In the horror heyday of yesteryear, when everything was fresh, new, and terrifying – when the idea of a horror trope was so far outside the realm of moviegoer understanding – horror films caused legitimate, visceral reactions in people. There are these amazing stories of people actually fainting in 1931 during the first screenings of FRANKENSTEIN, or people seeking actual spiritual counseling after first seeing THE EXORCIST in 1973.
As someone that absolutely relishes in the terrifying fanfare that comes from these stories, when I first heard that BITE was legitimately causing people to vomit during its festival run. it almost immediately moved to the top of my ‘must watch’ list.
The notorious godfather of bad taste, the Filth Elder himself John Waters, once said, “If someone vomits watching one of my films – its like a standing ovation.”
While the sentiment seems a little odd and, appropriately, somewhat filthy, he makes a good point.
If a piece of art has the power to affect an audience member enough to cause them to literally vomit, there’s something very special happening there. Regardless of how gross that happening may be.
BITE hit video on demand retailers a couple of months back but saw its Blu-ray/DVD release through Scream Factory yesterday; at long last becoming available for those of us that love to roll around in their piles of physical media, like yours truly. While it didn’t necessarily cause me to lose my lunch, it was just creepy enough to make my skin crawl and gross enough that I had a hard time not audibly expressing my disgust.
**WHAT COMES NEXT IS 70 PERCENT SPOILER FREE**
BITE tells the tragic tale of bride-to-be Casey.
On her bachelorette party getaway, while swimming in the warm tropical waters, Casey receives a small, seemingly harmless, bite from an unknown insect. Shrugging it off (as one would), she returns home; more concerned about the case of cold feet she’s suddenly come down with. Casey decides she needs to call off her wedding and makes plans to have that talk with her fiancé, Jared. However, before she’s able to, she starts exhibiting strange insect-like behavior. As the innocent bug bite begins to grow, Casey slowly succumbs to her new instincts and becomes a terrifying force to be reckoned with.
BITE is definitely not for the weak stomached. The vomit-inducing sequences aren’t as stomach turning as I’d hoped, but they were gross enough to make me recoil and reevaluate my choices, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That said, the story itself is fairly underwhelming.
Once things fully develop, it’s not hard to figure out where things are going. Sometimes it felt as though the gross out effects were used more to distract than to enhance the story which is never a good thing to take away from a film.
The vapid acting (aside from Elma Begovic’s Casey) and shallow character design made it hard to really feel for any of those experiencing Casey’s insectoid wrath, but were enjoyable on the whole so the big picture was still enjoyable. However, I’m still trying to figure out whether or not this flick falls into the “so bad it’s good” territory.
As far as strengths go, I’d be remiss to not give a nod to the folks behind this flick’s production design. As Casey begins to change, with her so does her environment. Her once tidy and chic apartment becomes a dingy nest of plant fibers and grime and when the film comes to a head, you can literally smell the putrid odor that emanates from every corner of the rank residence.
The physical change that Casey undergoes is impressively understated, which makes the story a little easier to swallow and believe. Physically, she remains human enough for you to relate to the character, which make the events that unfold that more unnerving.
Overall, if you’re a fan of bug horror (which I’m still amazed is a sub-genre) and enjoy a healthy dose of horrifying body terror, check out BITE.
While occasionally lacking in the story department, it makes up for it with the stomach turning gross out effects, slimy atmosphere, and performance from its leading lady.
BITE is not for everyone, and I was a little disappointed after all the hype. However, when all was said and done, I still really enjoyed it.
I’d give BITE 3 out of 5 Good Guys.
BITE is currently available on various Video On Demand platforms as well as on DVD/Blu-ray from Scream Factory direct or wherever fine videos are sold.
Follow Ian Donegan on Twitter @ianjdonegan