Smith’s Verdict: ½*
Reviewed by Tanner Smith
Before I begin my review of “Contracted: Phase II,” I should clarify something from my review of its predecessor, the 2013 body-horror film “Contracted.” I refrained from using a certain word that other reviewers were using; just one word that gave me a pretty good idea of how the film was going to end. Since this film picks up where the first one left off, I might as well just use said-word now. (And if you’re reading this, chances are you saw the first film to begin with.) The word used by critics was “zombie.” The main character, Samantha (Najarra Townsend), has been going through bizarre, scary changes, including her body falling apart, and guess what—she turns into a zombie. I bet you thought it was just a very messed-up sexually-transmitted disease, didn’t you?
Yes, apparently B.J., the sicko who gave Samantha the sickness to begin with (and is not played by Simon Barrett this time), is the carrier for a would-be zombie apocalypse.
Our hero in this sequel is Riley (Matt Mercer, reprising his role from the original). If you saw the original, you remember him as the guy who barely had a role aside from having a hopeless crush on Samantha, and it led to the point in which Samantha presumably gives him the disease near the end of the film. I remember writing in my review that I didn’t think that was warranted, since we hardly knew anything about him. And it’s amazing to see that even though most of this sequel is centered around him, I still don’t know a damn thing about him, nor do I care. He’s dull, uninteresting, and unsympathetic—he made me wish for the return of the comic-relief druggie from the original film. (That guy, played by Charley Koontz, does come back late in the film—I really wish he took center stage in this one.) I don’t blame Mercer for this; he just has nothing to work with.
Anyway, “Phase II” picks up where “Contracted” left off, with Samantha becoming a zombie and attacking her mother (Caroline Thompson) before being shot dead by police. And like I said, Riley now has the disease Samantha had in the original. His body’s falling apart, he feels a strange sensation despite his doctor saying he’s clean, and he tries to find answers as to what’s happening to him.
There’s really nothing to this movie. It’s pretty pointless, to say the least. The questions raised from the first film are answered, but they were answers most of us have figured out before we saw this second one anyway. There are some disgusting gory moments to gross the audience out, such as when Riley pulls a broken fingernail out of a claw mark on his back or when his nosebleed becomes too messy (and even leaks into cheese dip at a memorial service—blech) or even pulling out a maggot from under his skin…but then what? What else is there to this movie? There’s no mystery to keep us invested, either with Riley or with the police detective, Crystal (Marianna Palka, sporting an on-again/off-again American accent), investigating mysterious dead bodies, because we know what’s happening to Riley and we know what the detective is going to find. If nothing new could be added, why make a sequel at all? The original ended at just the right moment—nothing more was needed.
All the titular “Phase II” turns out to be is spreading the disease around, which was already implied in the original film—we understood that very quickly; B.J. was going to be responsible for creating more (sigh) zombies. (“Mankind is a bacteria that needs to be obliterated,” he says at one point.) The film tries to take a new interesting turn by having Riley attempt to track down B.J. and kill him, but even that doesn’t work because nothing about this development in both the story and the character of Riley turning into a public avenger seems interesting, let alone convincing.
The first “Contracted” worked as a character study with some horrific body-horror elements attached. This second film is not only a retread (minus interesting characters) but also a failed zombie movie—tame, weak, and ironically bloodless (figuratively). Needless to say, “Contracted: Phase II” suffers from the disease shared by most unnecessary horror films—the Pointless Sequel Syndrome.