“BITE” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
Since the heydey of body horror in the late ‘80s/ early ‘90s, the gruesome subgenre has resurfaced sporadically in recent times. As CGI becomes less of an industry standard among the low-budget horror realm, horror titles such as AMERICAN MARY, TUSK, and ANTIVIRAL have taken advantage of the power of practical FX work when applied to malevolent body modification. Yet while many of these films rely on surgery-gone-mad or flesh rotting away to the elements, few modern body horror offerings go truly beyond the pale for their main mutation. However, if Chad Archibald’s BITE is any indication, that tide could be turning in favor of the bold and ambitious side of the subgenre.
In essence, BITE is fairly standard in story department, following a young woman on vacation with her friends who is bitten by a mysterious creature and soon falls into a fugue state where her memory of the trip’s final hours are missing. Returning home after the traumatic experience to her loving fiancee and domineering future mother-in-law, the woman soon begins to undergo physical changes that become more and more insect-like in nature. As her condition worsens, the woman begins to become more paranoid, putrid and predatory, putting everyone in her life at risk.
In terms of what works about BITE, the film knocks it out of the park in the special FX department, with FX artists Jason Derushie, Mason Derushie, Moira Garr and Ariana Roberts delivering on the gory goodness around every corner. Considering the many stages and disgusting developments in the lead’s transformation, BITE appears to be a massive undertaking executed flawlessly throughout the film. BITE also sports some phenomenal visuals as well, with cinematographer Jeff Maher, editor Nick Montgomery and director Chad Archibald offering a diverse yet cohesive approach to perspective in the film.
However, if BITE suffers from anything, it’s in the script department, despite some classic genre melodrama to keep things interesting between the gooey bits. While the film leans heavy on the atmosphere of the situation, the dialogue and characters rarely inspire much emotional investment in BITE, and the story itself rarely raises the stakes to anything fairly substantial either. Though those seeking a mindless monster movie might be satisfied on the ickier elements, anyone seeking anything more from BITE might be left wanting; if only the same time spent on the FX work was spent on the script, perhaps BITE could have rivaled the strongest in the subgenre.
Although the writing may not be top notch, BITE does offer some strong performances, especially from first-time lead Elma Begovic as the tragic “hero” of the film. Begovic sells every moment with gusto, and her leap from sensitive introvert to full-on freakshow is dealt with the right amount of confidence and self-awareness. Meanwhile, BITE also offers strong turns from Jordan Gray as her conflicted fiancee, Annette Wozniak as her conniving social rival, Denise Yeun as her doomed best friend and Lawrene Denkers in a scene-stealing performance as the aforementioned mother-in law.
Overall, BITE should satisfy those with strong stomachs, especially considering the film is more ambitious in its FX than most contemporary body horror films. Sadly, the script doesn’t quite match that ambition, so as long as you’re not expecting another FLY and can leave your brain at the door, BITE can be a fun, gross-out indie flick worthy of your time.