Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Bark, All Bite: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by Black Fawn Films.

Director: Chad Archibald.

Writers: Jayme Laforest, Chad Archibald.

Cast: Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Jordan Gray, Denise Yuen.

Director Chad Archibald (The Drownsman) is guaranteed to make your skin crawl in his icky entertaining horror film, Bite! What begins as a seemingly banal scenario with stereotypical females on a bachelorette party vacation, turns out to be a gripping grim tale of transformation, betrayal and revenge. Archibald is clever in setting his audience up with a potential snore fest, then creeping in to deliver a strong story with good characters and a healthy dose of gooey gore. Somewhat reminiscent of Cronenberg's The Fly (1986), though revolving around infection not experiment, this film belongs inside the category of “body horror.” That said, it nearly crosses over into a creature-feature, and dips its feet into the realm of horror comedy. Whatever you want to call it, Bite serves up an incredibly enjoyable horrifying experience that is sure to infest your mind for quite some time.

Actress Elma Begovic plays the monstrous Casey.

The film begins with Casey (Elma Begovic) and a couple friends on a fairly tame Costa Rican stagette adventure; they drink girly drinks, dance at bars and take advantage of the beautiful beaches. Questions about the bride-to-be's relationship arise early on as drunken Casey complains of problems with her fiance's overbearing mother, among other things. Her friends try to convince her to relax and enjoy their time away, and the three go off to a secluded swimming spot that most tourists cannot access. While playfully splashing around, Casey gets bitten by something under the water. Upon returning home, the bite on Casey's leg becomes grossly infected and she begins experiencing strange symptoms. As the bite festers, tension mounts between Casey, her fiance and his mother, and Casey decides to postpone the wedding. Too bad the virus has other plans. As the infection spreads and her body deteriorates, Casey endures a gruesome transformation.

What begins with flu-like symptoms, escalates into constant twitching and a heightened sense of awareness, particularly in hearing. Her discoloured skin bubbles up, eyes bulge out, and she continues to throw up a disgusting yellow gelatinous substance that is the stuff of nightmares. In contrast to a film like An American Werewolf in London (1981) where the grisly shift takes place in one scene, Bite is more like The Fly where the protagonist mutates slowly, over the course of the film. This chilling, horrific transformation extends to Casey's apartment where we see a nasty, sticky mess of what appears to be webs and eggs that look more akin to a fish than a bug. Although her twitching and heightened senses are certainly likened to an insect, her eyes conjure up an image of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Either way, it is exciting witnessing the once tormented bride-to-be emerge as a badass, bug-like broad with an appetite for vengeance.

Casey's transformation isn't the only awesome element in this film; the cinematography is brilliant, the effects are fantastic, the acting (for the most part) is superb, and the story moves along at a steady pace. It may sound weird, but this movie is visually beautiful. The contrasts between dark and light set the tone perfectly and the shots, particularly during the most gory scenes, are stunning. It's hard to shake that icky feeling after watching the copious amounts of puss and blood and mucus and goo—it's disgusting, and amazing! The writers do an excellent job mixing humour into these scenes as well, creating an homage of sorts to films like The Evil Dead (1981) trilogy. Although some of the acting is lacklustre, Elma Begovic's portrayal of the protagonist, Casey, is captivating, especially during the metamorphosis. Her performance is impressive to say the least, capturing the perfect essence of the film's marriage of dark creep factor and humour.

All-in-all, Chad Archibald's Bite is sure to satisfy the appetite of any horror hound. It has the ideal blend of splatter and story, and trucks along at the perfect pace. While the film certainly throws back to its horror predecessors and steers in the direction of a a typical revenge plot, there is a freshness about it. Perhaps it has to do with the new faces of the cast, and the fact that a strong female lead is hard to come by (though seemingly emerging as a popular entity in the horror genre). Or maybe it has to do with Archibald's style—he seems to have a knack for creating an ambiance of sinister darkness mixed with good-time gore that oozes its way through the film, giving viewers an ultimate feeling of yuck (in a good way). This film is fun to watch, like a B movie from the Golden Age of the 1950s (perhaps that's why The Creature From the Black Lagoon comes to mind). If that's not your thing, don't be deterred as this film still manages to hold onto its creepiness. Perhaps if the film leaned even more toward horror comedy, it would have been even more enjoyable for this viewer. Regardless of a few weaknesses, this clan of Canadian filmmakers at Black Fawn Films successfully construct a horrific yet fun film that is sure to create lot of buzz.

Rating: 7.75/10.

-Kenna Rae-

Kenna also has her own blog, which is available for reading here:

Hey Kenna Rae

And, Kenna can be found on Twitter, here:

Kenna Rae on Twitter

Recommended release: The Drownsman on Blu-ray at Amazon

Subscribe to 28 Days Later: An Analysis 28 Days Later Analysis Email Subscription