Ginger Nuts of Horror
by Alex Davis
Come on in, the water's teeming...
BITE (2015) Dir. Chad Archibald, Canada, 88 mins
Now, regular readers round these parts will know that if there's one patch of horror that affects me more than anything, it's body horror. Thanatomorphose remains one of Film Gutter's hardest watches on a personal level, and movies the likes of Contracted were no picnic either. Which brings us to Bite, a more recent entry in that subgenre that first came to my attention with reports of people fainting in the cinema at first festival screenings. That's not something entirely unheard of – it's no doubt a great marketing ploy, and something the laughable Green Inferno also tried to employ in the lead-up to the movie's release. But even taking that sort of thing with a pinch of salt – I mean, has anyone ever fainted just watching a movie, really? – I was excited if not a little nervous to be checking out Bite.
And it turns out the nerves were not necessary at all. In fact, for that matter, neither was the excitement.
So, Bite follows a young lady called Casey who is set to be married. We join her on her final trip as as a 'single' woman, with a bunch of disposable characters who are apparently her friends – despite some very dubious actions during and after the holiday. At an obscure waterfall somewhere the group go for a dip, and Casey is bitten by some sort of insect. From there we spin into a typical body horror tale – Casey goes home, the bite becomes infected, and then the symptoms become worse and worse as time goes on, with Casey withdrawing from friends, family and even her husband-to-be in effectively becoming a kind of queen insect.
I use the term 'typical body horror tale' because this one feels like it treads very safe ground and never goes or anything exceptional or even terribly interesting. It follows all the beats of the movies I mentioned above – Thanatomorphose and Contracted – but simply doesn't have the effect, the impact, the raw crunch of either of those movies. There's lots of reasons for that – Casey is absolutely not a likeable lead, coming across as an unequivocally whiny brat totally unable to take on the real world. Her husband is weirdly obsessed with having a baby – honestly, I've never known any man so keen on having kids – and we never really find out anything about him besides that. Her friends – if they can even be called – are equally hard to muster any inch of care about or interest in. But a lot comes down to the limitations of Casey as a character and equally the limitations of all of the actors involved.
Maybe it's a formula I'm becoming a bit jaded with, to boot, but this is the worst example of this patch of horror that I've seen to date. It's lazy, gross-out (or should I say attempted gross-out) horror filmmaking at its very worst that was genuinely a labour to get through, despite running at less than an hour and a half. I had given up caring somewhere about half an hour in, which makes any of the horrible events happening to any of the characters basically irrelevant. There are many better exemplars of body horror out there, so unless you've seen most of them already I'd say this is one you could probably give a miss.
RATING: 2/10. Body horror is a genre that certainly has its tropes, and often the transformations featured follow a familiar type of pattern. So there's not really any place to hide if you're going to take a crack at it, and the bottom line is that Bite falls short in almost every respect. With unlikeable characters, acting ranging from poor to very poor, effects that are decent but nothing above and a storyline that just feels a bit silly too many times, this one was no doubt pitching to be one of the grossest horror films of the year and failed in that respect also. So, it can only be a biting 2/10 from me.
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