Low-budget horror thrills abound in this energetic and inventive gorefest involving insane suburbanite flesh gobblers.
Nina and Yaz are in a toxic relationship that reaches an emotional nadir when Nina saves a spaniel from being shredded alive at a horrifying dog fighting arena. Consequently, addiction issued Yaz abandons her in a downpour and she is forced to seek sanctuary in the car of Beryl, a creepy woman with more red flags than a Liverpool home game.
This doesn’t stop Yaz from persuading Nina that targeting the lonely woman’s home for a cowardly robbery is the way forward. However, instead of a quick score, they plummet into a viper’s nest of family madness and taboo-busting indoctrination.
Director James Owen’s unhinged labour of love stretches its financial reins to breaking point and sometimes beyond. Yet this overreaching clearly does not come from a place of naïve over-ambition, but rather from the commendable desire to squeeze every last resource in order to deliver a balls-out Brit horror to be proud of.
As such, Bite soon overcomes its shortcomings by battering the audience with enough sheer creative ingenuity, nasty exploitation, and blood-drenched enthusiasm to cajole them on board. Just like the crazy widow in the movie, it seems like an easy win to pick on Bite and its lack of resources. Yet once the flick pulls you in it delivers a final third that is as bonkers and bloody as any horror hound could hope for.
Bite was shot at a dedicated film studio and this allowed the filmmakers to shrink the sandbox as it were to create an almost hermetically sealed environment for the mayhem to unfold. This erudite production decision benefits the set design, superbly executed effects, and choreography of carnage massively. Too many similar efforts out there lose their grip on world-building and spatial credibility but Owen‘s canny film deftly sidesteps this pitfall.
As you might expect some of the dialogue delivery is a tad rocky but that kind of adds to the old-school charm of it all and never threatens to derail the schlocky fun. In all honesty, the cast remains on the same page tonally throughout the film and there is a collective understanding of the Midnight Movie mentality of the piece.
In terms of physicality, everyone puts in a hard yards shift with Shian Denovan, in particular, relishing her performance as the gaslit Nina. It’s a demanding role that she embraces with tactile intensity as she hacks away at the thorny thickets of potential Final Girl terrain.
Also excellent is Nansi Nsue as the selfish shitstorm magnet Yaz. Her character displays all the depressing hallmarks of an addict in denial with the unsavoury manipulation of her girlfriend and self-destructive life choices. Nsue refuses to shy away from Yaz’s pernicious personality and keeps her bitter and boisterous even in the face of extreme torment.
There are some truly twisted scenes in Bite that raise the brutality bar to where it needs to be to compete in its chosen domain. It’s a realm where artistic freedom has to translate into visceral kills and WTF incidents in order to temper the lack of cash-washed trappings. To its credit, the flick has lashings of practical effects where the camera often lingers sadistically and the bloodwork is top tier. Throw in a seriously fucked up body part piano (does that make it an organ?), culty oneliners, and a stomach-turning fleshy teatime feast, and it is a job well done.
Bite is exactly the kind of horror that would have cemented a place in video nasty infamy had it lurked seditiously on the shelves of a VHS rental library in the mid-1980s. With the right garish jacket sleeve and lurid blurb, it would have flown out of the door in the clammy grasp of horror-hungry teenagers before the BBFC snatched it away in its hysterical denial talons.
If the horror community is prepared to canonize movies of the past to the point of cultural fetishism then what is wrong with embracing films cut from the same threadbare cloth in the present?
Bite is a mischievous and disgusting horror flick that drips with the sweat of hard work and thrums with the industry of exuberance that dices with good taste enough to set it apart. For fans looking for an uncomplicated injection of debased grotesquery, it should hit the spot in spades.
Survival Horror, Cannibal Thriller | UK, 2022 | 99 mins | Arrow Frightfest 2022 |Arthrofilm| Dir. James Owen | With: Shian Denovan, Nansi Nsue, Annabelle Lanyon, Anthony Ilott