M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Four of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2013 and going through September 30, 2014. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2013 and September 30, 2014 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on November 22, 2013. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!

CONTRACTED (2013)

Directed by Eric England
Written by Eric England
Starring Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Alice Macdonald, Katie Stegeman, Matt Mercer, Charley Koontz, Simon Barrett, Ruben Pla, Dave Holmes, Celia Finkelstein
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

If you’re the type who likes to identify with the main character of a film, I think you’re going to have a hard time liking CONTRACTED. The main character of CONTRACTED is not a likable person, and I don’t think we are supposed to empathize with her given the horrible decisions she makes throughout this film. Najarra Townsend plays Samantha, a person with an extremely addictive personality, and having known those types of people, I know how toxic they can be. That said, Townsend is amazing in this role as a person who is so empty inside, she will fill it with whatever or whoever she can in order to feel something.

Townsend gives a bold performance here as Samantha, formerly addicted to drugs and in a somewhat new relationship with a woman named Nikki (Katie Stegeman). I mention this because lesbianism is another new thing Samantha has used to fill her life and unlike her girlfriend Nikki, she is unsure whether or not she really feels that way. When Nikki begins to sense her addictive nature, she pulls away, leaving Samantha alone one night at a party where, in need of some kind of companionship, she hooks up with a random guy named BJ (played by YOU’RE NEXT writer Simon Barrett). This one-night stand is the beginning of the end to all forms of normalcy in Samantha’s life as we follow her mental and physical breakdown for the rest of this film.

CONTRACTED is a pretty fascinating character study of someone we all hope we are not like, but I feel the more one sees of ourselves in Samantha, the more uncomfortable one is going to be watching this film. Samantha is a weak person, and Townsend plays that character mercilessly. She uses her friends. She takes advantage of those she cares about. When she learns she has contracted something from her one-night stand, she ignores the symptoms and still goes to her job serving food. Ignoring the health of all of those around her, she serves meals to customers and continues to have physical and sexual contact with others. It’s this disregard for others and the selfishness of Samantha that is the true horror going on in CONTRACTED, and it’s done so in a manner that will make you hate her by the end.

Not only does Samantha mentally disintegrate before us in CONTRACTED, but like THANATOMORPHOSE (another STD body horror film of sorts), the main character is literally falling apart in front of us. We see a relatively healthy woman become a maggot ridden monster with open sores and rotting features. The gory practical effects do not shy away from showing us a lot of the gore that’s happening to Samantha. So for the squeamish, you’re not going to want to get near CONTRACTED, but if gore’s your bag, it’ll be a pleaser.

I have to give CONTRACTED points for originality in terms of coming up in an original way to start a zombie virus. In the end, yes, CONTRACTED is a zombie movie, but it only follows one person as she slowly turns from the living to the dead. The opening scene where we see a mortician (Barrett) having sex with a cadaver and then going on to a party where he has sex with Samantha is definitely a bold and new idea in terms of Patient Zero. Within the runtime of this film, we see the ugliness of humanity, but within the flawed character of Samantha, I saw every wrong turn one can make in the case of contracting some kind of disease—from ignoring it, to trying to cover it up cosmetically, to finally throwing all caution to the wind and trying to pass the disease on so that one is not alone anymore. It’s not something you or I would admit to doing, but it does delve into those brave areas that makes you wonder how you would act if this were to happen to you. Because of that, CONTRACTED is a fascinating study of a weak and alone person. Sure, it’s wrapped in body horror and zombies, but weakness and loneliness are real life terrors that petrify me, and this film examines that thoroughly and effectively.





THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!


#29 – CONTRACTED
#30 – DISCOPATH
#31 – SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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