PLOT: When a young fiancée named Casey (Elma Begovic) returns from a bachelorette party in Costa Rica, a seemingly innocuous exotic bug bite proves far more infectious than you could ever imagine.
REVIEW: What is it with Canadian filmmakers and foul oversized bugs? Icky, sticky, viscous, insectile-projectile vomiting bugs? Honestly. Whatever the answer, indie Canadian filmmaker Chad Archibald unabashedly channels Cronenberg's classic, THE FLY, in perhaps a 30th birthday celebration of such, for his new transmutative shut-in body-horror joint BITE. And you know what? As an FX laden monster-movie, the effort is damn good enough to warrant as a deformed, half-bred sister of the aforementioned. With vexing visuals, puss-sodden settings and deeply disturbing production design, BITE's bound to leave a lasting mark on the squeamish and the faint of gut. However, as a believable story that tonally tries its gravest to root itself in reality, the movie is beset by so many dumb decisions and logical absurdities - not to mention spotty acting and diaphanous plotting - that make it hard to fully pardon. Put it this way. Intellectually, the movie is absolutely stultifying. Physically and emotionally though, BITE's bound to seep under your skin and fester a bit!
Casey (Begovic) is an attractive young lass travelling to Costa Rica with her two girlfriends - Jill (Annette Wozniak) and Kirsten (Denise Yuen) - to celebrate a raucous bachelorette party. As her feet grow colder and her reluctance to get married and have children - something her fiancée Jared (Jordan Grey) is dead-set on having soon - becomes more pronounced, Casey starts drowning her insecurities in a gallon of tequila. Always prudent, right? Wrong. After wading in a secluded pond out in the Costa Rican beach, she grouses about being bitten by something underwater. Thinking it not a big deal, back to pounding sauce she goes, so much so that she ends up blacking out and waking up on the beach by her lonesome, stark naked, all of her possessions stolen. Her wedding ring included. Not a very gratifying vacation, it turns out. Returning back home to her apartment complex, the landlord of which happens to be her disapproving stepmother-manqué, Casey's senses begin heightening. For instance, the sound of Jared (who stupidly lives in a separate apartment) eating spaghetti comes as a deafening screech. Something's amiss. Casey's body is morphing. She may even be impregnated, despite never copulating with her engaged beau.
If all of this sounds grossly implausible, that's because it is. As Casey's bug-bite grows more infected, it becomes painfully apparent that she's turning into a metamorphic host of the very critter that bit her. Thousands of slimy, bile-ridden insect eggs come dripping out from various orifices, subsuming her apartment, which itself starts mutating into a fetid cocoon of sorts. Casey shuts herself in, self-quarantines you can say, but little good it does. Everyone who shows up to her apartment expressing various measures of concern - Jared, Jill, Kirsten, step-mama - one by one they obliviously waltz headlong into the revolting hive and find Casey seriously worse for wear. The poor gal loses her hair, develops dark rings around her giant bug eyes, begins spitting acid, inveterately vomiting, cricking her neck and jittering around the place like a full-fledged insectoid. Shite gets nasty. Repugnant. Repulsive. Truly, if you have qualms about projectile-barfing, bug-chomping, ingesting goopy pulp-matter and the like, you just might feel a bit ill watching this one. If you've an iron stomach and enjoy this sort of onscreen bile-laced effluvia, you'll likely agree that it's the undoubted strength of the flick.
The real issue of the film is that treats such a risible situation with unbroken gravity. That is, it's too damn straight-faced. Too serious. Look, it's usually refreshing to find an old-school out-and-out horror film that doesn't poke fun at itself, wink at the camera and operate on a meta level. But the thing is, you can't possibly have all the logical absurdities of BITE and present it with as little levity as it does. Why doesn't Casey seek better medical treatment? Why does she spurn the aide of her friends? Why does Jared walk away when he knows something is seriously wrong? Why does he sleep with another girl moments after he pissed blood? Why do any of the characters stay inside the apartment after seeing how it resembles as disgusting larval womb? Why oh why? All of these queries and more would likely cease had the film taken a more frivolous approach, or at least a bit lighter tone and some better acting. If not, the logic better be airtight. As it is, the sheer stupidity of almost every character action tends to sap the apoplectic visual FX and the impact they could have if the script were more credible. It's almost as if, the more you think about the story, the weaker it becomes. The more you just sit back and let the feeling wash over you, the more of a success the intended result will have on you.
All in all, BITE works best as a vile and visceral piece of visual disturbia, and works less as well told, well acted story. If schlocky shocks and unrelenting gross-out bio-horror is the kind you prefer, this is one BITE likely to whet your appetite. However, if you're the kind that requires a more convincingly told story that organically allows the body-horror to be somewhat believable, you'll likely find much of BITE as innocuous as the mistaken main character. I'd slightly recommend seeing the film, despite my better judgment, strictly for the former, even knowing full well how ridiculous the story is in spots. If you embrace that going in and try to enjoy the film for the feeling of abject repulsion - studded by gaudy VFX and unnerving set-design - you're bound to be a bit more merciful regarding the films glaring diegetic limitations. If you aren't constituted to embrace such, well, you'll likely think that...when you suck and sucking...you BITE!