The zombie movie has moved into a cycle where the glut of entries is so high that the savvier filmmakers are crossbreeding this subgenre with other styles of horror to differentiate themselves. Case in point: the first Contracted, which crossbred the zombie movie with venereal body-horror in the style of David Cronenberg’s early films. Contracted: Phase 2 continues this blend of styles and takes its genre-bending ethos even further, throwing in elements of the cop thriller and the Se7en-esque serial killer flick.
Contracted: Phase 2 picks up immediately where its predecessor left off, with the necrotic, sexually transmitted disease carrying on inside a survivor from that film, Riley (Matt Mercer). As his body begins to rebel against him in gross, FX-friendly ways, he tries to come to figure out what the disease is and if it can be stopped. He’s also being monitored by cop Crystal Young (Marianna Palka), who gets her own plot thread dealing with the spread of this mystery disease and an unknown maniac who created it. A wave of zombie-style infections, death and splatter follow before the end credits arrive.
The end result is suitably grim and fast-moving in a way that will appeal to horror fans weaned on the likes of Saw and its ilk. However, Craig Walendziak’s script is a bit too ambitious for its own good: it tries to cram two hours’ worth of plot into under 80 minutes, which means that characterizations tend to be one-note and the finale becomes a pile-up of barely resolved plot threads that just collide with each other instead of resolving into a satisfying, multi-layered story.
Both the script and Josh Forbes’ direction also have tonal issues, with the main body horror/mad-scientist-as-serial-killer thrust of the story butting up awkwardly against some silly humor beats and a sudden, unexpected focus on action movie-style shootouts and brawls in the third act. It often feels like the filmmakers thought up a bunch of setpieces they liked but never figured out the plot, characterizations or themes that could thread it all together.
Mercer and Palka do their best to keep it anchored, though Palka’s Scottish accent sticks out like a sore thumb in this L.A.-set film. Elsewhere, Anna Lore is appealing in a role as the woman who falls for Riley at the wrong time but the film simply doesn’t have the time to handle her subplot properly.
Thus, the viewer is best off approaching Contracted: Phase 2 as a splat-happy, nu-horror programmer. The plot never quite adds up but horror fans who want their films to have at least one gross-out per reel will find that it acquits itself in that department.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory just released this title as a blu-ray/DVD combo pack as part of its ongoing partnership with IFC Midnight. The blu-ray was viewed for this review and it does a solid job with the film’s shadowy lighting and drab color scheme. The 5.1 lossless mix on the blu-ray doesn’t go wild with surround effects but it gets the job done. The only extras are a pair of trailers for the film.