An ambitious film that does stretch itself a tad too thin at times, Bite is still a great watch that warmly embraces its horror to provide quite a few inducing moments. James Owen’s debut feature is one that satisfies.
Nina (Shian Denovan) is desperate to put her life back on track, having narrowly escaped from psychotic gangland criminal Roman. After her alcohol and drug-addicted partner, Yaz (Nansi Nsue), gets her involved in yet another disastrous con. Dumped on the roadside, in the middle of nowhere, she has to accept a lift from a passing motorist Beryl, a sweet widow who offers her a bed for the night. Led astray again by Yaz, Nina attempts to get cash from Beryl, but Beryl isn’t all she appears to be.
At times Bite can be a little hit and miss, veering close to the edge, but you are constantly intrigued as to where the film goes. Once the film warmly accepts its horror core, it becomes a claustrophobic treat of horror. When you think you have Bite figured out, it throws little curveballs at you, with James Owen’s film giving you a Psycho vibe at the start before turning into a Don’t Breathe, and then turning towards another famed horror film by the final act. This is a film that certainly wears its influences on its sleeve and steps out of those influences just enough to be its own thing, though a couple of moments are a touch too on the nose.
Bite is a film that takes a little while to get going, the opening scenes work well enough, but they lack that oomph required in a movie like this. The first 40 minutes severely need trimming as we know the duo are going to return to Beryl’s home. It is just a matter of when. It almost feels as if there was a notion that the film had to get to 90 minutes, but as we know nowadays, there isn’t necessarily a need for that now. Trimming 10 or 15 minutes of Bite would greatly help its tempo so that the momentum it does gain later in the film isn’t suddenly halted by a rather pointless dialogue-heavy scene with our antagonists.
However, Owen knows how to punctuate his film with moments of great gore, with strong special effects (especially considering the apparently low budget of the film). Owen also takes care not to overdo the gore until moments where it is required; this deft touch allows for those impactful moments to really affect you. A certain tongue scene literally had me saying “Jesus Christ” by what we saw, so if that helps your gauge for gore levels in horror, then you are welcome.
Shian Denovan does some great work here and, at times, drags the film along with her intensity. Though there is a struggle to root for her at the beginning when we see how easily swayed she is by utterly daft ideas from Yaz. She is aided by Nansi Nsue, whose character has never once had a good idea in her life. The duo together are great as the bad guys trying to become good. Their moral ambiguity allows us to care for them, and their dysfunctional relationship helps keep the film going, but without a doubt, this is Denovan’s show, and she carries the film with aplomb.
Considering the type of movie that Bite is, you find yourself forgiving the moments that do not work as intended. James Owen and co-writer Tom Critch are throwing everything into this film, and the moments that do work surprise you with just how effective they are. At worst, it comes across as a film that just packed far too much into itself, considering it is a tale that should be pretty straightforward. Regardless you come out of Bite more than satisfied as there is simply just too much to enjoy in this horror thriller. Owen comes out of his film as a filmmaker you will look forward to seeing more of when given a bigger budget as he certainly makes the most of what he had here.
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