Friday, February 7, 2014

Women in Horror: Contracted

* spoilers *

Samantha's life isn't where she wants it to be. Her relationship with her girlfriend is pretty much over and she's living with her overbearing mother. She goes to a party to forget about her woes and, after copious amounts of alcohol, runs into a guy named BJ, who drugs and rapes her. She wakes up in her bed without memory of being there and feels awful. Over the next few days, it becomes clear that something is really wrong with her and it's not a run of the mill STD.

Contracted an interesting but uneven film that is the source of much debate. I want to start by saying that Samantha was raped. It wasn't a one night stand as it says in the description and it wasn't consensual. She was drunk and then drugged by the rapist on top of her already impaired state. She doesn't remember getting into the car and BJ didn't stop when she explicitly stated to. The fact that this is a debate and the description and tagline for the film mislabels it just shows how misinformed people still are about rape. People cite the most bizarre aspects to prove it isn't rape, as they do in most real life rape cases. For instance, because she says "we should stop" somehow means she gave prior consent even though she has no memory of even getting in the car. It's just maddening how this is even worthy of debate and illustrates the reasons why Samantha and rape victims like her would rather forget about it and move on with their lives than be subject to public scrutiny and blamed for her attack by ignorant people.

Everyone is Samantha's life is pretty much a horrible person. No one truly has her best interests in mind and are blinded by their judgment of her or see only something they want from her. Her girlfriend Nikki is done with her at this point and only sees her as an annoyance. She has no interest in Samantha's life or in anything she cares about. Samantha's mother only sees her as a drug addict (which she was and has since rehabilitated). Everything Samantha says and does is suspect due to her past behavior. In addition, her mom is quite religious and disapproves of her sexual orientation and current relationship. Riley and every other guy that hits on her in the film only see her as their sexual fantasy, not as a real person with her own thoughts and feelings. Her rapist sees her as equivalent to the corpse he raped at the beginning of the film. Her friends only ask about her girlfriend while she's at the party instead of asking her about how she's feeling and if she wants to talk. When she's exhibiting disgusting symptoms, everyone she knows only mentions that she looks like crap. They describe how her appearance affects them rather than being truly concerned about her health. Every single person in Samantha's life is more concerned with themselves and their opinion of her over Samantha as a real person and her well being.

Samantha is the only likeable person in the film even if she does things that are infuriating. Throughout the film, she pretends to be fine and tries to push everything real under the surface to appear normal. It starts with her relationship with Nikki, which is completely falling apart, but she keeps hope to appear confident in the eyes of her friends and her mother. She also suppresses the rape, even going so far as not going to the doctor until something is clearly wrong, because she thinks it will ruin her chances with Nikki. Everything in her life is done for the benefit of those around her instead of for herself. The only thing she truly cares about is her orchids, which look vibrant and beautiful at the beginning of the film. They are her key to independence and open up opportunities to earn money, go to school, and move out on her own. When she awakens from the night she was raped, the orchids are still healthy, but less vibrant. By the end of the film, the flowers are neglected, wither, and die. These flowers reflect Samantha's own decay, which represents how she loses more and more of herself as she lets uncaring people's meaningless opinions define her. By the end, she's literally a zombie, an undead shell.

Contracted is an interesting but flawed film. The pacing is a bit off and a lot of the performances aren't great. However, Najarra Townsend is perfect as Samantha. She garners just enough sympathy while she's doing infuriating things to allow the audience to care what happens to her. The effects are pretty good and definitely make normally beautiful Townsend into an eerie, frightening creature. The ending surprised me. I thought this was just a body horror film and the zombie aspect was a welcome twist. Overall, Contracted is a decent horror film, definitely worth a watch.

My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love your review!

This is exactly how I felt about the film. So many people that watched it miss that her turning into a zombie is a metaphor and that the movie is supposed to be more about seeing yourself or other women in her (how she's treated by her family/friends/co-workers, how that affects her mentality and decisions and health) instead of just seeing it solely as a precursor to a zombie apocalypse.