While on her bachelorette party getaway, Casey, the bride to be, gets a seemingly harmless bite from an unknown insect. After returning home with cold feet, Casey tries to call off her wedding but before she's able to, she starts exhibiting insect like traits. Between her physical transformation and her wedding anxiety, Casey succumbs to her new instincts and begins creating a hive that not only houses her translucent eggs, but feeds on the flesh of others. As her transformation becomes complete, Casey discovers that everything can change with a single bite.
“People always get sick after vacations.”
Horror fans are a finicky bunch to say the least. Those of us who grew up during the horror boom of the 1980’s know a great scary movie must be believable. With the resurgence of low budget horror films the genre has become misguided with leaning on CGI to carry the weight of a film’s special effects. A subgenre like body-horror for instance relies totally on the believable transformation of a human being into something fantastical. Sadly most films these days use digital effects which keeps an old timer like me constantly skipping an otherwise good scary movie. ‘Bite’ is a small budget horror film from director Chad Archibald that breaks the mold and prioritizes practical horror effects no matter how sticky, goopy, or gross they may be. Sure the film may not carry itself well in other facets, but ‘Bite’ easily shows it belongs in a class with the likes of The Fly, Society, and Videodrome.
The film opens on a on a bachelorette trip in Costa Rica. Bride-to-be Casey (Elma Begovic) has cold feet and friends Jill (Annette Wozniak) and Kirsten (Denise Yuen) insist she have a good time no matter what. Using POV shots from Jill’s video camera not all things are as they seem to Casey. At first I was worried that Archibald’s film was going to be all shaky cam POV, but it doesn’t last long and eventually the vacation footage serves the plot later on in the movie. While exploring a hot spring lagoon Casey gets bitten by an underwater bug. ‘Bite’ doesn’t bury the lead ever. Throughout the film there is a sense of awareness that is almost comedic. After the following exchange you could sense that the writers were high-fiving one another after they wrote it: “There’s something in the water!” “Are you okay?” “Yeah it’s just a little bite.”
Arriving home Casey is met by her fiance Jared (Jordan Gray) who surprises her with a baby’s highchair. Creepy to say the least. Apparently the husband-to-be is overjoyed at the thought of kids while Casey can barely stomach the idea of even being married to the boring office jockey. However, Casey’s bigger problems are oozing from the bite mark on her leg. Combined with a growing psychological awareness it’s evident that Casey is undergoing a radical change. Archibald’s effects work on the leg wound is sublime. It’s not over the top, but cringe-worthy enough for the viewer to wince at the sight. After an awkward sexual exchange between the couple, Casey runs to the bathroom to inspect the gushing wound. Jared fixes his pants, “Well are you at least gonna say goodbye?” Jared is painted as an old fashioned guy with an overbearing mother, but this exchange is comical to me in every way. The dialogue in ‘Bite’ works when the plot is pushing Casey’s infection and we can get some zingers or callbacks, but during exchanges with characters it borders on ‘Birdemic’ quality. Still unsure of her condition she follows her gut and and takes a pregnancy test. Why else would your body reject food and your leg squirt out white goopy pus? While taking the test she jumps in the tub to scrub off the bulbous growths on her leg. The test reads positive.
From here ‘Bite’ follows most of the body-horror tropes one would expect to an extremely satisfying end. The use of a nervous bride storyline to carry this film is sheer genius. Even if the dialogue didn’t grab me the gross squishy details of Casey’s apartment sure did! Seeing her suffer the physical and emotional transformation into something grotesque is damn fun to watch. If you’re craving a gross horror film you can’t go wrong with ‘Bite’. Just make sure you take a shower afterwards.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Bite’ arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory. The movie is housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case with outer slipcover. The disc opens to the Scream Factory logo before settling onto the static Main Menu.
With a 1080p HD transfer and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio the image quality for ‘Bite’ is very touch and go. Image quality isn’t as sharp as I expected throughout this effects heavy feature. Colors that are washed out for dramatic effect or to heighten Casey’s condition drop the entire film into a messy soap-opera palette that looks unappealing. When the practical visual effects and scene dressing are in full effect the image quality is crisp and clear. However, Interior shots without the effects look washed and overproduced veering into “soft focus” territory. Black levels are solid with only minimal detail lost during interior scenes. Skin tones are even throughout the film no matter the digital tinkering involved.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 and a DTS-MA 2.0 audio tracks are passable for a horror film of this calibre. Sound effects carry the weight of the sound mix from the slimy residue of Casey’s transformation to the goopy plopping of gel pods everywhere. The score is pretty standard with ominous swells and hits that occupy primarily the front channels leaving surround channels for ambient work. Dialogue is clear and clean throughout the feature. Volume levels are consistent with little need to grab the remote or switch on the optional English subtitles unless necessary.
Commentary Track: An audio commentary with writer / director Chad Archibald and producers Cody Calahan & Christopher Giroux that delves into the film’s practical effects as well as the community aspect of making an independent film. Worth a listen!
Makeup (HD) (5:42) Behind-the-scenes featurette on the makeup effects used in the film.
On Set (HD) (6:02) Interviews with cast and crew combined with on set footage detail the production process and practical horror effects used in the film.
Fantasia (HD) (5:53) This featurette details the world premier of ‘Bite’ at the Fantasia Film Festival.
Chad’s Wedding (HD) (5:16) A nice little featurette on director Chad Archibald’s wedding after the Stiges Film Festival in Spain.
Dominican (HD) (5:30) Cast and crew reflect on filming in the Dominican Republic.
Theatrical Trailer (HD) (1:23)
'Bite' is a great body-horror film with remarkable effects and a director who knows what will make you squirm in your seat. With a decent image transfer, adequate audio tracks, and respectable special features Scream Factory has assembled a solid Blu-ray package for ‘Bite’. Those horror fans looking for the next best thing after your queue is empty should look no further than ‘Bite’. Recommended.