Theoretically, body hor­ror offers the best of both worlds for hor­ror fans who like intel­li­gence and grue in their cho­sen gen­re fare.  As David Cronenberg’s ear­ly works proved, it is pos­si­ble to weave in inspired and thought­ful themes even as you exploit the audience’s fear of bod­i­ly dys­func­tion for gross-out effect. Bite is a new movie that Bite-posgoes for that kind of smart/gross dichoto­my  — but it only gets about halfway there.

The con­cept is straight­for­ward: Bite begins with a mon­tage of found footage depict­ing anx­ious bride-to-be Casey (Elma Begovic) going on a bach­e­loret­te trip to an island locale.  It’s not as fun as she hoped and she comes back nurs­ing a bite from some unseen some­thing that she got in a remote lagoon.  Back home, she’s got to deal with her fiancée (Jordan Gray) and his bitchy mom (Lawrene Denkers) as the wed­ding nears.  However, she finds her­self get­ting ill as the bite gets worse and her body begins to change.  These changes will bring lethal sur­pris­es for any­one who checks in on her.

Bite com­mits to its gross­ness in a way that hor­ror fans will appre­ci­ate and it makes an attempt to link Casey’s meta­mor­pho­sis with her desire to walk away from mar­riage or per­haps her reac­tion to the pres­sures being put on her by oth­er peo­ple.  Unfortunately, writer Jayme LaForest nev­er real­ly fol­lows through on the poten­tial of link­ing the­se ele­ments, set­tling for being a gross-out pro­gram­mer that bor­rows heav­i­ly from the Cronenberg ver­sion of The Fly and Repulsion.  There’s a lot of sub­plots with oth­er char­ac­ters but they’re all drawn in a one-note style (espe­cial­ly the shrewish mom) that makes it tough to get invest­ed in the human side of things.

That leaves the audi­ence with the ick fac­tor — and direc­tor Chad LaForest is com­fort­able traf­fick­ing in that: there’s a decent sized body count, an apart­ment that gets trans­formed into an Alien-style spawn­ing cham­ber and huge amounts of slime and goo thrown around.  However, fans of Cronenbergian body hor­ror might find Bite-bluthem­selves dis­ap­point­ed that Casey’s bod­i­ly changes are not depict­ed with any sophis­ti­cat­ed pros­thet­ic trans­for­ma­tions like The Fly.  Like the script, the direc­tion and effects that the sim­plest route to get to the ick fac­tor.

Ultimately, Bite feels like a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty.  There was room here to use the body hor­ror as a tool of satire, a fem­i­nist alle­go­ry, etc.  Unfortunately, the film is con­tent to fol­low a famil­iar path and its sim­ple approach to both themes and spe­cial effects will leave a lot of hor­ror fans want­i­ng for more sub­stance and more sophis­ti­cat­ed grue.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory picked up this title for dis­tri­b­u­tion and released a blu-ray edi­tion of it on 8/2/16.  The trans­fer offers a crisp pre­sen­ta­tion of the dig­i­tal cin­e­matog­ra­phy, han­dling its grad­u­al pro­gres­sion into a dark and dank look well.  Both 5.1 and 2.0 loss­less stereo mix­es are includ­ed: the 5.1 mix real­ly makes the most of the gross-out sound effects.

There’s also a hand­ful of extras includ­ed.  A com­men­tary track includes Archibald with pro­duc­ers Cody Calahan and Christopher Giroux.  It’s a film­mak­ing-ori­ent­ed track with lots of details on the loca­tions and sets, choic­es in sto­ry­telling, the cast and the chal­lenges of shoot­ing in a loca­tion that got slim­ier with each day.  A series of five short fea­turettes run between 5 and 6 min­utes each and cov­er make­up, set design, the film’s FantAsia pre­mière, shoot­ing the pro­logue in the Dominican Republic and how Archibald got mar­ried dur­ing a fes­ti­val trip to Spain.  A the­atri­cal trail­er com­pletes the extras pack­age.