While on her bachelorette party getaway, Casey, the bride to be, gets a seemingly harmless bite from an unknown insect. After returning home with cold feet, Casey tries to call off her wedding but before she’s able to, she starts exhibiting insect like traits. Casey succumbs to her new instincts and begins creating a hive that not only houses her translucent eggs, but feeds on the flesh of others.
Essential body horror movies certainly haven’t been lacking of late with scenes from the beautifully brutal Starry Eyes or the rancidly vulgar Thanatamorphose still tormenting my mind. The most recent film to join these ranks is Chad Archibald’s Bite, a repulsively entertaining showcase of grotesquerie. Blending body horror with romantic tragedy and boasting an absolutely blinding performance from newcomer Elma Begovic, the incessant urge to scratch each and every part of your anatomy is guaranteed as the gorgeous leading lady gradually metamorphoses into the creepiest of insect-like creatures after a fateful dip in Dominican Republic waters.
Similarities to The Fly are immediate and despite such obvious influences from Cronenberg’s ultimate body horror Bite remains its own unique beast as Archibald’s inventiveness squeezes out so much extra mileage. What could have been just another goopy gorefest becomes so much more thanks to deviously constructed emotional plot twists rather than just putting Casey’s gradual physical decay under the microscope.
Having said that, Jason Derushie’s icky and shuddersome makeup effects really
ramp up the suspense tenfold and what starts out as a severely infected pus-oozing insect bite is a mere harbinger of the gooey gore galore in store. Like I said though, it’s not all about grossing out and Archibald astutely packs in plenty of emotional bite amidst the gruesomeness to ensure the audience remains wholly invested in Casey and those close (and not so close) to her.
Tightening the film’s vicelike grip is the leading lady herself and there’s not a doubt in my mind that Bite wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well as it does had the casting crew failed to come across this little gem of an actress. Put short, Elma Begovic is disgustingly talented, in the best possible sense of the word. Playing the role of Casey must have been such an emotionally and physically demanding task and she totally nails her metamorphosis into the ground like a hammer. Her prenuptial apprehensions and concerns early on in the film certainly help you warm to the character and as a consequence her ultimate demise resonates all the more deeply and you’ll find yourself empathising with a creature who scares you shitless at the same time.
The supporting cast also packs in plenty of punch, especially Jordan Grey as Casey’s fiancée and Lawrene Denkers as the cantankerous intermeddling mother-in-law to be. Annette Wozniak also deserves much credit as she shines as Casey’s excessively zealous BFF Jill.
Extra kudos to the ever-brilliant Steph Copeland. One of the highlights of the first Antisocial movie was her pitch perfect score and she’s only gone and pulled it off again, perfectly complementing the film’s mood swings.
If gross-out movies have you drooling with anticipation then Bite is a film you should be itching to see already. Archibald’s unashamedly icky feature is easily one of the best the body horror sub-genre has to offer and is his best piece of work to date.
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)