“Three free-spirited young women spend a wild weekend overseas,
only to stumble across a horrific…”
Already you’re probably tuning out, simply because you’ve already seen eight or nine horror movies that kick off with a plot description just like that one. But every once in a while you come across a crafty, creepy, clever independent horror flick that takes a familiar set-up and spins it into something appreciably novel. Such is the case with Chad Archibald’s Bite, a gritty, gruesome, and unexpectedly engaging Canadian export that could be best described as “Contracted meets The Fly.” And I mean the brilliant David Cronenberg nightmare, not the old Fly. (Also: check out Contracted.)
Casey (Elma Begovic), Kristen (Denise Yuen), and Jill (Annette Wozniak) are partying it up in Costa Rica in honor of Casey’s impending wedding. The ladies make an unwise decision, take a detour toward an isolated hot spring, and promptly jump in for a swim. Bad move, girls. Casey suffers a nasty bite from an unseen creature; the ladies head out for one last night of debauchery, and then fly back home. And that’s when Casey starts acting really weird. At first it just seems like Casey is nervous about her wedding day — and the fact that her soon-to-be mother-in-law is a rotten scold doesn’t seem to help her state of mind either — but pretty soon Casey is dealing with A) freaky nightmares, B) a horrific skin condition, and C) an insatiable urge to stalk and kill whatever prey happens to wander into her lair.
Jayme Laforest’s clever screenplay draws interesting parallels between Casey’s personal issues and the unwelcome biological transformations with which she struggles. This, of course, is another way of saying that while Bite is definitely gory, gross, and darkly entertaining, it also offers some compelling subtext to go along with the chills, kills, and frankly disturbing sequences of full-bore body horror. Ms. Begovic’s performance is simply fantastic; she pulls off the early “party girl” stuff very well, but her performance kicks into high gear once Casey starts transforming into a repulsive, giant insect-o-woman.
Bite is a full-bore, bad-ass horror flick through and through, but what elevates it beyond that is a confident balance between dark humor, legitimate character beats, and, well, tons of super-sticky splatter sequences and harrowing scenes of bug-woman-on-human violence. So if you want lots of creative carnage, cringe-worthy bio-horrors, and plain old visual creepiness, Bite has plenty of those things — but it also has a little something to say about love, loyalty, betrayal, and revenge. I’d be able to recommend Bite to horror fans solely on its more gruesome assets, but it also boasts a strong screenplay, a great lead performance, a fast-paced editorial approach, a fantastic score, and some truly impressive visual effects…
So basically, Bite is one of the best indie horror films I’ve seen all year.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 frankly disgusting, bug-infested burritos
[Screened via the lovely Fantasia Film Festival.]