The great big Thanatomorphose (2012) VS Contracted (2013) Debate!
Two body horror movies, both starring young women, both about sexuality, both about sex, both about a woman rotting from the inside out. What an odd niche in horror, the young woman rotting to death sub sub genre of body horror, but regardless here we are!
First lets talk about Thanatomorphose. This film is about a young woman, a little bit shy, a little bit beaten down by life and in a relationship with a complete asshole. One day the woman wakes up after a rough night of sex to find a bruise on her arm, then another on her face, followed by cuts and sores all over her body. Its not long until she is literally rotting away. And thats it, for 100 minutes we a assaulted with nothing but a smorgasbord of disgusting special effects and body fluids. And believe me, every disgusting ounce of human goo is on display here.
Now onto Contracted. A young woman with relationship problems attends a party, solo. She has a lot to drink and is raped by a mysterious man. She wakes up the next morning not knowing who it was and thinking it better to forget. That is until she starts to get sick. Thinking she caught a sexually transmitted disease she goes to the doctor but things only get worse. She bleeds from her eyes and vagina, her hair begins to fall out, her fingernails fall off and sores appear on her face. She is wasting away physically but also mentally as her sanity slips further and further away from her.
I had heard of Thanatomorphose months before I had a chance to see it. I was completely intrigued by the idea. To me it sounded like a completely original yet totally disgusting film. Contracted, I saw on a whim after I saw a GIF online. I went in blind without reading so much as a synopsis but the similarities to Thanatomorphose appeared almost immediately. So as to be expected when movies are so similar there are cries of “which is better?” and “rip off”!
For starters Thanatomorphose came first, just look at the years. Thanatomorphose came out in 2012 while Contracted 2013. Pretty cut and dry. Did the makers of Contracted see Thanatomorphose and rip it off? Or did they have it in pre production first? Or is the whole thing a giant coincidence? Who cares. I can’t possibly know behind the scenes stuff like that, the fact is both movies are here, both similar, there’s only a year between them so which is better?
Well rather than keep you in suspense as I weigh the pro’s and cons I’m just going to come out and say it. In my opinion Contracted is far superior in almost every way. I don’t care if it did blatantly copy Thanatomorphose. I don’t care if its makers saw Thanatomorphose and said “lets adapt (steal) this story”. It doesn’t matter because Contracted is a far superior movie.
Two thirds of Thanatomorphose’s 100 minute runtime is nothing but disgusting, albeit effective special effects and body fluids. The remaining third is……. well…… it’s not horrible but it’s character building scenes probably could have been edited out and not effected the movie a single bit. Basically the movie is a shallow special effects show. It does have some subtext about sexuality, loneliness and depression but it takes a radical back seat to maggots and body goo. Thanatomorphose is literally just 100 minutes of a woman rotting.
Contracted on the other hand takes what Thanatomorphose does and fleshes out the characters and the story and most of all what is actually happening to the poor girl. The subtext is close to that of Thanatomorphose but it is much better explored. The girl of Contracted is having some sort of internal struggle with her sexuality coupled with past issues and demons of drug abuse. These themes are smack bang in the centre rather than taking a back seat to horror and gore. The horror and gore and gross out goo is still there when the film needs it, there’s just a bit of substance to back it up!
Thanatomorphose’s acting is bad. It is clearly a lower budget film with less expensive unknown actors and it shows unfortunately. The lead girl is quite good at conveying pain and suffering until she has to deliver a line then her performance takes a dive very quickly. Thankfully for two thirds of the film barely a word is spoken but when there is dialogue the illusion is broken very quickly. Contracted on the other hand has pretty solid performances all around. Except for the British punk girl who had me endlessly rolling my eyes, but everyone else is good! Its the difference between real trained actors and some random of the street.
Of course as far as gore and special effects go Thanatomorphose wins hands down. The movie goes above and beyond and since this is all it really has going for 100 minutes I have to throw it a bone. Contracted’s special effects are not bad though, they are completely solid and used only when necessary. There is something to be said for showing restraint as far gore goes. If you show it enough, like Thanatomorphose does you either become desensitised to it or completely drained. Neither is ideal.
Contracted is not all perfect though. In Contracted the lead girl Samantha is infected after she is raped by a stranger at a party. There is talk of this man being wanted by the police all throughout the film but there is never a real conclusion to who he is or what he has really done before infecting Samantha. The opening seconds of the film allude to him having sex with a dead body but this isn’t really followed up on. In fact I didn’t make the connection that this was the man who raped Samantha until long after the credits had rolled. I would have liked to have known who this man was! Or maybe see him get what was coming to him. Still this brief explanation is better than Thanatomorphose’s “Its happening just ‘cause”.
*Warning spoilers* One thing both films have in common is their endings. They don’t really go anywhere. In Thanatomorphose there’s only one way the film can possibly end and that is with the woman suffering and literally falling apart. And this is what happens, she stops, the flesh literally falls from her bones, cut, the end and nothing is resolved. In Contracted Samantha spirals down further and further until she is finally lost, attacks her mother and the film cuts to credits. It is incredibly abrupt and I was quite taken a back by how sudden it was. It is the better ending though because although it is very sudden it feels like the start of something bigger. I get the feeling it ends at ground zero of the zombie apocalypse. I would have liked to see Contracted go on for just a little longer.
It may sound like I really didn’t enjoy Thanatomorphose when this isn’t true at all. I did enjoy it, I just may never watch it again. It is extremely slow paced, completely draining and is possibly the most bleak film I have ever seen. While an ok film, its not one to watch often. Contracted on the other hand is a bit more hollywood. It does have sub text and themes and some real drama yet is far too taboo to be mainstream. It still manages to be entertaining without making you feel like you’ve been emotionally destroyed. The acting is better, the characters better, there’s an actual story which is nice. It is filmed on film or at least digital made to look like film, Thanatomorphose looks like it was filmed on an iPhone. It shows and is very distracting.
In the end it doesn’t matter if Thanatomorphose got there first with its rotting girl story. Points for originality of course its just that Contracted did it far far better in almost every single area. There are lots of rip offs and adaptions in the film industry. The same stories are told time and time again and being the first to tell a story will only go so far. The quality of the film has to stand on its own.
Oh one last thing and this has no bearing on quality but as far as the titles go, I can at least pronounce “Contracted”. I’m still not sure how to pronounce “ Thanatomorphose” properly without sounding like a pre schooler on the first day of reading.
I feel contracted had the perfect ending. We were treated to a certain subgenre of horror all the way through until the last minute when the film does a switch and we realize that we have actually been watching a zombie film.
Not only that but a very unique one. I can’t think of any other film that concentrates so hard on showing us how an outbreak occurs instead of just, “Hey there are zombies everywhere. ”
In that light, the ending seems perfect to me and I was happy not seeing it go further because as horror fans we all know how outbreaks go.
Excellent blog though. I thought of doing a comparison of these movies also., but i will concede.