By Kelan Young

Mailed on May 27, 2014

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Dear Mayera Abeita
Special Makeup Effects Artist

Dear Mayera,

Given the premise of Contracted - a young woman stricken with a mysterious disease that corrupts her body in unfathomable ways - it's pretty impressive how restrained your makeup effects are. Don't get me wrong--while you conjure up some undeniably nightmarish body-horror imagery, it never feels like you're aiming for cheap shocks; on more than one occasion you opt to let the viewer's imagination fill in the blanks, and, in an age where so much special effects work seems to be driven by a "the goopier the better" philosophy, that kind of restraint is especially refreshing.

It's a shame, then, that writer/director Eric England's script undercuts your work so severely.

There's certainly no fault to be attributed to lead actor Najarra Townsend, who seems entirely committed to the role and turns in a pretty fearless performance. But there's very little depth to her character, making her gradual deterioration at your hands less meaningful than it should be. We can empathize with her on a physical level, but that's really about it. The screenplay has her entangled in a series of relationships in which absolutely nobody seems to have her best interests in mind (save perhaps for her domineering mother) which is a pretty cheap ploy to earn audience sympathy; to believe that someone would willingly surround themselves with so many loathsome, two-faced "friends" strains credibility far more than the actual horror elements.

The film's biggest problem, far and away, is falling back on the "everyone is a deaf and blind idiot" convention. As you make Townsend's visage increasingly hideous, the more unfathomable it becomes that absolutely no one around her grasps the severity of the situation--even going so far as to outright ignore her pleas for help. As she (literally) falls to pieces before their very eyes, the common response is basically: "Eeew, please stop being so gross, you idiot." It's an infuriating way to advance the plot, and becomes so cartoonish that it's not even that satisfying when a few choice individuals get their much deserved comeuppance.

I can't say this movie is a total wash, though, since you turn in some undeniably impressive effects work, most notably a climatic scene involving maggots that is sure to drop the jaws of even the most hardened horror fans. It could also be that I'm just not quick-witted enough to have figured it out beforehand, but there is a fun moment towards the end when the true nature of what is happening to our protagonist is finally revealed.

I sincerely hope to see you continue to work in the horror genre. If your makeup expertise was paired with a stronger script, the results would be nothing short of outstanding.



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