. Writer-director Eric England draws a causal line from peer pressure to drinking to roofies and unprotected sex with a predatory lurker. Samantha (Najarra Townsend) soon starts exhibiting symptoms of a super-germ STD: extreme vaginal bleeding, chills, reddened eyes and more. (Much more, but some body-horror moments shouldn't be spoiled.) Her deterioration is profound, but no one, including her doctor, seems to recognize that she needs to go to the ER. (When she looks conventionally sick, they say so; later, when she looks downright hideous, a few friends still mack on her.) There are signals that something more is going on under the surface: Two significant but unrelated characters have tattooed writing between their fingers, for instance, and at a restaurant there's an unexplained encounter that one of those characters works hard to shut down. But there's no payoff to the paranoia. There's only Sam, in rapid decline, more concerned with hiding her symptoms and soldiering on than with finding a cure. Is that the virus talking, or merely shame at how she contracted it? In a film populated by stereotypes—cruel ex-girlfriends, puppy-dog suitors, overbearing moms—Sam's infuriating denial is the most human thing around.
Eric England Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Alice Macdonald, Katie Stegeman Eric England IFC Films

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