Bite
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (7th March 2017).
The Film

“Bite” (2015)

For a bachelorette party, the bride to be Casey (played by Elma Begovic), Jill (played by Annette Wozniak) and Kirsten (played by Denise Yuen) take a trip to Costa Rica for some fun in the sun. During the vacation some unfortunate mishaps occur - Casey is bitten by something unknown in the water. Later she has drunken one night stand with a stranger, loses her wedding band, and one day wakes up naked near the beach with no recollection of how she got there. Returning home from the trip, Casey is in a depressed state. She doesn’t know how to tell her fiancée Jared (played by Jordan Gray) about the happenings, and to add onto that she is having second thoughts on the wedding as there are other issues on her mind. Jared is eager to have children while she is not. Jared’s mother Mrs. Kennedy (played by Lauren Denkers) is the landlord of Casey and is not happy about their plans for marriage.

Not only is she emotionally feeling disconnected from the wedding and Jared, but something is happening to her physically. The bite mark from the Costa Rican waters is not healing and growing into an infected bump. In addition she is frequently throwing up and becoming paler in complexion. It gets worse as she finds out from a test that she is also pregnant, most likely not by Jared, but something not human…

It’s hard to talk about “Bite” without mentioning the films that inspired it. David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” remake, Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, and also 2008’s “The Ruins” to name a few. Casey’s gradual body transformation into a Gill-man like evil creature is very reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum’s performance including the twitching, the puking, and the mannerisms. There are no alien eggs but there are tons of fish eggs seen throughout, and the infected bodies. And the Latin American trip leading to body horror is very reminiscent of what happens to the characters in “The Ruins”. “Bite” is not necessarily original in execution but it is something different in this day and age of horror films - which is the use of practical effects and very few instances of relying on CGI. From the tumorous pus filled growth from Casey’s leg, the gallons of fish eggs and sticky substances that start pouring from her body, and the make-up effects of the gradually changing body is a testament to the old craft of hours of make-up application and practical nasty gags. There are a few moments of CGI involved such as the ending scene which without spoiling would have been near impossible to do practically on such a small budget film, so it is a throwback to the old while still keeping with a modern setting. The effects were gory and nasty, but not a lot of blood - more puke and pus rather.

Directed by Chad Archibald through his independent Black Fawn Films, the film is very competently made on a miniscule budget. The effects are a standout, the editing does not play for jump scares but gradual tension, and for fans of Black Fawn Films there are easter eggs here and there to connect the “universe”. “Bite” starts off with handheld POV vacation video footage which will make some audience groan with “not another one of these!” but once the main credits appear the film is almost entirely a traditional film rather than found footage. The film is unusual that it actually starts off badly - with bad direction of the POV and establishments of the characters with bad dialogue and hammy performance, and then actually turns much better with inventive effects and visually disturbing scenes later on. The three main female leads were almost cringeworthy at the beginning but later on, especially Elma Begovic who goes through a very unusual character transformation does shine darkly in her mental and physical anguish. Although she becomes the monster it is an interesting look at who is the “villain” or antagonist in the film. Annette Wozniak ‘s character of Jill and her backstabbing actions can be considered so as does the very controlling Mrs. Kennedy. While their characters are importantly the ones that really push Casey over the edge, it seems the characters of Jared and Kirsten are not developed enough to make them standouts in the plot.

The film premiered at the Montreal Fantasia Film Festival on July 25th 2015. For fun with the promotional goods, the production team made special “Bite” barf bags with a postcard inside for possibly queasy audience members. What was not expected was a few people at the premiere screening actually became sick, and one person even passed out. An ambulance was called and there were reports that the filmmakers planned them as stunts but the claims were false - the filmmakers had nothing to do with the sick audience members. Hype was built and the film was screened at various festivals around the US, Canada, and in Europe to fair acclaim - higher from audiences than with critics, but the main consensus was that it was a refreshing though nasty use of practical effects missing from many recent horror films along with Begovic’s performance as Casey. It’s no game changer, but for fans of nasty body horror, it hits the bases.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original 2.35:1 (anamorphic) aspect ratio in the NTSC format. The opening scenes with the POV footage is intentionally bad with some errors on screen, color bleeding and bad framing, but let it be known that the presentation improves greatly afterwards. The standard film scenes are mostly in a cold blue hue while she is “well” and gradually turning brown while she is “sick” and the results are quite good. Shot in HD, detail and colors are accurately reproduced and there are no major issues with the transfer.

The film’s runtime is 88:14.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

The audio is featured in both 5.1 or 2.0 options. The 5.1 spreads the tense music cues throughout the surrounds as well as some directional dialogue such as when Casey can hear her fiancée outside the door. The dialogue is almost always centered with easy to understand dialogue with no issues of dropouts or low volume. The 2.0 does not spread the audio out very much so the 5.1 is the recommended track.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a yellow font. The subtitles are well timed, but the subtitler seemed to spell Kirsten’s name as “Kristen” on some occasions.

Extras

Audio commentary with Director Chad Archibald and Producers Cody Calahan and Christopher Giroux
The group chat commentary covers a lot of ground, including behind the scenes happenings, about the genesis of the project, about the performers, the easter eggs, and much more. There are some moments of laughter due to logic and how they were unsatisfied with how the opening POV shot scene introduced the film but overall are quite positive about how the film turned out for themselves.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Make Up" featurette (5:41)
This featurette goes into the transformation of Casey from a little bite-mark into a monster with the use of practical make up effects.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"On Set" featurette (6:02)
This featurette goes into the design of Casey’s apartment and how it changed with her metamorphosis. There is also further input on the gallons of fish eggs and the live cockroach scene.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Fantasia" featurette (5:53)
This feaeturette is on the film premiere at the Montreal Fantasia Film Festival where the barf bags were handed out and some unexpected happenings occurred with a few audience members that couldn’t handle the gory film.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Chad's Wedding" featurette (5:15)
With the film being chosen for screening at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain, the director decides to take the opportunity to hold his wedding at the same place in Spain where he proposed to his girlfriend a few years prior. There are scenes of the wedding plus the premiere where the crew went with their wedding suits and dresses.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Dominican" featurette (5:29)
Although the film was supposed to take place in Costa Rica in the vacation scenes, filming was done in the Dominican Republic. The featurette shows some of the behind the scenes and how great the vacation/shoot was.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (1:25)
The film’s trailer is offered here, as well as embedded below.
in anamorphic 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles



The film has been released on Blu-ray and DVD in the United States and Canada with identical extras to the Australian release but unfortunately Australia gets the film in standard definition only.

Packaging

Note that the rear case has a "region 4" symbol this is in fact a region 0 DVD.

Overall

“Bite” does not reinvent the horror genre or present anything new, but is a satisfying creepy and gory body horror with satisfying effects on a miniscule budget. Umbrella Entertainment’s DVD has very good video and audio with a satisfying amount of extras. Recommended.

The Film: B- Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B Overall: B

 


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