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STUDIO: Rhi Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
The distributors saw fit to give me a very screenery screener, so please forgive the hideous watermark on all the screengrabs.
Jay replaces Silent Bob with a sexy vampire, and humor with boredom.
Jason Mewes, Erica Cox, Richard Fitzpatrick, Jordan Madley, Nic Nac
Director: Harvey Glazer
Writers: Tim McGregor, Tyler Levine
In this minimalist hor-com snoozefest, Mewes stars as a nightshift paramedic who falls in love with a vampire with a mighty thirst. Middling wackiness ensues.
There is not tons to say about Bitten, because there is not a lot going on in the film. The film opens with Jack (Mewes) on the job, wrestling with an injured junky. Through some light banter-position between Jack and his partner Roger (Richard Fitzpatrick), we learn that Jack has recently broken up with his girlfriend and that he hates working the nightshift because he doesn’t have time to meet women. As fortune would have it, Jack finds Danika (Erica Cox) passed out in the alley near his apartment when he’s returning home. He thinks Danika is a junky, which I suppose a vampire sorta is, and he opts not to take her to the hospital. It is love at first sight. After Danika ends up eating Jack’s bitchy ex-girlfriend things spin down the rabbit hole and Jack finds himself an enabler, getting victims for Danika.
There is still plenty of material to be mined from the vampirism and substance addiction parallel. It’s been over a decade since Larry Fessenden hauntingly explored this metaphor in the under-appreciated Habit, and since then we’ve mostly been wallowing in subtext-free vampires – be they objects of angsty teen lust or sword-wielding werewolf racists. So I respect Bitten for its approach. It is a clever and legit idea to put the Renfield archetype into the position of an enabler. The problem is the film doesn’t really do anything with the drug addiction metaphor, leaving it more as pretext than subtext.
Once Jack learns Danika is a vampire, the film descends into a repetitive tedium. We have no reason to like Danika. She is hot, but kind of stupid and annoying. So Jack’s enabling (allowing her to murder) undercuts his role as the hero by removing any pathos. The stage is set for him to be a sad loser, where maybe he allows himself to go down this dark path because he is so afraid to be alone, but the movie’s tone doesn’t convey this. It would have worked in a darker and sadder film, but Bitten holds back our emotional connection by maintaining an ironic detachment from its proceedings; never going far enough to be considered satire either.
I hate when critics say that a horror-comedy “can’t decide” what genre it is in, as this usually reveals more about the critic than the film, but I’m forced to say it about Bitten. The problem isn’t that it mixes horror and comedy, it is that it does so with a wild inconsistency and a lack of commitment. I could live with the cliché wackily-inappropriate best friend dialogue for Roger, with the goofy-music montage where Jack and Roger are chasing an old woman around their ambulance like a scene from Scooby-Doo, and with the children’s song about cleaning your room that plays when Jack cleans up after one of Danika’s murders. None of this was funny to me, but at least the film was committing. Most of the film’s humor is attempted with Jack’s reactions to Danika’s killings, which comes off more as nervous laughter than jokes, like a lame boyfriend cracking wise when his girlfriend is trying to have a serious moment.
Most explicit in this is the film’s “climax” in which Jack has determined he needs to kill Danika. The scene is so low energy and sprinkled with dopey jokes that I felt like I was watching nothingness unfold. For most of the movie I thought I was supposed to be gleaning some emotional substance from Jack’s struggle (loving Danika vs knowing she’s a monster), yet the ending dropped any attempt at dramatics. While I was happy the film ended, I was nonetheless surprised when I realized it had gone out on such an intentionally dud note. It was the jerk-off hand gesture of film endings.
Visually the film felt claustrophobic. Its limited budget obviously kept it to minimal locations, mostly inside Jack’s apartment. That I can handle. But the filmmakers’ solution around set dressing or art direction seemed to be making every scene take place in impenetrable murky blackness. In many scenes I couldn’t tell what the fuck was happening. Not that I want to see Jason Mewes naked, but you’d think for a film like this that making sure we can see the nudity in a threesome sex scene would be a priority.
This isn’t really a complaint or critique, but the film employs titlecards for each new day of the week the film spans. This had no relevance to the story; none of the characters were concerned about what day it was. There was no ticking clock we needed to be reminded of, no future event looming on the horizon. What was extra perplexing was why these titlecards were in Spanish (complete with a Mexican brass music cue). The film isn’t Mexican. There were no Mexican or Spanish themes in the film. Very weird.
The one bright spot in this dank, boring gloom is Jason Mewes. I’ve never really liked, or rather “got,” Mewes. His performance as Jay (ie, himself) noticeably improved with each Silent Bob pairing, but I never expected to see him outside of a Smith film. You know what though? I think maybe this boy can act. I don’t want to oversell this, because it’s not like he’s brilliant here, but he gives a solid fucking performance. He’s got a naturalistic quality about him that I think a director other than Smith could potentially milk for real results. He is by far the best part of the film, to the point where I grew to find it painful to watch him try and meld with the other actors. Fitzpatrick clearly can be good, but seems to have been given too much slack on his leash and is prone to overacting. But its Mewes scenes with Cox that are most trying. The girl simply cannot act. She does take off her clothes a lot, which I suppose was the major job requirement. So there’s that. Not being a fan of fake boobs though, I was still left wanting.
There is no reason to see Bitten. Unless you just really really love Mewes and want to see what he can do when not snoochy-boochin’.
This was a screener. Though it did start with a trailer for Phantom Racer, a hilarious looking rip-off of The Wraith starring Nicole Eggert.