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Review: 'Contracted's' mystery disease keeps horror story compelling

Writer-director Eric England's "Contracted" can best be described as "Contagion" meets "Blue Is the Warmest Color," without all those explicit sex scenes.

After falling out with her girlfriend, the distraught Samantha (Najarra Townsend of "Me and You and Everyone We Know") spirals into self-destruction, albeit somewhat unintentionally. She goes to a party and very hesitantly gets wasted. Much like the heroine in that NC-17-rated French lesbian sex spectacle, Samantha switches teams and takes up with a stranger to alleviate her domestic ennui.

Unfortunately for Samantha, the consequence of her infidelity turns out to be much graver than the soap-opera fodder you might see on "The L Word": What she initially dismisses as a mere sexually transmitted disease gradually causes her hair, teeth and nails to fall out.

ON LOCATION: Where the cameras roll

The production notes do "Contracted" a huge disservice by disclosing Samantha's diagnosis. The film works precisely because her illness remains a mystery until the final scene.

Although this horror flick is somewhat absurd and seemingly forgettable when viewed in a vacuum, its coincidentally contemporaneous release with "Blue Is the Warmest Color" urges immediate reconsideration. The two make the perfect double bill — at least for those undaunted by the three-hour running time of "Blue" — and "Contracted" holds up surprisingly well against that much-ballyhooed Palme d'Or winner.

"Contracted." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes. At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles. Also on VOD. 

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