What I'm Watching: Bite
"It's just a little bug bite..."
Awhile ago, I reviewed The Drownsman, and praised Black Fawn Films for making a great throwback to 80s supernatural horror movies, and doing something original, while also paying homage to what had come before. I became an instant fan of their work, and eagerly awaited what was coming next. And here we are, with their latest release, Bite.
Bite tells the story of Casey, a woman engaged to a man she loves, but doesn't LOVE, and while on vacation with her friends down south, she gets bitten by a bug, and everything seems fine. She doesn't feel great, but that's not unusual for a trip. Things quickly go horribly wrong, as the bug bite gets worse, instead of better, and she begins to transform.
This is very much a modern take on the basic idea behind Cronenberg's The Fly. Minus the scifi, but all of the body horror, with some natural and I assume deliberate homages, like burfing acidic sputum all over people.
The movie starts with found footage, and I was worried. I am SO glad this wasn't found footage through the entire movie. It was actually used as a narrative device, and to fill in the blanks of too many alcohol fueled vacation nights. They used it just right to feel natural.
The chemistry between Casey (Elma Begovic) and her fiance Jared (Jordan Gray), is perfect. You can absolutely see they ARE in love, and they have JUST enough chemistry for that, but NOT enough, that yeah, you can see this relationship is doomed without a lot of work. They straddle that line between being in love and not at the same time amazingly well.
And on that note, there's a scene where they're having sex, and I just love that the WOMAN has to cut things short because of a...premature ejaculation, when Jared squishes her bug bite.
As much as I enjoyed this movie, and it had some amazing moments of body horror, I'm not a fan of the woman essentially being punished for being unfaithful to her fiance. If she was totally and undeniably in love with him, that would be one thing, but they're clearly doomed, so she's being punished for wanting out of a bad situation. Simply put, she just does not deserve this, even if it does enable her to enact some revenge when she finds out what Jared's been up to.
There really are no winners here, and I am down for that kind of plot. But making Casey a victim so very much from the beginning is just so tragic.
The movie has a solid first half, that trucks right along, as Casey goes through her trials and tribulations, and slowly starts to realise, she isn't just sick from bad food. It keeps things interesting with slow body horror reveals, while she tries to deal with her crumbling engagement. They balance the human drama with the horror very well in the first half of the movie.
Things get REALLY great at the halfway point, as they should, once Casey can no longer deny the bugginess around her. The eggs and muck everywhere are kind of a sign. But they go wrong so very quickly, it's almost jarring. One second her apartment is...a mess, sure, but then it's covered in webs or sludge or whatever a few seconds later. There's a brief, three seconds moment, a bit later, when she slaps some slop on the walls, and I wish that had come *earlier* to show more of a progression, instead of BOOM all of a sudden her apartment is a hive.
While I compare this favourably to The Fly, I do lament that the movie almost didn't go FURTHER. Casey still looks fairly human, although not, at the same time. It's still great, but I had high expectations for all kinds of insect horror that never quite materialised.
And I am NOT holding that against the movie. If a movie leaves me wanting more, that's a GOOD thing. What the movie gives in the realm of body horror is GREAT, so I have no qualms, I just wanted more of a great thing.
Look, THIS MOVIE IS SO GOOEY IT'S GREAT. You will cringe once you reach the halfway point, and the eggs and slop and transformations really kick in. So wonderful, I can't speak highly enough of it.
And Elma's performance is amazing. Once the bugginess starts taking over, she does this great quirky head twitch, and her stare is SO insectlike, you know instantly why they cast her.
Black Fawn Films continue to impress, and I arguably loved this MORE than Drownsman, because it was such a gooey, icky movie, and had a more solid story, but I still love them both, and again, am eagerly awaiting the next movie.
If you love The Fly, or just body horror, or a good, icky movie, this is an easy high recommendation. It's fun, it's creepy, and has a few turns to it that really added to the narrative.