In tiny San Griento, an affluent well-heeled suburb, a group of parents grow increasingly concerned about the sexualisation of their high school daughters. To help educate them and to encourage their abstinence they recruit exotic and mysterious Liz Batho to run a chapter of the Virginity Action Group in their town. As the new teacher ingratiates herself into the lives of the local housewives, teen reporter Leah grows to suspect that she may well have sinister ulterior motives. Can she stop the nefarious plot, and save her best friend Kat, before it’s too late?
‘Chastity Bites’ is the first full-length production from husband and wife team John and Lotti Pharriss Knowles. The films’ direction lacks creativity and flair but is functional enough with scenes well shot and clearly lit; there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle) uses of colour employed throughout which makes the film, occasionally, visually interesting. Narratively, however, the film has some serious issues. ‘Chastity Bites’ has more in common with a teen comedy like ‘Mean Girls’ than a traditional horror movie and the script is an uneven affair; the clique girls have an amusing line in put downs but the heroine and her friends sound both unrealistically adult and dreary. There are a number of (mercifully) short scenes featuring some of the girls’ boyfriends whose offensively stereotypical characterisation comes across as both forced and childish; essentially like young African American men written by a white middle-aged woman which is, of course, what they are. There is a lesbian sub-plot which is goes nowhere, some reference to events from hundreds of years ago to fill in back story, a number characters behave inexplicably against type, and the whole thing ends with a weak showdown. Oh, and there’s no gore.
Allison Scagliotti (Warehouse 13) plays the lead role of Leah and comes across as a live-action version of 90s cartoon ‘Daria’, all snarky superiority and sneery world-weariness. This makes her very annoying as a character and subsequently very difficult to root for when things turn bad. However I think the blame here lies not with Scagliotti, who is nothing if not earnest, but with the script; the faux-intellectual dialogue she shares with Eduardo Rioseco’s Paul is teeth-gnashingly irritating. The rest of the cast fair better; Louise Griffiths (whom you may have seen in as Janet in 2009’s ‘The Revenant’) chews up the scenery as the vampish Liz Batho but Amy Okuda, as the head of the clique, Ashley, gets the pick of the dialogue. If you look really closely, you’ll spot Stuart Gordon too in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. The standout performance however is Francia Raisa as Leah’s best friend ‘Kat’ who, despite having little to do for large sections of the movie, is convincing and subtle; it’s a shame that the most interesting of her story arc developments (and arguably the film’s too) is so poorly defined and so quickly shelved. Hopefully she will, at least, get more work off the back of this performance.
‘Chastity Bites’ has a really interesting central idea. The Bathory legend is well known but not well represented in contemporary horror and deserves a better film than this. Most infuriating is just how boring and disappointing the whole thing is. The cast are talented, the director is competent and the script shows flashes of what could have been; instead of trying (and failing) to recreate ‘Juno’-esque teen dialogue and instead focussing on making a gory, violent, and sleazy exploitation flick, the Knowles would have produced something memorably cheesy and interesting. As it is, ‘Chastity Bites’ plays like one of the poorer episodes of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ , watered-down and completely lacking in scares or gore of any kind. Worst of all though, the film is 85 minutes long and feels at least double that time. A huge missed opportunity.
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