'Bite' (2016)


Scream Factory

The Canadian movie Bite earned a small slice of notoriety during the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal when a couple of audience members reportedly vomited and/or passed out during its premiere. Whether or not those people were plants is up for debate -- the movie is certainly gross enough to cause such a reaction in those unaccustomed to "body horror" fare -- but one thing is certain: the ability to induce retching in viewers in not necessarily the sign of a good film.

Bite at a Glance

  • Synopsis: A bride-to-be receives an unwelcome gift during a bachelorette celebration in Mexico when a mysterious bite begins to slowly transform her into a bloodthirsty creature, endangering her fiance, her friends and anyone who crosses her path.
  • Cast: Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Denise Yuen, Jordan Gray, Lawrene Denkers, Barry Birnberg, Daniel Klimitz, Tianna Nori, Caroline Palmer, Kayla Burgess
  • Director: Chad Archibald
  • Studio: Scream Factory
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Release Date: May 6, 2016 (in theaters and on demand)

The Plot

Bride-to-be Casey (Elma Begovic) heads to Mexico for a bachelorette getaway with her friends Jill (Annette Wozniak) and Kirsten (Denise Yuen), but amidst the drunken reverie and bouts of cold feet brought on by her reluctance to have kids, Casey gets bitten by something while swimming in a secluded pond. "It's just a little bite," she proclaims, but upon returning home, it becomes clear this is no ordinary bite. Nausea and a nasty rash give way to strange eating habits, animalistic behavior, superhuman excretions and a complete physical metamorphosis that sends Casey's life spiraling out of control, endangering her friends, fiancee, and anyone who crosses her path.

The End Result

Bite's raison d'être is pretty simple: it wants to make you squirm. Or faint. Or puke. Its single-minded, gross-out body horror, like early David Cronenberg without any sense of subtlety or social commentary. Its low-brow nature isn't necessarily a problem, though (there's a welcome place for this type of movie within the horror genre); it's more troublesome that it lacks the sense of grisly fun and truly memorable "water cooler moments" you'd expect.

While a film like had a simple yet ingeniously grotesque concept, Bite struggles to find that sort of hook. Part of the problem is that the central concept is vaguely defined. For most of the movie, it's not clear what kind of animal actually did the biting, so until the final 10 minutes or so, I assumed incorrectly. The transformation scenes, which are colored by this knowledge, should've provided some clarity, but they seem to lack much zoological foundation -- as Casey develops abilities more in line with a superhero (ESP, supersonic scream, spitting acid) than with the animal she's supposedly becoming.

It doesn't help that the acting is amateurish, the dialogue is stiff and overly explanatory and the characters are unlikable and maddeningly thick-headed (Why doesn't Casey immediately go to a doctor?). Really, the only thing Bite has going for it is the gruesomeness, and for some viewers, that might be enough. The makeup, after all, is nicely done (although there are moments where the effects reflect the low budget), and there are ample attempts to make viewers gag, but like writer-director Chad Archibald's previous efforts The Drownsman, Bite is rife with unfulfilled potential. Even if all you want is to be grossed out, it doesn't push the envelope far enough and lacks the originality and sense of fun that could've made it a cult favorite.

The Skinny

  • Acting: D+ (Stiff performances all around.)
  • Direction: C (Has some attractive shots, but doesn't deliver fright or fun.)
  • Script: D+ (Predictable story, stilted dialogue, annoying characters.)
  • Gore/Effects: B- (Gross and gooey with solid special effects.)
  • Overall: C- (Gross-out body horror that struggles to stand out from the pack.)