Release Date(s)2015 (August 2, 2016)
Studio(s)Black Fawn Films/Breakthrough Entertainment (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
- Overall Grade: C+
Bite made a bit of a splash on the film festival circuit months before its VOD and home video release where it received mixed reviews from critics but favorable responses from audiences. A body horror throwback to the works of David Cronenberg, the film is directed by Chad Archibald, who had previously directed both Ejecta and The Drownsman, and is a co-production between Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment, who had also co-produced Antisocial, as well as the upcoming Bed of the Dead. The story concerns a young bachelorette named Casey (Elma Begovic) who is on a getaway vacation in Costa Rica with her girlfriends (Annette Wozniak and Denise Yuen). After some partying on the beach, she’s bitten by an unknown, underwater insect. Returning home to her fiancé (Jordan Gray) and her unappreciative future mother-in-law (Lawrence Denkers), the bite turns out to be much more than your average bug bite, slowly transforming her into a murderous, larvae-spewing, human/insect hybrid.
Bite has plenty of pros and cons to make it interesting. Its strongest asset is its use of practical effects with minor CGI additions. It’s a generally disgusting and unpleasant movie once it gets going, but veteran horror fans may find it a little lacking, depending on their tolerance level. As for its story, the opening and closing moments are its weakest points, dragging with soap opera-like character interactions and situations. The relationships, as well as the characters themselves, are often unrealistic and exaggerated. The best example would be the future mother-in-law character. Her contempt and hatred for her son’s chosen bride is completely overstated. While characters like these do serve a very small purpose in the overall story, the film would have been better served had it had some characters that an audience could actually root for instead of setting up a set of horrible people to be picked off one by one.
Bite also throws its audience for a loop right off the bat. The opening moments are shot with a found footage aesthetic, but once the initial setup is over, it switches gears and goes for a more traditional style, complete with mostly locked-down camera work wherein framing is actually important. It’s also a generally flat presentation, as far as colors go, save for the opening. There isn’t much in terms of variety, but the more visceral sections of the film feature plenty of browns and golds, evoking the feeling of a beehive more than anything else. The film also plays a bit on the issues of motherhood, particularly because the lead Casey is reluctant to have children. She’s also hesitant to step into a marriage, and her being such a doubtful character, her inner instincts are brought forth once she transforms, making her a more complete person, yet she’s something else entirely. And that’s about as deep as the film gets. It likes to pretend to be a sort of David Cronenberg’s greatest hits as far the body horror elements go, but overall, it’s a bit on the ho-hum side when it comes to everything else.
The Blu-ray release contains a sharp transfer of the film, which was shot with Red One cameras. There’s plenty of fine detail on display, aside from the found footage-styled material, which looks to have been shot with a low tech device, possibly a GoPro. Other than the opening, there’s not a lot of color that pops, but there are deep blacks with good shadow detailing and excellent overall contrast and brightness. The audio comes in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. There is some excellent surround activity to be had with clear, crisp dialogue, a strong score, and an extensive use of sound effects. There’s also some apparent low end activity, particularly when it comes to the score, as well as some ambience. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them, as well as a few extras, including an audio commentary with director Chad Archibald and producers Cody Calahan & Christopher and Giroux, a set of featurettes (Makeup, On Set, Fantasia, Chad’s Wedding, Dominican), and the original theatrical trailer.
Bite has some sequences that are particularly well-framed and well-shot, as well some nice squishy and disgusting moments, but some may find it a bit unmemorable. However, the Blu-ray release is top of the line with an excellent transfer and some decent extra material, and the horror community in general is likely to welcome it with open arms.
- Tim Salmons