Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Chad Archibald
Written by: Jayme Laforest & Chad Archibald
Starring: Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Denise Yuen, Jordan Gray, Lawrene Denkers, Barry Birnberg, Daniel Klimitz, Tianna Nori & Caroline Palmer
Unless you’re one of those lovable weirdos who finds insects cute, bugs likely freak you out. You know what else is freaky? Body horror! Birthed by twisted Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, body horror is a horror subgenre that revolves around…well, the human body. The idea that your biological form can mutate, twist, cause you endless pain and agony, and eventually become your own worst enemy is both frightening and profound. Director/writer Chad Archibald clearly had grand Cronenbergian ideas and a strong love (or hatred) of insects that shows in his indie feature BITE. Unfortunately though, despite a few solid aspects, BITE is too derivative, too predictable, and too generic.
Casey (Elma Begovic) is getting married to her workaholic fiancé Jared (Jordan Gray). As the pre-marriage stress and anxiety about possibly raising kids begin to pile up, Casey’s body begins to go through drastic changes. This couldn’t possibly have anything to do with a strange bug bite that she received during her Costa Rica bachelorette party, could it? Well, you’ve already seen the title of this film, gathered that it’s a body horror flick, and read my introduction about bugs…so, what do you think?
Right out the gate, BITE has a few solid qualities going for it. I appreciated how sick and twisted this film tried to be. The set design on Casey’s gradually decaying apartment/nest is cool to look at. Strands of god-knows-what are hanging from the ceiling, gross piles of insect eggs are stuck to many surfaces, and random goo/shit litters the floor. Chad Archibald occasionally accomplishes the feat of getting the viewer grossed out. Though this was clearly a low-budget film (where some of the film’s major problems spring from), the idea of setting the action mostly in Casey’s decaying apartment harkens back to Roman Polanski’s paranoid thrillers and this script gets mild mileage out of its small-scale story.
BITE’s body horror is occasionally on point. There are gross-out gory bits that surprised me as Casey devolves into an insectoid monster and exhibits yucky traits of the mysterious bug that she was bitten by. One moment involving Casey’s hands actually affected me more than any other scene in the entire film. However, it’s worth noting that this movie borrows a ton from David Cronenberg’s FLY remake. There’s a difference between loving homage and blatant rip-off. BITE crosses over into the latter more than it does the former. I appreciated this film’s ending though, which was ballsy and left me chuckling. Although, Casey’s creature design/costume choice (a black hoodie hides most of the effects until a reveal showcases cheap latex and an obvious bald cap) left much to be desired.
BITE encounters big problems when it comes to the overall script and acting quality. The former of these problems might be attested to sheer laziness and predictability. Aside from two scenes (an oozy hand and the aforementioned ending), there wasn’t a moment in BITE that felt remotely original or unpredictable. If you’re a horror fan, then you can likely tell where this is all going from the get-go. BITE doesn’t try anything new and instead shamelessly emulates better horror films that came before it, from the obvious FLY rip-off moments to an opening/closing stinger that seems to be lifted straight from the INSIDIOUS series’ annoyingly loud title screens.
There’s no nice way of saying this, but BITE’s cast members aren’t very good. Clearly, some of this may have come from a low-budget and small performers being cast in this film, but that excuse only gets you so far. We’ve seen fantastic actors come out of tiny projects and great films funded on microscopic budgets, so I don’t buy much of the reasoning behind low budgets and their limitations. While Elma Begovic is clearly having a blast as the bride-turned-bug Casey, she’s not exactly playing a sympathetic character as early her development seems phoned-in and forced. Casey’s friends are a bunch of brainless bimbos, while her fiancé comes off like a naïve guy who has no discernible on-screen chemistry with his fiancé. The worst actor of the bunch is Lawrence Denkers as the hate-filled future mother-in-law.
Given its premise, BITE was bound to have a few shortcomings. Sadly, the problems far outweigh its praise-worthy moments. If you’ve seen 1986’s THE FLY, then you’ve already seen this movie and executed in a better fashion by a master filmmaker. There are a couple of solid moments in BITE, like the oozy hand scene and the ballsy conclusion. However, bad acting, been-there-done-that writing, and frequently dull pacing really capsized any possible enjoyment that I could have gained from watching BITE. I simply cannot recommend this one.