MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Contracted: Phase II’ Is Another Bad Horror Sequel

Film: Contracted: Phase II
Starring: Matt Mercer
Directed by: Josh Forbes

Two years after Eric England’s Contracted took the world of body horror by storm, IFC Midnight has released a clunky sequel with no input from England that struggles to find a single original beat.

Opening with the same sequence that ended the first film, Contracted: Phase II bills itself as a continuation of Eric England’s original idea. The story follows Riley (Matt Mercer), who viewers will remember as the guy who pined for and ultimately slept with Samantha (Najarra Townsend) before her death, as he realizes he too has become infected with a mysterious virus. He suffers the same cringe-worthy symptoms as his recently deceased friend, but as this is a sequel he also sneezes buckets of blood and discovers what are essentially maggots living under his skin. In one scene, we even see him perform crude surgery on himself in an attempt to remove the tiny critters. It goes about as well as you would imagine.

Phase II suffers from the biggest sequel sin of all, and that would be the repetition of poor decisions made in the previous film. Riley’s reaction to realizing he is plagued by the same disease as Samantha is one of immediate denial, which leads him to make a series of increasingly poor decisions in his attempt to escape the reality that is quite literally eating him alive. This is the same reaction we saw from Samantha, only now it seems dumber than ever because Riley is aware of his impending fate from essentially the first scene. His lack of action is more infuriating than interesting. He even meets another with the same disease, and he witnesses that person tear their own flesh from their bones, and still he remains in denial.

Where England’s film focused on the way the disease ate away at Samantha’s existence–as well as the STD-like nature of its transmission from person to person–Phase II attempts to find an explanation and cure. The results are decidedly mixed, with much of the second act being far too heavy on exposition and low on thrills, but the basic idea remains as engaging. When the film sticks to the beats showcased in its predecessor things really come together, but those moments are rare. Phase II wants so badly to be different the filmmakers even found an excuse to add a kidnapping subplot, which never pays off, but does do a fine job in keeping both thrills and chills surprisingly low throughout the duration of the film. Even when we meet the person responsible for the virus–who I might add is no longer played by Simon Barrett–his explanation is so weighed down in genre tropes you wonder how someone so stereotypical could ever be involved in creating such an original and altogether terrifying disease. It’s an explanation that works, but offers nothing unique.

Mercer carries the film as well as anyone could hope to, but even his best efforts cannot keep things from falling apart as the third act grows long in the tooth. There is a final blood-soaked moment that is as good as any sequence in this still young franchise, but it arrives far too late to demand one reconsider the film as a whole. Contracted: Phase II is largely forgettable, aside from a few garish moments of self-inflicted brutality, and reeks of someone seeing an opportunity to cash in on another film’s success rather than a genuine desire to further develop this unique cinematic universe. I sincerely hope this series ends here, but I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see Phase III announced in the coming months.


James Shotwell
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