By: Trevor Jeffery
Horror works best in extremes: if you can’t make a film that is legitimately bone-chilling, then you better make it so over-the-top that the value comes from its absurdity rather than its potential to fear. Unfortunately, non-camp horror is a hard beast to tame: you need a plot and a cast that can effectively scare people. Bite is a campy horror film at heart that tried to go full-out scare mode, and found itself stranded in a no man’s land of horror.
Casey is getting married, and takes some friends with her on a destination bachelorette party at some sleazy beach resort. While there, she is taken advantage of, robbed of her engagement ring and money and left on a beach, and bitten by an unseen insect. She returns to her fiancée with cold feet, lies about what happened, and a sappy discharge coming from her bite. From there, things get worse: as she undergoes a metamorphosis into a bug-like creature, she looses her grip on reality, pushing her friends and her fiancée away.
Bite is a lot of build up with no pay-off. Casey finds out she’s pregnant just days after returning home; soon after Casey lays thousands of insect eggs around her apartment. The camera is very interested in these eggs, but don’t let it get your hopes up: they don’t actually do anything, beyond the implication that they’ve hatched and have made it into public spaces. The set of particularly unlikable and clichéd characters seem to only be around for interspersed attempts at “casual” dialogue and no-context emotional plot points: it was Casey’s friend who robbed her – then sleeps with her fiancée for a reason that can only be assumed as “because it seemed like it should happen.”
The pacing of Bite is choppy, tripping over its own clunky writing as if the characters themselves are just waiting for the next scene. Exposition is the go-to device in Bite, where the characters will come out and tell you what’s going on in favour of the director showing you. This feeds into Bite’s largest flaw, its lack of subtlety. Casey expresses to her friends her uncertainty about having children, and with what does her fiancée surprise her immediately after? A baby chair. And don’t overlook the super-powers she gets from turning into a bug-person: super hearing that activates only when her fiancée is doing something plot-relevant, and the confusing ability to scream so loud that people vomit.
“Must have caught a bug or something” is a ridiculous pun that has no place in a film that is trying to give the audience a scare. Bite should have been a fun, ridiculous, over-the-top story of a woman who mutates into a human-insect hybrid births thousands of evil monster bugs. Instead, it’s a slow, go-nowhere story with tame horror effects.
Catch the world premiere of BITE at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival on:
Wednesday, July 29 at 9:45 p.m. @ J.A. De Seve Theatre
Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery