FTP: Bite (2015)

APRIL 23, 2022


I just now realize that I don't have a "Body Horror" tag here, so someday if there's time I'll go through and mark them all accordingly. For now they're likely to be found under "Hero Killer", the clunky name I gave to movies where the main character is tragically infected/ bitten/ whatever by something and it turns them into a monster. Not all of them would qualify as body horror, but Bite certainly does, with The Fly being a clear influence on the protagonist's makeup progression - there's even a fingernail gag for good measure.

But it also reminded me of Thanatomorphose (all three films are Canadian, interestingly, another tag I somehow forgot to make over the years despite having them for many other countries), in that our heroine, Casey, pretty much never leaves her apartment once afflicted. In the most convenient plotting decision of all time, her fiance lives in the same building but not with her, due to his overbearing mother - also the landlord! - insisting that they wait until they're married before living together. Or even having sex, as it turns out, which is probably why Casey screws around with a rando dude at her bachelorette party. Thankfully, the movie doesn't take the puritan route and blame that encounter for her issues, as they seem to stem from a bite she gets in a lake when innocently hanging out with her friends. So basically, her condition would play out the same whether she was faithful or not - it just gives the movie a little extra bit of drama to pad the runtime.

Unfortunately the script seemingly forgets to really deal with it for close to an hour, which makes the third act seem largely tacked on. Turns out one of Casey's friends is in love with the fiance, and angles to steal him for herself by showing him proof of Casey's infidelity. So an hour in, once Casey's already killed a couple people, it becomes a love triangle movie where one party is already a goopy monster, which would be fine if it was executed with a sense of humor, but director/co-writer Chad Archibald plays it pretty straight. It's fine as these things go (at least the best friend wasn't screwing around with him the entire time), but it could have been weaved into the first hour a little more successfully so it didn't seem like an attempt to make sure the movie hit 90 minutes.

The uneven plot is saved by the production and makeup design, however. Casey was bitten by some kind of insect/fish hybrid and thus has side effects of both, but the nastiest element has to be the fact that she starts giving "birth" to fish eggs all over the place, covering her apartment with the slimy beads along with other layers of goop on the walls and such. It is a truly disgusting visual, made weirder by how people come in and act more like she's merely forgotten to take the trash out for a couple days or maybe let the litter box overflow. If I entered that apartment I wouldn't get more than one foot past the doorway before scanning the joint and hightailing it out of there, but her friends and the mother in law are just like "ew, she needs to clean up."

Still, it's worth watching the movie just for that, so it wasn't surprising that one of the Blu-ray's featurettes focused on Elma Begovic's performance and makeup process. It ultimately took over four hours to apply her final stages, which is an incredibly impressive endeavor for what was clearly not a huge budgeted film. The other featurettes are pretty standard, save one which focuses on Archibald's wedding, which coincided with the film's premiere at Sitges. Kind of a self indulgent piece to include, but hey, good for him/them. There's also a commentary, which is a bit dry despite the multiple participants so I only got through about half before falling asleep. Also, they briefly touch on something I did appreciate about the movie: it starts off like a found footage movie, allowing your heart to sink for a few minutes before boom! It switches to standard third person perspective. Bless.

The same team made The Drownsman, which was also a pretty good little movie (one I actually noted thankfully didn't have a love triangle element, sigh) and I'll Take Your Dead, another fine one time watch, so I guess they know what they're doing and how to pull off reasonably effective genre films with their limited means. But they all lack that je ne sais quoi that makes them must sees (or, in this specific case, an upgrade from "the pile" to the permanent collection); this is probably my favorite of the three but I also wouldn't exactly take to the streets encouraging everyone to drop what they're doing and watch it. Archibald has been producing as of late instead of directing (Dead was his last, in 2018, after helming a film just about every year), but I get the impression he is more of a producer than a director anyway, so perhaps it's a good thing - he and his team can use their experience to get films made but hire directors with a little more moxie and get something that really knocks it out of the park. Either way, at least they're not making cynical crap and blowing a chunk of their budget on hiring Tony Todd or someone to do a pointless cameo, like a lot of these teams do. All the dough is on the screen, and for that I laud them.

What say you?


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