Casey takes a trip for her bachelorette party to the tropical paradise of Costa Rica. With her two best friends, she drinks too much, gets cozy with the locals, and goes swimming in secret locations found only by hand-drawn map. While swimming, she is bitten by something in the water. This little bite is the beginning of a truly terrifying transformation in the aptly named Bite.
The movie opens with shaky found footage that has become overwhelmingly common in the horror genre. It shifts away from that after Casey experiences the titular bite. During those opening scenes of partying and drinking with Kirsten and Jill, Casey is not painted as particularly likable. She is shown being very physically affectionate with someone other than her fiancée, having a breakdown about maybe not being ready for marriage, and being urged by her friend Jill to tell her fiancée that she doesn’t want children despite knowing that he desperately does. Once Casey returns home from Costa Rica, the viewer begins to sympathize with her. Her future mother in law is incredibly controlling and determined not to see her son “soiled” before marriage. Her fiancée allows his mother to dictate the terms of his life. Her friends are frequently terrible and self- absorbed. By the completion of her monstrous transformation, the viewer is actually cheering her on.
As is frequently the case in horror movies, no one reacts the way they would in real life. A bug bite that resulted in a rash and vomiting of copious amounts of mucus would normally result in a doctor’s visit, if not a trip to the emergency room. Casey’s concerned fiancée sleeps with her moments after she tells him she is sick and needs to go to bed. Rather than being concerned when a cyst bursts in his hand, covering him in gross slimy fluid, he gets upset at Casey who is locked in the bathroom freaking out. The only character whose erratic behavior makes sense over time is Jill.
Overall the special effects and makeup are very well done. Casey emits a variety of slimes and mucus-like goos as she transforms. Her apartment’s transformation into a womb-like semi-aquatic nest is disgusting and believable. Elma Begovic’s performance as Casey carries the film. The twitches and clicks that are used to sell her transformation into something more insect than human could read as comical or ridiculous in the hands of another actress. It takes a skilled performance to make the movie’s monster into the most identifiable character in the film.
The film doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares, but instead on the slow horror of watching a woman lose control of her body. For someone who doesn’t want children, having her body taken by force and turned into a reproductive machine is truly horrifying. It’s nice that she doesn’t suddenly morph into a warm and maternal figure. Instead her terror at the reality of her situation plays out in disturbing dreams. The oozing gross out factor of the film is enough to make skin crawl.
Bite is a creepy crawly nightmare with Begovic’s performance being the true shining point. It’s worth checking out if you like the more disgusting transformations in the film Slither or the those featured in the television show Hemlock Grove.