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Review: ‘Bite’ satisfies despite an opening that’s hard to swallow

Elma Begovic in horror movie "Bite."
(Scream Factory Films / Black Faw)

Rarely does a horror movie recover as well from a rough start as Chad Archibald’s “Bite” does. After an opening 10 minutes that promises something depressingly mediocre, the film takes a turn to the atmospheric and gruesome, and winds up being one of the year’s more provocative shockers.

Elma Begovic stars as Casey, a nervous bride-to-be who lives in the same ritzy building as her workaholic financier fiancé and his domineering, disapproving mother-in-law. Already unsure if she wants to be some money-manager’s submissive hausfrau, Casey takes one last wild vacation with her girlfriends — where she gets bitten by a strange creature that slowly transforms her into an acid-spitting, egg-laying bug-thing.

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Archibald and his co-writer Jayme Laforest set up the story via a clumsy “found footage” sequence filled with unnatural backstory-establishing dialogue and sexist stereotypes. And truth be told, “Bite” never fully gets beyond its narrow framing of women as shrews, harlots, and backstabbers.

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Thankfully, once Carey gets back from her trip, Archibald shifts the style. The found footage approach disappears. The dialogue is reduced to a minimum. And the film becomes more gothic as the heroine/monster haunts her own shadowy apartment.

“Bite” may also have something to say about one woman’s fear of her own femininity — from her sexual desire to her reproductive power. If so, the movie doesn’t articulate it well.

But ultimately that’s OK, because Archibald successfully penetrates the subconscious. The images of Casey’s skin slipping off during sex—or her dropping hundreds of tiny pink spheroids from her uterus—is delightfully, disgustingly memorable, regardless of its meaning.

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“Bite”

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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