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Bite is a Christian allegory against fornication
By Thomas M. Sipos
I assume that Bite (2015) was a mistake. That the film's director (Chad Archibald) and writer (Jayme Leforest -- is that a woman?) didn't realize what they were making. This is a Canadian horror film, after all, and those Canuks are even more politically correct than anyone in Manhattan or Hollywood. So how is it that Archibald and Leforest have created a Christian conservative allegory? A horror film that not only condemns fornication and adultery, but primarily blames the woman?
Casey (Elma Begovic) is engaged to marry Jared (Jordan Gray). But that doesn't mean he owns her or that she stops being a Strong Independent Woman. This is a post-patriarchal world. And so, though the wedding is but a week away, Casey flies off with Jill and Kristen (Annette Wozniak and Denise Yuen), for a "girls only" tropical paradise vacation.
Now, cynics in the manosphere contend that when women travel alone, or with just their girlfriends, to exotic foreign lands, it's to "hook up" with exotic foreign men for some hot, anonymous sex (i.e., to fornicate), far from judgmental eyes back home. And Casey does not disappoint. She gets drunk and hooks up with Mao (Daniel Klimitz), a random beach bum. She also gets bitten by a bug while swimming in a lagoon. Hence the film's title, Bite.
Casey returns to Canada where she contemplates her sexual infidelity, feeling guilty, fretting that she's not ready to marry Jared, and yakking about it all to her girlfriends. Meanwhile, the bite festers. Pus oozes from it. A rash spreads across Casey's body. She aches and grows nauseous. Hair and fingernails shed. Eventually she transforms into, well, not exactly a giant fly. But Bite does seem inspired by David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986).
Thus does the insect bite, and its resultant disease, work as a metaphor for Casey's sexual sin.
And for the sins of others. Jared is a religious conservative (like his mother) and apparently a virgin. Tired of waiting, Casey seduces Jared. Alas, her infected region breaks open during their sex act, covering Jared's hand with pus. Their fornication has now infected Jared.
In Monsters from the Id, traditional Catholic author E. Michael Jones argues that horror stories are essentially about sinners (especially sexual sinners) who suffer remorse without repentance. Casey regrets her infidelity, but without repenting, or even acknowledging the sin. It was a mistake. It was unhealthy for the relationship. It is not who she is. It's anything but a sin. And because she fails to repent, her sin manifests in horror.
Sure, Jill encouraged Casey's heavy drinking, and then arranged for her illicit tryst with Mao, even recording it on a cell phone. Jill plans to show the video to Jared and break up Casey's wedding. Jill wants Jared for herself.
Having seen the video, Casey exclaims to Jill, "You let that happen to me!"
But despite her refusal to accept blame or responsibility, this does not absolve Casey's infidelity. Why would she vacation without her fiancé? Isn't it normal for couples soon-to-marry to travel together? Why does Casey dance with other men? Why allow herself to get drunk? (For plausible denial?) Why hover so near to opportunities for infidelity, if, in the back of her mind, she isn't eager for a taste? Like an alcoholic who just wants to smell the liquor, like an overeater who just wants to look at the cake, Casey wants more than a scent or a peek. She wants a bite.
This is why it doesn't matter if Casey became infected before her tryst with Mao. She had already committed adultery in her heart. Scenes from her vacation video are presented in a nonlinear sequence throughout Bite, so we learn about her actions piecemeal. But it's clear that she was already flirting with Mao, making googly eyes at him, before she went to the lagoon.
Despite being a Jewish atheist, David Cronenberg's early horror films correlate with Jones's Catholic interpretive paradigm. Sexual sin creates horror. Indeed, Bite seems inspired not only by The Fly, but by other works from Archibald's fellow Canadian filmmaker. In Cronenberg's Shivers (1975), sexual promiscuity spreads a parasite throughout a high-rise condo, turning everyone (even small children) into sex-crazed rapists. In The Brood (1979), a divorcée's rage (divorce is a sin, remember?) causes monsters to sprout from her body. In his 1983 essay, "Cronenberg: A Dissenting View," film critic Robin Wood called Cronenberg's sexual politics "reactionary." Jones might add that that's what effective horror requires.
We live in a fallen world and Satan has many helpers. Jill is every woman's toxic girlfriend, hissing discontent and discord. Like the serpent to Eve, feigning friendship, Jill whispers doubt into Casey's ear, undermining her commitment to Jared. "He's ready. But honey, you're not ready."
Kristen is another toxic girlfriend, undermining Jared by advising Casey, "Seriously sweetie, you need to sit Jared down, tell him this workaholic act needs to stop." Jared is honorable, handsome, loyal, and successful. He works hard to make a nice life for Casey. When a woman lands such a catch, you can be sure her girlfriends will be there to find fault, subverting and sabotaging the relationship.
Jill shows the video of Casey's infidelity to Jared, then uses his sudden heartbreak to "seal the deal" by seducing him. But during their sex act, they vomit on each other. The monstrously transformed Casey's high-pitched scream provokes this, but their barfing still works as a metaphor for their fornication. As with Eve biting into the fruit, Casey's initial sin has sparked a chain reaction of sin.
Bite makes token attempts at political correctness. Jared's mother (Lawrene Denkers) is a judgmental religious conservative, with traditional views about a woman's role. Berating Casey's domestic skills, Mrs. Kennedy laments, "A woman doesn't run out of detergent." She later snaps at Casey, "I asked you for one thing. Do not soil my son out of wedlock."
Mrs. Kennedy is so straight-laced, maybe she's intended as a PC swipe at "religious hypocrisy"? But Bite offers no instances of her hypocrisy and her judgments are accurate. When she learns that Casey is pregnant, she accuses, "I know that is not my son's child in you." And she's right.
If Mrs. Kennedy is sour and suspicious (aren't most movie Christians?), she has good reason. She herself is a victim of her ex-husband's adultery, as she reminds Jared. Jared insists that Casey is different, but his religious conservative mom is right. Casey is a skank. Mrs. Kennedy is also right to try and evict Casey, whose monstrous transformation kills the innocent. As with the Fall, the effects and injuries of sin extend beyond the sinner.
After everyone is dead, fresh bugs burst from Jared's corpse. In the final scene, two young woman are jogging in Canada, discussing one woman's upcoming trip to the tropical paradise of Costa Rica. We don't know if she plans to travel alone, or how she hopes to enjoy herself down there. But a bug bites her leg.
Thomas M. Sipos's books include Horror Film Aesthetics: The Visual Language of Fear. He lives in Los Angeles and has a website: http://www.CommunistVampires.com