Bite is a 2015 entry into the oft maligned genre of body horror. It's about vacations, bad health advice, fish eggs, marriage, and shitty fucking friends. You wanna know why this genre is so often maligned? Well watch the trailer below and then read our review and we'll tell you. Or at least Jake will tell you.... Jack will attempt to tell you otherwise.
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Jake: Bite. Why did we watch this, Jack?
Jack: Because man! It looked halfway decent, Bryan Singer produced it, and I kinda dig body horror flicks. Which this is.
Jake: Can’t get behind you at all on that one, buddy. First, body horror is not my thing. Outside of a very few exceptions (like The Fly (both versions)), it is not even close to one of my favorite horror sub-genres. That being said, it’s a hard movie to review for me. I can try to be as objective as possible and review it solely based on how well it adheres to the conventions of body horror, but in doing so I’d be actively rewarding a formulaic approach. If I just review it based on my experience, then holy smokes. Buckle up, I guess.
Jack: Nah, objectivity and all that shit is for more professional organizations than this here. You don’t have to be a fan of body horror to review a body horror movie, and plus, now that you’ve given that disclaimer, I’m pretty sure we actually are professional! See that?
Jake: This movie actually faked me out. It went with a found footage style for just long enough that I actually started to wonder and get excited that it was totally different in its approach than the trailer let on. But nope. We just had to suffer through that grainy fucking shit heap of a recording while the movie set the stage and introduced its main characters. Seriously, there is no way one of these female millennials is actually filming on something that looks this piss-poor in the 201_’s. Their fucking iPhone’s would record drastically better video. Guaranteed.
Jack: Yeah, that was bizarre. It kind of felt like they just made it found footage because they couldn’t think of another way to introduce the twist later on (spoilers). Whatever the case, Casey (see what I did there?), our protagonist, heads down to Costa Rica with her two friends, Jill and Kristen, for her bachelorette party. Drunken shenanigans ensue. Not particularly believable shenanigans, mind you, but shenanigans nonetheless.
Jake: Believable enough premise for a body horror flick. One could conceivably run into some shit in the jungles of Costa Rica. No qualms on that part. Which is about where my lack of qualms ends. Where they begin is the first time one of the characters opens their mouth. The acting really took me out from the jump in this thing. Not sure if it was the writing, delivery, or some combination of the two, but man did it ruin things for me. And then there’s this. Look at this shit. Look at it, Jack. Look.
Jack: So yeah . . . that’s not great. What you’re looking at, readers, is a map given to our bachelorette by a local handsome gentleman showing her the route to the most beautiful place in the world. And there’s a lot wrong with that map. Regardless, our trio drunkenly heads off in search of this mystical pool, but what they find instead is a different pool, one with a shitload of eggs in it (kept secret by the girl who finds them for some fucking reason). Shockingly, Casey gets bit, but it’s “nothing to worry about right?” Wrong.
Jake: End bachelorette shenanigans. Commence bullshit homelife that isn’t even a tiny bit believable. Casey returns home to her workaholic fiance, Jared, who is classified as a workaholic through some extraneous dialogue because he is at work at like 2pm on a weekday. To make matters worse, they throw in more dialogue that is intended to hit the point home by having him tell a stupid story about suits at work. It was awful. Then there’s Jared’s mom, who is one of the most outrageously written characters I’ve ever seen. She was so bad it pulled me back even further than the acting already had because it made it seem like the film was going for a little more camp. She’s some religious wackadoo who won’t let her son and soon to be daughter-in-law have sex. Way to ratchet up the tension...
Jack: I actually completely agree with you, but I don’t fucking have time to elaborate because I was infuriated by a part a little later on. Casey’s “bug bite” starts to get infected. Like really fucking infected. Like, boils forming and puss-oozing infected. And she starts to feel sick. She also gets blotches of shit all over the rest of her body too. But does she go see a doctor to deal with the puss-sacks on her leg? No! She asks Jill if she has had anything weird going on. Jill says kind of, but she went to the dermatolgist and got it fixed. The idiot, home-wrecking, surprise villain (spoilers again), fucking went to the doctor, but Casey doesn’t. Fucking why? It’s a lot like that scene in District 9 where Wickus’s fingernails fall off and he’s trying to hide it. Although at least Wickus has like conspiracy government paranoia shit. Casey has nothing.
Jake: Yeah, who in their right fuckin’ mind wouldn’t have already called the doctor at the point when that bite reaches nickel size? Lady, you were just in a jungle and were bitten by an unknown creature that was obscured by water because it was too disgustingly milky to see below the surface. At bare minimum, you’ve got a tropical bacterial infection. No need for this Bear Grylls shit. You do know he’s a fraud, right?
Jack: First Mike Daisey and now Bear Grylls? Where are the world’s heros man? This is distressing news, and I might need some time to process it. I’m going to consult Million Little Pieces by American hero James Frey, and try to find solace in something true and pure.
Jake: Wait, but you know that... nevermind. Fuck it. Back on track: so we’re now T-minus less than 7 days to the wedding, and Casey still hasn’t gotten her dress or like 1,700 other things she needs to do for a wedding. You know what? I get it now. Someone as lazy and indecisive as her is definitely the type of person who would not seek medical help for a festering, bursting with pus mystery wound. This is what happens when you’re scared of having kids, kids. You’ll end up birthing literal thousands of fish eggs all over your apartment. This is a movie about life.
Jack: So Casey keeps changing. She’s getting more splotches, she’s getting some kind of super hearing, and she’s getting more and more sick, like throwing up goo and shit. She locks herself in her apartment, and starts to totally remove herself from the outside world. She breaks off the wedding by yelling at her finacee through a door. That’ll teach him to go to work on weekdays! Her apartment slowly transforms too. It’s becoming a nest for Casey’s terrifying new self. Also during this section of the movie, we get some jarring flashbacks to the found footage Costa Rica trip. In these, we learn that Casey got raped and lost her wedding ring. Turns out, it was all a setup by that bitch Jill who filmed the whole thing for some fucking reason (blowing past some infuriating stuff with who had what footage here, but whatever). Casey also thinks she’s pregnant now, so things aren’t going great for her.
Jake: To give credit where it’s due, the set design is really cool in this movie. The transformation isn’t just Casey’s turn into whatever amphibian freak she turns into, it’s the transformation of her whole damn living space into a more slime covered, mangled cavescape. Pretty cool. We could sit here and belabor the transformation itself, but it’s not really worth the time. Suffice to say, it comes complete with a blue chalk sludge she can expel from her palms and use to suffocate her best friend, a barb tail she can… barb tail people with. And a coupled power of hypersensitive hearing and ultrasonic screams. Rel kitchen sink type stuff we’re talking here.
Jack: Yeah man, they throw in pretty much every power a non-primary X-Man has ever had. I’m talking some New X-Men: Academy X kind of secondary character shit here.
Jack: And Casey uses these newfound powers to murder the living shit out of everyone who enters her apartment. And yeah, the effects are all practical and terrific. Although the acting when some of her friends enter her lair is atrocious. Her place is a full-on nightmare-pad of insect-fuckery at this point, and her friend just calmly walks in and says “Casey, seriously, you’re starting to scare me.” Eventually, she uses a newly-grown tail to sting her ex-fiance Jared, who promptly becomes an incubator to about a billion new Costa Rican freak bugs.
Jake: I thought the way this movie tried to round things out and add symmetry was really bizarre. Not only does it end with another woman being bitten by one of the insects birthed from Jared’s corpse, but that woman is bitten while in the process of talking about an upcoming vacation to Costa Rica. Was that really necessary? Is the movie implying that she is going to return some strain of something back to it’s home? Is it suggesting that ONLY people who are connected to Costa Rican vacations are wheelhouse material for these insects? Do these things have some weird Costa-Rican spidey senses? So many questions, so little giving even one fuck. So here’s one more; ratings?
Jack: Hey man, you got to talk about how much you liked the special effects, but you didn’t give me a chance to. Although I guess that can come in ratings, so . . . Ratings! But let the record reflect that I made that decision.
For 1, think of how Vampire Weekend would rate the importance of the Oxford comma:
For 10, think of how Liam Neeson would rate his list-making aptitude:
Jack: 4 - There’s only so much you can do with this kind of body horror. This movie didn’t do much to add to it, but didn’t do anything to detract from it either. It did try to add the twist rape-allowing friend, but didn’t really do that deftly. The pacing was actually spot-on though, and it nailed how long to spend on each segment of transformation.
Jake: 4 - I were to give this rating solely based on how well I thought it handled the typical body horror arc, it still wouldn’t be astoundingly high. I will say the pacing was pretty good. The bit I mentioned about the attempted, forced symmetry was dumb as hell, and even if there was something about her fear of motherhood and subsequent transformation, I can’t really get behind it. I’m also going to go ahead and ding the issues I had related to the found footage piece in this category. Plus it’s a horror movie, and the dog doesn’t die. Just want to point that out.
WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:
Jack: 4 - And this is much more for world-building than immersion. The acting or writing or whatever was too poor for this thing to be immersive, let alone the issues with who had what cameras. But her and her apartment’s transformation as she starts to seal herself off from the outside world were great, and did a fantastic job building a small and terrifying little world.
Jake: 2 - I was decently immersed due to a few elements of the design which I will cover (and score) more in effects, but holy god the line delivery in this thing was atrocious. Pulled me right out. Not to mention I’m not the guy who is going to be immersed in a flick that gets its kicks from the gross-out factor.
Jack: 4 - It’s body horror. It does that part well. It made me squirm a lot. Actual scares? Minimal. There’s one quite lazy jump scare. And there’s one pretty good dream sequence that I found pretty creepy.
Jake: 3 - It got its kicks from the gross-out factor. I’m not a body horror guy.
EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):
Jack: 7 - This was a small budget flick, but holy shit did they use that budget well. Her entire transformation and her cave-apartment (minus 1 CGI tail) all looked fucking incredible. They fucking went for it with the effects and I thought they nailed it. With that said, the CGI tail looked pretty bad, and not all of the pre-transformation shit looked astounding.
Jake: 3.5 - Visual effects were largely great. I thought the overall transformation of Casey was good, minus the CG tail thing. The apartment transformation was outstanding. The sound effects were middling to sub-par. There were several instances where I thought a particular effect related to one of her increasingly many blemishes was way off.
Jack: 5 - You’re not watching this movie for the plot. You’re not watching it for the acting. Do I wish those were better? Sure, but you’re watching this thing for the transformation, and they nailed that. Overall, not a bad movie, and if you’re at all interested in body horror, give it a watch.
Jake: 3.5 - If you really like body horror, you’ll probably have a decent time watching this thing go down the tubes. Otherwise, move along.