Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: Bite

by Patrick Bromley
There's something bugging me about the latest film released under the Scream Factory banner.

I would love to just be able to use the one-word review "Bites" when talking about the new horror movie Bite, the latest pickup from the releasing arm of Scream Factory. But to do so would be a) hackier than even I'm comfortable being; b) dismissive and shitty and c) not entirely accurate. The movie does not bite. It's not great and I don't expect I'll think of it much after finishing this review, but there's stuff to like in it. This is the kind of horror movie I would neither encourage nor discourage anyone from watching.
My heart sank early in the movie's opening moments, which present a kind of bachelorette getaway to some tropical paradise as recorded on cell phone video, at which point I became sure the movie would be found footage and began to curse my parents and the day I was born. We meet bride-to-be Casey (Elma Begovic), who expresses doubts about her upcoming nuptials, as well as a few of her generic girlfriends. While swimming, Casey is bitten by some sort of insect. Smash cut to credits and the end of the "found footage" aesthetic. The rest of Bite finds Casey holed up in her apartment taking visits from her fiancee Jared (Jordan Gray), his disapproving mother and a few of those generic girlfriends, all while she undergoes a slow transformation into something...else. Anyone familiar with a certain David Cronenberg movie from 1986 -- or who sees the image of a mid-transformation Casey holding thousands of gross, slimy eggs on the movie's poster -- can probably guess where this is going.

From that point on, Bite becomes the stuff of standard body horror only minus the invention that distinguishes the best efforts from that particular subgenre. There's nothing in the movie that achieves the visceral, unpleasant impact of something like Eric England's Contracted or even Starry Eyes, which isn't technically a body horror movie and yet pulls off those tropes better than Bite does. The stuff with the thousands of tiny insect eggs is impactful and the film's best set piece owes everything to The Fly, but beyond that there isn't much to distinguish the movie.
There's an interesting idea within the screenplay for Bite (from Jayme Laforest and director Chad Archibald), which deals with Casey's cold feet about getting married almost in parallel to her transformation into a giant bug woman. Unfortunately, those paths never quite intersect -- as much as it seems like her metamorphosis is a metaphor for her relationship issues, that never becomes the case. They're just two storylines that exist independently of one another. This also means that the doubts are essentially all we know about Casey's character, who is undeveloped in every other way. The same goes for everyone else in the movie: one friend is perhaps not to be trusted, nothing more, while Jared is just a nondescript guy who may or may not live under the thumb of his mother, who makes it clear that she has never liked Casey (and eventually has good reason not to). It's not the worst crime to have thinly written characters in a horror movie -- once upon a time, it was the best we could expect (though that has completely changed in recent years) -- but when the premise is as thin or thinner, a movie needs to be able to fall back on its human beings. Bite can't.
I'm happy to see Scream Factory expanding into releasing its own films, but their efforts so far -- which include the horror comedies Bloodsucking Freaks and Gravy and now Bite -- have been just ok. Not bad, not completely good (though Gravy comes pretty close), just passable time-fillers for less discerning horror fans. Bite has impressive makeup effects and commits to its body horror concepts. Its heart is in the right place, which is welcome in a genre that can sometimes be plagued by cynicism. Unfortunately, it can't offer anything we haven't already seen done better.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, Patrick. Was gonna check it this past weekend but passed on it. Maybe I'll get to it during SMM.