Warning: spoilers ahoy. Hover over to read certain spoilers.
Horror films are hit and miss.
Some are good, and they are very, very good. The Exorcist was a commentary on religion, and fed off the fear people had that escaping traditional beliefs would lead to a new age of Satanism. Saw combined a thriller plot with splatterpunk torture porn and a sickening orange and blue morality play. Se7en took great actors and stuck them in a rollercoaster modern film noir.
Se7en knew to leave well enough alone. Friday the 13th and Saw weren't so lucky - and Saw eventually saw itself degrade simply into "okay, "Jiggy" has more traps so you can watch people dismembered in happy new ways". Sometimes a franchise is purchased and literally whored out to whatever low-rent director simply wants to cash a check. Wes Craven sold off Nightmare on Elm Street for way too little money and saw his creation turned into a low rent comedy.
And some movies simply don't even bother trying. Based on Netflix's taking the horse stall fecal shovel to its horror listings, I see things like Zombeavers and Thankskilling, neither of which attempt to do anything except be to horror movies what Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are to comedies - produce saleable crap for fast cash.
But to watch Contracted fall so far so fast is truly depressing.
IFC, the Independent Film Channel - shows and deals in a lot of movies from places like England, or quirky films that are well made or interesting. Their horror arm is IFC After Midnight, and they came out with a neat little movie called Contracted a while back. A short synopsis is as follows: man has sex with corpse in morgue during opening credits (subtly done - I had to watch them twice to figure this out). Man then has sex with girl at party, girl gets sick, nobody can figure out what or why, SPOILER: girl dies. The surprise reveal at the end, as well as the movie being about her relationships as she falls apart (in some sense, literally) makes the thing squicky, and ultimately a tragic and horrific affair.
As one reviewer said about the sequel, it was one that wasn't wanted, that answered questions nobody needed answering.
The sequel hook revolves around the fact that the woman, desperate for some kind of human closure, has sex with someone around her and so the next movie is about him adjusting to the infection.
Contracted II basically turns into: guy finds out four people are dead, pandemic starts, guy obviously gets sicker, guy gets gun and goes after mysterious stranger who infected girl, revenge porn Rambo ensues. Guy who starts contagion isn't just random sicko, but a guy who goes around writing letters to the FBI which the movie can't figure out is a political/bioterrorism thing, or Satanic religious mania (he has "Abaddon" tattooed on one finger.) I've seen third rate talents decide to "combine" successful elements of other movies together, and the whole thing is a ready-for-Netflix paint by numbers. He's like Jigsaw, in that he is judging society and wants to punish it, but also, like a Satanic cultist or something! And he's trying to unleash a plague on society, so he does it by randomly date-raping the occasional lesbian. Got it.
Random nosebleed by infected character at a party? Check. Into the cheese dip? (Think about the logistics of this. Oh wow, my nose is bleeding! Good job I was leaning over the hors d'oeuvres.) Check. Pregnant woman absentmindedly can somehow dip a chip in the dip without looking (try it sometime) and thereby completely ignore the pool of dark, sickly looking blood on the surface? Check. And we now know she's going to have a Satanic-looking infected baby, clearly. Check.
He has a couple of hookers chained up with hooks through their skin in the villain's Saw-looking lair (a well known excellent restraint technique for the unfeeling undead) proving for once and for all that someone's thinking more about how this C-grade pile of dreck will look rather than how much sense it has.
And when the main character pieces together that somehow there's a guy responsible for this (aided and abetted by said person drugging and abducting him simply to inform him "I'll see you later" before tucking him into his own bed unharmed) decides okay, let me get a bunch of guns from the local drug dealer (not realizing DRUG dealer, not GUN dealer) and I'll go find this guy and make him give me the antidote. Because the guy isn't infected himself, so clearly he's got some kind of antidote. The scriptwriters have never dealt with the concept of trading in firearms either, because he offers them unmarked, stolen weapons at one third the value they'd sell for in a Bass Pro. Normally (from what I understand) if you want a firearm quickly with no questions asked, there's a significant markup, not "shall we say two hundred for both?"
So whereas the first film had the girl falling apart and crying as her teeth fall out, her hair comes out in clumps and skin melts away, which is a very human and very horrific empathic moment - we're treated to a Rambo field medicine bit where he stoically cuts bugs out from under his skin and stitches his rotting self together, before tooling up and heading out, making the whole bit about him falling apart pointless.
In the first film, the infection is an STD. In parts of this film you see the Big Bad infecting prostitutes (except for one who he pays to have sex with, and then abducts, which makes the idea of him spreading it sexually moot) but you also see casual contact spread it as well - the grandmother is infected by simply sharing a swig of her high-proof whiskey and therefore getting infected from the same glass. If it's that contagious, why bother with the sex?
And finally, you can't pull off something like this with C-grade talent. There are reasons people like Englund and Bell have the billing they do. Kane Hodder can act even behind a goalie mask and twenty pounds of prosthetic facial adjustment. When you fish in the "wish me luck, it's my first movie!" on Facebook pool for your supposedly Satanic villain, don't be surprised if you end up with a balding schlub with very little presence whatsoever. The actress in Contracted was engaging. The guy heading up this one looks like David Duchovny's less attractive younger brother who has no game with the ladies. In short, you're given no reason to care about these people, and the people playing them do a passable job - but they're punching above their weight.
And oh, great, there's a sequel hook to this one: except the guy who was Patient Zero and the Horseman of the Apocalypse for plague is lying dead in the hospital with a head shot, so it can literally only be a cookie cutter zombie film from here on out. Which totally ruins the premise of the first movie, which is less about bio-terrorism or the R-rated X Files or a zombie plague and more the personal and very intimate story of someone who made a mistake at a party and paid for it with her life, which is something most adults fear at least once in their lifetime.
From movie 1 to movie 2 is a REAL big dropoff. The good news is that Netflix is contracting to have movies made directly for them, allowing a new stream of pointless exercises in cookie-cutter movie production to choke the usual channels. I'm sure Phase III is imminent, but the patient flatlined long ago.