Most hardcore horror fans with open minds and strong stomachs have probably already checked out Contracted by now. It’s a low-key but confidently compelling character piece about an unfortunate young woman who has a quick fling with the wrong guy, contracts a horrific disease, struggles with a bunch of unpleasant symptoms, and ultimately finds herself coming apart at the seams. (Almost literally.) It’s a smart, straightforward piece of character-based bio-horror that doesn’t exactly demand a sequel.
But since Contracted struck a bit of a chord with the horror fans … we now have a sequel.
At first glance Contracted: Phase II is little more than the same story as Part 1, only with a simple gender reversal: instead of a young woman coming to grips with the shocking degradation of her own body, this time it’s a man. More specifically, it’s a guy called Riley (Matt Mercer), whom astute horror fans will remember as “the guy from Part 1 that didn’t die.” Turns out that Riley is, of course, suffering from the same mysterious malady that struck Samantha (Najarra Townsend) down in the previous film — only this time the victim actually knows what’s going on.
Clocking in at a scant 79 minutes, Contracted: Phase II does get off to a slightly rocky start: Act I is basically a complete recap of the first film, handily presented by a police detective who has finally noticed that lots of people are dropping dead from an unknown but truly ferocious disease. The middle section is basically Riley dealing with some gross bodily functions and unpleasant skin conditions, and then the final third is where things get a lot more interesting. Not to mention disgusting.
If the first Contracted was a dark and disturbing character study, then Contracted: Phase II seems intent on working as sort of a procedural. Most of Riley’s friends and family members fall prey to the disease — and in rather unsavory fashion — but the stuff involving the detective (Marianna Palka) and the lunatic (Morgan Peter Brown) who invented the biohazard in the first place prevent this sequel from coming off more like a remake. In other words, Contracted: Phase II starts out a bit redundant but gradually gets a bit more unpredictable (and therefore entertaining) the longer it rolls on.
Like the first film, Contracted 2 also benefits from a pitch black sense of humor, several strong supporting performances, and an impressively revolting collection of bio-horror nastiness. And while the sequel does a decent enough job of building upon the story foundation laid down in the first film, it also sort of draws to an abrupt halt just as things are getting interesting. Whereas Contracted was actually sort of cerebral, Contracted 2 is content to be simply visceral.
Ultimately the film does go to some interesting places. Given that we’re now dealing with curious cops, deranged biologists, and a pro-active search for answers regarding the nefarious new disease, it seems pretty obvious that the brief and expeditious Contracted: Phase II is merely a stepping stone on the way to Contracted: Phase III — and perhaps even further. All things considered, this is a passable sequel that earns points for trying to expand upon its predecessor, even if it takes a little while to get to the new stuff.
And don’t even think about watching this movie if you have a cold or a fever. Yikes.
3 blood-soaked burritos out of 5