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 goes 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 themselves 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.