There are so many young directors trying to break into the film business that it's sometimes hard to filter out the worthy ones. Especially the horror genre is swamped by eager, self-appointed talents who all think they are the next best thing as they try to leverage the power of posters and trailers to convince you to watch their life's work. While Contracted had me a little worried at first, I'm glad that I went ahead and watched it anyway.
I knew England from Madison County, a pretty decent attempt at a slasher flick, but one that was bogged down by genre clichés and simply didn't add enough to them. He made some serious strides forward though, as Contracted shows a lot more promise. Not that England managed to get past all of the usual low-budget problems, but he made the film work regardless.
Apart from the lead, the acting is horrendous. Some of the actors are pretty awkward (the mom and the girl playing Alice), luckily Townsend does a decent enough job as Samantha, the main character. The visuals too are a little plain at times, though the camera work and editing are actually pretty satisfactory. The settings can be a bit dire and boring though, but that is to be expected.
On the upside, the soundtrack is actually really neat. A good selection of atmospheric tracks that complement the film really well. The gore is limited but effective. It's nothing you haven't seen before (unless you're new to the horror genre of course), but the effect is definitely there. The film grossed me out a couple of times, which doesn't happen all that often.
Last but not least, England delivers a strong build-up to a fun ending. It's not quite clear from the start what exactly is going on with Samantha, only around halfway through did a real suspicion start to form about the true nature of this film (it ended up being correct too, still, I thought it was a neat little twist). It's hard to be more specific without spoiling things, don't go in expecting a big twist at the end, but England sure did put a nice spin on an old concept.
Contracted is a solid horror film as long as you can look past some of its low-budget unpleasantries. In a way the film reminded me of Deadgirl, though it never quite reaches those heights. Still, if you're looking for a good diversion, this one is sure to please a broad range of horror fans.