Bite Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Second Sight
Directed by Chad Archibald
Written by Jayme Laforest
2015, 88 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 10th October 2016
Elma Begovic as Casey
Annette Wozniak as Jill
Denise Yuen as Kirsten
Jordan Gray as Jared
“It’s just a bite,” shrugs the soon-to-be-married yet wannabe free spirit Casey, rubbing away a bug bite to the butt cheek while swimming with pals at an isolated jungle lake. A bite it might be, but it’s anything but ‘just’, turning Casey’s life and body inside out, becoming a gestation chamber for many more of what bit her.
Just a bite? Certainly not, if its stories of vomiting-in-the-aisles audiences are anything to go by, whipping up a frenzy which made Bite a hot ticket at 2015’s FrightFest. The fainting/puking/dying in the cinema narrative is one of horror’s most tiresome marketing ploys; sure to have audiences clamouring in the aisles, but usually just disguising otherwise mediocre to bad moviemaking with very little to offer beyond immediate gross-out gags and special effects. Case in point, the likes of Saw III and Chad Archibald’s Bite.
Certainly, from a special effects vantage point, Bite brings the goods. A squelchy, viscous movie which makes the most of its tokophobia and entomophobia, it not only depicts Casey’s body falling apart but also has a great deal of fun in showing just what’s oozing out of her too. Like the recent Contracted and its (superior) sequel, this is all shown in intricate and relatively realistic detail; every step of Casey’s transformation catalogued for the audience’s delight or disgust. Horror fans who have sat through those previously mentioned films – or even Cronenberg’s The Fly – shouldn’t be too tested (once you’ve seen one body horror splatter flick, you’ve seen them all, really) but it’s not a movie for the squeamish. A body horror veteran (once you’ve done Nekromantik and its sequel, little else will faze you) the most trouble I had was with Casey’s constant onscreen puking, challenging my sympathetic gag reflex far more than any of the sluice-gate pores or laying of eggs.
The body horror stands up as it should then, but in this case, Bite is not so much mediocre or bad as it is flat-out offensive, the bug bite and subsequent gross pregnancy but a (not very subtle) subtext for Casey’s fear of marriage and having children. It could only be less on-the-nose if it were a film about Casey contracting frostbite on her toes and having them all drop off, one by one in gory detail (cold feet, geddit). This obviousness would be fine in itself (subtext almost becoming actual text worked okay for The Babadook, It Follows and Lights Out) if the film didn’t depict every single female in it as a shrieking harpy or thinly-veiled monster. Casey is the one going through a terrible, painful transformation, but she’s ill-supported by her terrible friends (a hive of jealousy, cheating and calling each other ‘whore’ all the time) and stereotypical monstrous mother-in-law. Casey’s transformation will inevitably awaken a bloodthirst in her, although given her awful associates and dimbulb fiancée (not to mention, you know, the bite), at least she has an excuse.
Maybe a sympathetic female screenwriter or director could have helped Bite with its accidental misogyny problem, but the absence of one is no excuse – after all, Neil Marshall managed to do female friendship perfectly well in The Descent, not to mention Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes, from the same year’s FrightFest. Ultimately, it does the body horror stuff just fine, but flunks on everything else, from the writing to the characters, performances and even story.
For worst of all, it’s painfully predictable, finishing on a gag that’s telegraphed as soon as the film starts. Lesson learned; vomiting audiences do not necessarily a good film make. At least it’s not found footage though, as is terrifyingly teased during the opening sequence. One of the most gruesome body horror films ever made? Probably not. Enjoyably gory nevertheless? At times, sure. A good movie, worthy of its extreme horror reputation? Nah, it’s just Bite.