Desperate Housewives get Slaughtered! A Review of Chastity Bites (2013)
With 2013 on its way out it seems fitting to take a look back at the genre films that graced our cinema screens and toured the festival circuits this passed year. Each year many Horror based review sites give an overview of the top films that made an impact, which you will all be seeing from Hayley’s Horror Reviews very soon. However, there are some movies, both mainstream and independent titles that I missed first time round therefore it was only fair that I try to catch up with as many as possible before coming to a final decision on what were my best Horror films of 2013.
Being a fan of cheesy teen, horror comedies, Chastity Bites was one of the films that holds an appeal, however following the viewing its not going to take a place on my list. Even though I didn’t enjoy the film, I feel its worth discussing as it has potential to find its audience.
**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**
Chastity Bites is a 2013 dark comedy horror film from husband/wife team John V. Knowles and Lotti Pharriss Knowles. Being the former’s directorial debut, it showcases that there is room for improvement however on the whole the production design, sound and editing is pretty much decent. It attempts to be stylish in terms of the cover art which clearly has had a lot of effort put in to create an almost cartoonish, tongue-in-cheek impression of the film, the end credits also reflect this.
The majority of blood-thirsty horror fans will be aware of the gruesome tale of Mrs Elizabeth Bathory, not only has it been dramatized and alluded to on film from Hammer’s Countess Dracula (1971) to Hostel Part II (2007), it remains one of history’s most notorious horror stories. In the 1600’s Elizabeth Bathory was believed to have slaughtered up to 600 virgins and bathed in their blood in order to remain beautiful and youthful for all eternity. Admittedly, the story still holds a place in modern society with the long-lasting obsession with physical appearance and the majority of celebrities nowadays encourage surgical procedures in order to hold back the years, its clear Chastity Bites is making a social commentary on this, just not one that’s well-executed.
In the present day, Elizabeth Bathory (Louise Griffiths) is still alive and has targeted San Griento High in search for her next victims. She befriends a group of “Desperate Housewives”, tired of being upstaged by younger women and offers them a new “cosmetic” solution. Meanwhile, Liz Batho (cringe!) as she goes by now has set up a chastity group within the school which has attracted the obnoxious and stereotypical popular clique who use the club as a means to exceed their popularity with dreams of reality television. When her best friend Katharine (Francia Raisa) gets drawn into Batho’s mysterious ways, self-confessed feminist and amateur reporter Leah (Allison Scagliotti) is on to them determined to put a stop to the brutal rituals that are about to take place, similarly to Fright Night (1985).
Chastity Bites clearly knows what its doing, it intends to be funny and brings in too many pop-culture jokes that ware thin and eventually won’t hold any relevance. The problem with the concept is its tired and overdone. It comes across as a generic slasher film, with predictable moments and uninventive death scenes. It’s one of those where you are aware what will happen next and when. The film opens with a young couple getting frisky in the back of a car with what it attempts as a “self-aware” commentary about waiting for marriage before having sex. It proceeds to subvert the classic horror film trope of “sex equals death” (see. Scream (1996) when the virgin girl is subsequently killed. Already it just feels like this ground has already been covered and need I remind people of a post-Scream slasher Cherry Falls (2000) that did exactly the same thing, especially where there’s a later element in the film where one character has sex to guarantee survival. It definitely incorporated a late-90’s self-referential style with mentions to Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy The Vampire Slayer! Was this possibly a comment on how 90’s television portrayed stronger women in comparison to the superficial, image-obsessed overnight celebrities from reality TV that the popular girls in the film reflect?
Allison Scagliotti does provide a good performance as lead character Leah, she’s likeable enough to carry the film where in most places it fails and is reminiscent of Danielle Harris as a leading lady to a degree. To its credit it does acknowledge that embracing feminist values can mean exploring sexuality while still being strong-willed and independent but it doesn’t quite deliver the statement you want it to. Capitalizing on glossy teen dramas like Pretty Little Liars with a horror twist, Chastity Bites has potential but sadly misses the mark. What is left is a generic, predictable mess of cliches with cringe-worthy dialogue and forced self-awareness.
Hayley Alice Roberts