J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Contracted Phase 2: More Body Horror

His unfortunate name is BJ and he makes Typhoid Mary look socially responsible. He infected Samantha with the zombie pathogen in the first film, most definitely against her will. Subsequently, she passed it on to the horny torch-carrying Riley, before he realized how grotesque she had become. She will not make it past the prologue of the sequel, but he spends most of the second film experiencing what she went through in the first. However, he will be a little more concerned with the macro picture in Josh Forbes’ Contracted: Phase 2 (trailer here), which screens midnight-ish this weekend at the IFC Center.

Picking up immediately where the first film left off, Phase 2 reveals it really is curtains for Samantha and her mom. Riley is pretty much done for too, but he does not realize it yet. However, his rashes and strange growth thingys do not look good. The periodic projectile vomiting of blood is also a bad sign. He is definitely changing, undergoing what will be an ugly and painful process. However, old BJ will get a kick out of it while watching from somewhat afar.

Det. Crystal Young wants to get to BJ through Samantha’s social circle, but Riley is in denial and therefore unwilling to come clean. Of all possible times, his feisty grandmother finally decides to fix him up with Harper, her impossibly tolerant visiting care nurse. For their first date, Riley takes her to Samantha’s memorial service, because he knows how to show a lady a good time. At least there is a little bit of humor when one of their hipster friends performs a perfectly dreadful tribute song (that is supposed to be embarrassingly awful).

Even by sequel standards, Phase 2 seems like a pedestrian repackaging of genre movie elements. The big deal about the first film was the way it applied Cabin Feverish body horror to the zombie, so Forbes wisely never stints on the slimy, pus-oozing transformation scenes. Narrative logic might not be a priority but he certainly knows what he needs to do.

If you have been pining for a sequel to the first Contracted, your enthusiasm might be tempered by writer-director Eric England noninvolvement in any capacity on Phase 2. It also might be a bummer screenwriter Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The Guest) does not return as BJ, but the evil Patient Zero really does not have a lot of interesting stuff to do this time around. On the other hand, Matt Mercer shivers and wretches as well as anyone could ask as the ill-fated Riley. Anna Lore’s Harper is also nicely down-to-earth and engaging.

Based on the near complete lack of resolution, it is safe to assume there are already plans or at least hopes for a Phase 3. They need not rush into production, because Phase 2 ought to hold even the most rabid body horror consumers a good long while. Still, if that’s your bag, than Phase 2 is just dripping with delightful offal. Mere mortals should be wary when Contracted: Phase 2 screens Friday (9/4) and Saturday (9/5) nights at the IFC Center in the West Village.

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