The first Contracted was Eric England’s version of body horror, an exploration of the change from normal human to zombie centering on just one person and without the usual apocalyptic tropes. While it wasn’t a complete success, it was an interesting attempt from the new director. Contracted: Phase II picks up where the first left off, except this time with a new director – Josh Forbes, his first full-length film. And this time, it’s not a woman going through the change but the man she slept with at the end of the first film. Riley (Matt Mercer), giving into his base instincts, decided to forgo the usual protection during sex – and also ignore the fact that his partner was literally falling apart – and now finds himself just as maggot-infested as she was.
Contracted: Phase II is, in most ways, an identical copy of the original film. Forbes centers on Riley alone for the first half, following him through daily life as he begins to suspect that his growing illness is not just the usual STD. The effects are on-par with the first flick, and admittedly, they copy a lot of what Contracted had in store. A tooth is pulled out; blood is vomited; Riley even pees a whole a bucket of blood. These instances are gruesome, but they’re also extremely similar to England’s footage. Unfortunately, Contracted: Phase II never manages to outdo the original, except for maybe a grotesque extraction in the final act.
But Forbes does take the initiative to incorporate a few new elements. By branching out directly from the first film, Contracted: Phase II is able to document the quick escalation of the virus; whereas Contracted followed one person’s change, the sequel finds many more people falling ill, dying, and turning into crazed zombies. The zombie aspect is still the weakest part of the series, because the horror of necroticism is enough without having to resort to a much-overused subgenre. Yet here it gives even more context to the development of a world-destroying virus, and that effectively distances Contracted: Phase II from its predecessor.
There’s also added characterization of BJ (Morgan Peter Brown), the person who started the virus. While Forbes doesn’t give the audience much information, Riley does make contact with the man and uncovers his strange ideology. Abaddon is coming, BJ says, but Contracted: Phase II gives us no more information about his motivations than the first film. While it’s good to see more of this mysterious character, it’s ultimately a wasted effort.
Also featured is Crystal Young (Marianna Palka) in a cop side-story; she’s attempting to track down BJ and anyone involved with the four murders from the first film. Again, it’s a nice attempt from Forbes to vary plot slightly, but like BJ, Crystal serves little purpose and is overshadowed by Riley and Harper’s (Anna Lore) body changes.
Contracted: Phase II runs at a concise 78 minutes, more because it runs out of ideas in its back half rather than an adherence to simplicity. The film’s open-ended conclusion leaves room for yet another sequel, but based on this sequel’s recycling of the previous film’s body transformations, it would be hard to come up with a third person’s metamorphosis without incorporating a zombie apocalypse in the process. For a sequel, though, it’s surprising that Contracted: Phase II is right on par in quality with the first; since that one was a mediocre offering already, Forbes’ flick also sits right in the middle range. It’s a film in danger of falling apart at any time just like its characters; the end result isn’t beautiful, but not unpleasant either.
Scream Factory has released Contracted: Phase II in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack with minimal features. The video is presented in widescreen format in quality high definition with either a DTS Master 5.1 audio (for Blu-Ray) or 2.0 for DVD. There are some nice atmospheric effects in the surround sound. Also available are subtitles in either English or Spanish.
As for bonus features, well… you get trailers. There’s a regular trailer and an extended one. Other than that, nada, and that’s kind of disappointing. Fan of the first film? Get it and see how it stacks up.