A couple years ago a wide-eyed, energetic director popped out on the scene with his gore-filled horror flick “Madison County,” unleashing it onto unsuspecting audiences. Now he continues to surprise and terrify us with his latest creepy creation, “Contracted.” It’s been an uphill battle for Eric England and company as they pieced together this passion project that turned a lot bigger and better than people expected to find. Now we’re at the start of the movie’s release and we wanted to find out a bit more information about this gross-out new horror flick.
Two years ago I spoke with Eric England about his breakout film, but the director has changed a bit since then. I sat down with the director to talk about the conception of the movie, casting the perfect girl and the kind of intriguing responses it’s been receiving even before the film’s release.
A couple weeks ago this little mail package arrive at my door. I opened the bag and thought cool, it’s promo items for “Contracted”. I dumped the rest of the contents on the table and the “Contracted” condoms spilled out. Needless to say I was a little surprised to find that as a promo item.
Eric England: I’ve gotten so many requests for Contracted condoms. I wish we were selling them in stores because everyone wants one. Now they’ve become a novelty.
In some ways “Contracted” is like the origins of a monster with what happens to her, the transformation. Is that how you perceive her downward spiral through the movie?
Eric England: Absolutely. The idea was to start at the end of the film and then see how I can get there. That’s where I started and then I thought where would this go? I know what happens after the end of the film, I want to see how this begins. That was the genesis for me. I thought it would be really cool to do a movie that takes place in this disease-infected sub genre and run into it with using sex as the way in. It’s such a vulnerable idea using sex to get in, especially from the perspective of a woman who’s troubled and dealing with her sexuality as she is. It was a matter of taking all these pieces and arranging them in the correct way.
And congratulations for making Simon Barrett the creepiest guy in horror movies right now.
Eric England: He’s just continuing to be a weirdo and I’m glad I can contribute to that. I told him dude, nobody’s ever going to want to have sex with you, just be aware. He’s like don’t worry, nobody wants to have sex with me already, so he’s okay with it.
But how did you come across your actress? It’s a very intense role, especially considering what she has to go through physically and mentally as she unravels.
Eric England: She came to me through Matt Mercer who plays Riley and is a co-producer on the film. He and I cast the movie together and we’ve gone out to some actresses that we made offers to. We were trying to find kind of a high profile actress. I wrote the script in March and then we were shooting in May. It was such a fast turn around that we didn’t have time for CAA to call us back and get through all the schedule. Halfway through the process I said f–k it, I don’t care who the girl is any more with her social status and her name, I just want the best actress for that job. She has to be someone who’s gun-ho and is hungry to carry this movie because her face is on the poster, she is the movie.
Najarra [Townsend] lost her manager over this movie because I don’t think they wanted her to do it. The fact that she was able to say yes, I’m down was just so encouraging to me and so inspirational. Matt was like hey, I have a friend coming in, I think you may dig her. She walked into the room and I fell in love with her and she was perfect. The moment she walked out I was like that’s her, bar-none. Najarra and I clicked so well on the first day of shooting. We fed off of each other and had this energy. We like to say that we fell in love because we found something to love everyday about this movie, whether it’s a scene or it’s a moment. Even though the character Samantha can sometimes be unlikeable in the movie, you still want to watch her and you’re still very engaged by her. She’s such a pretty girl and she goes through this massive thing where it’s a matter of just finding someone who had all these elements I wanted in an actress but more than anything someone I trusted.
Speaking of Matt, he helped you put together that stop-motion trailer, the creepy PSA. How did that happen?
Eric England: Before we made the movie, I had the idea and I really want to make this movie. He was like that’s fucking genius, and he was like we should totally do it. We weren’t really sure where to take it or what to do with it. I wanted to shoot it in a foreign country and I wanted this layer of xenophobia where you have this weird disease, there’s these weird doctors, you don’t speak the language and that element but we didn’t have the money to do that. I was like well f–k it, what if we did kickstarter for the movie.
I had the idea of what if we do this 1950s sex ed piece, and Matt said f–k yea. Matt is one of my favorite filmmakers that no one knows about. He did this incredible video and it was the video for our kickstarter page. We were getting ready to release it and we gave it to IFC and they were like f–k yea! We love it! Let’s release it like a little promo clip.
Did you have to do any research into STDs and women anatomy? A couple of things that happen to her in the beginning, you wonder how she doesn’t notice that something is seriously wrong with her.
Eric England: I did enough research to get by, and it’s funny because when you write a movie as a male for a female protagonist, I was so insecure about it because I thought so many girls are going to call me out for so many things. I did enough research to get it through but I wanted to start it out as a really bad period or a really bad rash, a really bad yeast infection and it just goes and spirals out of control. Halfway through the movie somebody tells her that she has really bad pink eye but it’s obvious that we as the filmmakers are in on what’s happening. There’s a level of where you have to go with us in order to continue the story or else it’s a movie about a girl laying in a hospital bed and then it’s no fun.
Have you received any particularly interesting responses from women about this movie?
Eric England: Yea, absolutely. In fact, we’ve been getting a lot of responses from lesbian women. I’ve got a lot of hate mail from lesbian women just sending me emails and commenting on certain articles. Somebody posted the trailer and said that “Contracted” 2013 is a lesbian horror film, and that went out to all these LGBT sites. A lot of my gay friends have seen my movie and love it. They say it’s so progressive for non-heterosexual characters because you don’t see that in mainstream genre films. It’s usually straight man, straight woman, so I was really happy about that. So the response has been the lesbians being pissed that she sleeps with a man. She’s not taking her sexuality seriously, she’s being bisexual, obviously she’s bisexual. I never once said that she’s a lesbian. She says that she’s a lesbian in the movie but it’s because she’s flawed and she’s lying to herself. She’s in denial and it’s clear in my opinion. I didn’t say it’s a lesbian horror film, somebody else did, whoever put that up on YouTube. They got pissed and I said hey, I never said that. You should watch the movie before you judge me and they’re like no, go f–k yourself. It’s been a very interesting thing and I’m just a vocal a-hole anyways so I’ll go and respond to them anyways. I’m very polite, I’m never going to be rude to anyone, but I encourage them to watch the film before they banish me to hell.
“Contracted” is out in limited theaters and VOD today.