Following Contracted – which has yielded a sequel – this is another Cronenbergian exercise in venereal horror, centering on a woman undergoing a bizarre mutation.
Casey (Elma Begovic) goes on a bachelorette trip to Costa Rica with her friends Jill (Annette Wozniak) and Kirsten (Denise Yuen). The film flirts with found footage by showing some of the wild partying via Jill’s videoing of the events, though this is interspersed with a more objective, cooler eye … and what’s recorded on Jill’s camera later turns out to be a plot point. After one wild night, Casey – who has pre-wedding jitters about marrying investment banker Jared (Jordan Gray), the son of her disapproving and on-site landlady (Lawrene Denkers) – wakes up naked on the beach with her engagement ring missing and the possibility that she might have been unfaithful. Later, the trio hike out to a secluded beauty spot and bathe in calming waters … only Casey gets bitten on the thigh by something unidentifiable. Back home, and mostly in her apartment, Casey begins to fall apart psychologically and physically, and the wedding doesn’t get planned. Besides the bite oozing yellow pus and her skin flaking like the beginnings of Brundlefly, Casey develops acute hearing and takes to making strange, jerky insectile neck moves. She realises that her friend Jill, who has stolen her ring, has been scheming against her and was responsible for her bad night in CR, and she starts to take revenge on various folks who have harmed her … or, in the tragic later stages, who she thinks might have harmed her. Also as in The Fly, she sicks up corrosive bile, which she uses to attack people. She extrudes webbing which transforms her apartment into a vile nest and becomes ever more psychotic and focused.
It’s a slight, claustrophobic story given a little more complication by Casey’s wedding doubts – in the end, she’s right not to be completely sold on the easily-swayed Jared. Jill and Jared’s mother are broadly written as spiteful, envious tormentors, but that serves even more to lock the film into the mind and decaying body of its protagonist. There is a kind of familiarity to the material that makes it a little less startling that it would have been if it had come out before Contracted, though it does wed the mutating woman theme to the Polanskiesque madness-in-a-messy-flat tropes of Repulsion. It’s a marked improvement on Canadian writer-director Chad Archibald’s previous film, The Drownsman. Co-written by Jayme Laforest.
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