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Review: Bite (2016)

Bite (2016)

Directed by: Chad Archibald

Premise: A woman on a bachelorette getaway returns from her vacation with an infected bug bite. The infection gradually spreads and threatens to overtake her body.

What Works: The subgenre of infection horror has been quietly surging with titles like Honeymoon and Contracted. These films overlap with zombie pictures such as 28 Days Later and harken back to older movies such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly. In most of these films, the body of an otherwise ordinary person is overtaken by an infectious disease that results in a messy transformation. Bite is another of these titles and it mostly succeeds in being exactly the kind of film that its intended audience will be looking for. Infection horror is all about making the viewer squirm with disease-like imagery of bodily fluids and molting skin and Bite is a cut above some of the other movies in this subgenre. The makeup work is solid and convincing. The filmmakers never go too far over the top, except in the ending, and the afflictions and viscera look organic and credible. The other impressive aspect of Bite is its subtext; there is a little more to it than just the gore. The movie centers on Casey, played by Elma Begovic, a young woman who is weeks away from marriage. The movie begins with Casey celebrating her bachelorette party in Costa Rica where she has a wild night out with her friends that ends in mysterious circumstances. Upon returning home, Casey finds out that she has contracted something that is gradually taking over her body. This occurs on top of Casey’s reluctance to enter into marriage and so the action of the film is always complicated by what happened in Costa Rica and whether Casey will break off her engagement. Those questions give Bite more substance than the average infection horror story and the filmmakers smartly dole out the exposition over the course of the movie so that Casey’s transformation is paired with her disillusionment with her friends and her anxiety about marriage and children.

What Doesn’t: The infection horror story has been done before and done better, particularly in 1986’s The Fly and 2006’s Bug. Bite does this kind of story well but it hews very closely to the template worked out in other movies, making the plot fairly predictable. Bite goes awry when the drama is played too broadly. This isn’t a problem in the horror segments but the movie does drag in the dramatic, interpersonal moments. This is especially true of Casey’s relationship with her mother-in-law-to-be, played by Lawrene Denkers. The writing of the character is obtuse; where the rest of the film benefits from a credible amount of indirectness, Denkers’ character is written as the stereotypically wicked mother-in-law. Some of the other dramatic moments are similarly clumsy. The heart of the movie is the relationship between Casey and her fiancé but the film doesn’t flesh out her male counterpart enough. There’s also a lot more to be said about the relationship between Casey and her female friends. The moviemakers do have a grasp of the complexity of female relationships but this part of the movie would be improved if the women were deeper characters. The movie has the possibility to be tragic as well as gory, in the way that Jeff Goldblum’s transformation in The Fly was as heartbreaking as it was disgusting, but the film doesn’t have the dramatic stakes to make that work. Bite also suffers from some strange and illogical sequences of events. For instance, Casey nearly confesses to her fiancé her desire to call off the wedding but she’s sidetracked by a vomiting spell. That is immediately followed by an intimate moment despite the fact that Casey has just been sick. There’s not enough of these inconsistencies to ruin the film but Bite does suffer from forced and false transitions.

Bottom Line: Bite succeeds as a shocker and its target audience is going to find it enjoyably unpleasant. The movie suffers from some storytelling missteps but it also includes a little more substance than the average horror flick.

Episode: #594 (May 15, 2016)