Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 18 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Josh Forbes
Written by: Craig Walendziak
Starring: Matt Mercer, Marianna Palka, Morgan Peter Brown, Anna Lore, Laurel Vail & Najarra Townsend
In 2013, a little flick called CONTRACTED came out of nowhere and surprised me. Eric England’s low-budget exercise in body-horror was disgusting, creepy, and gnarly from beginning to end. The flick knew exactly what it wanted to be and didn’t overstay its welcome at a scant 84 minutes. The conclusion was slightly open-ended, but satisfied to a degree where you could accept the story as its own self-contained creation. However, that was apparently not the case. IFC Midnight had such a big success off CONTRACTED that they wanted to fund a sequel…without the original film’s director/writer. So I tried to keep my hopes optimistic for more crazy body-horror and sexually transmitted zombie viruses. Unfortunately, CONTRACTED: PHASE 2 is easily one of the most embarrassing zombie films that I’ve seen in quite some time. Between this and HELLIONS, IFC Midnight doesn’t have much to offer horror fans for the upcoming Halloween season.
Picking up hot-of-the-heels of the first CONTRACTED (spoiler warning), PHASE 2 finds Samantha becoming totally zombified and being promptly shot through the head. Her last sexual encounter was Riley, which now means that Riley has contracted the STZD (Sexually Transmitted Zombie Disease). With a clock ticking away and his flesh decomposing, Riley tries to track down the person behind the virus (the creepy guy who raped Samantha at the beginning of the first film). Riley isn’t the only one with a vendetta out for this zombie-virus creator. There’s also Detective Crystal Young who’s on the trail of the mysterious terrorist known as BJ (yes, that’s his real name. Get it?). So, to sum up this premise, Riley is going through the same decomposition that Samantha went through and there’s a cop tracking down a terrorist. If it sounds like these two plots won’t blend well, that’s because they don’t.
Though it may have a slightly higher budget than the first, PHASE 2 feels cheaper than Eric England’s original indie effort. This sequel is a poorly made movie all around. It’s the kind of bad movie where you can spot inconsistencies in the very same scene (including a nose bleed that frequently changes its length). With everything I’ve said thus far, it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I hated the acting in this movie too. The first CONTRACTED had its share of weak performances, but not a single actor or actress stands out for a positive reason in this sequel. Matt Mercer seems way too calm for a man who’s literally falling apart. What makes Mercer’s Riley even more annoying is that he becomes a last-minute action-hero of sorts out of nowhere. Anna Lore serves as a useless love interest who disappears for a solid chunk of the film. Morgan Peter Brown is over-the-top as the STZD-spreading BJ. Meanwhile, Marianna Palka can’t seem to decide whether she’s using a forced American accent or her natural Scottish accent. Depending on which words she’s pronouncing you can spot both in the same sentence.
What might come as a surprise is that PHASE 2 actually has two brief moments that save it from an F grade. These come in Riley using a box cutter to slice maggots out of his skin, which did make me wince. There’s also a scene of him pissing enough blood to make any functioning male viewer feel woozy. Though the effects are convincing enough in these two scenes, PHASE 2 also resorts to blood that strongly resembles ketchup and the fakest-looking eyeball you’re bound to see on film. Seriously, I was cracking up when that eyeball came out, because it’s meant to be a serious scene and I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it looked. The entire movie is also scored by distracting music that sounds as if someone slapped it together on Garage Band at the last possible minute during post-production.
I think the biggest problem here is that CONTRACTED: PHASE 2 is a shoddily manufactured sequel made in a shameless effort to make a quick buck on VOD rentals. The plot is made of ideas that don’t fit together. There are two brief moments that barely save this film from becoming a total failure. However, we are also treated to two(!) end credits scenes that promise a PHASE 3 somewhere in the near future. Count me out. CONTRACTED was a cool little body-horror flick that preyed on the fear of STDs. PHASE 2 is just a forced generic zombie flick with a terrorist named BJ (I’ll never get over that), horrible acting, and (mostly) cheesy effects. I’m not watching a third installment. I’m done with this series.