Most of the time lesbians are characters in horror films, they are either part of an ensemble and easily killed off or are the maniacal crazy ones doing the killing. This rings true in Contracted, which opens this Friday, but not in the way you might suspect.
Samantha (Najarra Townsend) is a reformed party girl whose girlfriend, Nikki (Katie Stegeman), has kicked her out. They’re still trying to work on their relationship, but it’s one-sided, which doesn’t bode well for Sam, which is what her friends call her. Contracted begins with Sam attending a party solo at her co-worker and friend Alison’s. Everyone there is surprised to see her, as she’s been sober and living with her mom for the past few weeks. That doesn’t stop them from offering her drinks and drugs, though, and she accepts a few shots and a drink, but passes on the coke.
She’s already tipsy when a strange man sidles up to her and hands her a drink he swears was hers. She shrugs and takes it, entertaining him only because every call she’s made to Nikki has went straight to voicemail.
“Here’s your drink. I’m pretty sure I saw you holding it,” he says to her, the camera never showing his face. “I thought you looked interesting. Are you here with anyone? Are you seeing anyone?”
When Sam says yes, the man tells her “He’s a lucky guy.” When she clarifies it’s a woman, he says, “How long’s that been going on?” and admits to being intimidated. “Why isn’t she here with you tonight?”
The next scene has Sam and the stranger fogging up the windows of a car, but Sam is in a daze, saying, “We should stop. I’m serious. Please. Please.” It’s cringe-inducing, and the next morning, Sam can barely remember a thing. She wakes up at home, hung-over, but goes to meet Nikki, who is a British blonde with red and black streaks in her hair, facial piercings and a spider tattoo on her neck. She doesn’t seem thrilled to be meeting with her ex, especially when she sees Sam is hung over.
At home, Sam’s mom calls Nikki her “roommate,” which, of course, Sam detests. (Later on she’ll mention that her mom calls her own daughter a dyke, too.) She has started to have some terrible cramps, though, and weird black veins reaching around her uterus. She decides to go to the doctor, thankfully, because she’s also started to heavily bleed from the crotch area.
The doctor does his job, asking if she’s sexually active. Sam says, “I’m a lesbian.” He presses her: “Have you ever been sexually active with a man?” Sam answers, “Not in the last eight months, besides last night. That one time.” (BTW, women can also give other women STDs. Just saying.)
He tells her she has a “head cold and a rash,” and it should pass. But since this is a horror movie, clearly it will only get worse. Sam begins to experience high-pitched ringing and white noise inside her head. Her bleeding has gotten out of control and her eyes become red, one at a time, the complete eyeballs. She can pull out teeth, her hair starts falling out, her nails are easily removed. At this point, you’re likely screaming for Sam to go to the hospital (I was) but she doesn’t. Instead, she goes about her day until her boss sends her home, her ex tells her things are moving too fast and her mom accuses her of being back on drugs.
The director, Eric England, told Fangoria:
“We live in a progressive world today, and I think films don’t reflect that enough. I wanted this story to portray our culture as accurately as possible so that the horror felt like it was happening in a real world. Having Samantha in a lovers quarrel with girls and guys just added to the conflict in a positive way, so I thought it was the best direction to take the story in.”
But Sam never seemed attracted to the man who rufied her drink, nor did she appear to have wanted to have sex with him. There’s no scene between her conversation with him inside the party and the sex in the car, so there’s nothing to indicate she was a willing participant whatsoever. Yet everything you see about the movie describes the scenario as “a one-night stand.” It is supposed to be some kind of karmic entity coming back to bite her after she’s cleaned up her act? Or was it that the male writer/director thought it would be a great plot point to have a lesbian sleep with a guy and want to keep it a secret so badly that she would rather suffer through it. Perhaps Sam thought she deserved it, but that didn’t really come across.
Contracted is another reminder that what I’d like to see in horror films (one great lesbian-identified final girl; one strong woman who makes it through the monsters, the psychopaths or the infections diseases at hand to come out on top) is still so rare.
Contracted is available in select theaters and on IFC video-on-demand tomorrow.