Lyric Review: ‘Bite Me’ bites off more than it can chew

Ty Davis

Editor’s note: There will be spoilers for “Bite Me.”

Movies like “Bite Me” sadden me because of the missed opportunities. For all its unique contributions to cinema and focus on often overlooked facets of our lives, the film’s failure to live up to its full potential by overlooking fundamentals of fiction writing is what makes it semi-tragic.

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“Bite Me” follows the life of Sarah, a woman who believes she and her roommates are vampires (though not a supernatural kind) because of their fixation and supposed health need for consuming human blood. When one of their community members goes on live television and debuts the existence of their sub-community, the group then finds out the IRS is auditing their religious organization tax status due to public attention. When auditor James is assigned the case, he begins to investigate the Church of Twilight when he starts to develop romantic feelings for Sarah.

It’s important to know where the movie succeeds first. Naomi Jones, who both wrote the screenplay and plays Sarah, clearly has a good eye for character motivation, creating characters with psychological complexity and interpersonal relationships. There’s an inherent understanding that these characters have a lot more going than what is on the surface.

It’s clear Jones wrote these characters with psychological well-being in mind. These characters are not motivated by an external goal or some idea of purpose; they’re motivated by needs, wants and the maintenance of their own personal well-being. It lends a certain realness to the way characters interact with each other.

“Bite Me” is playing at The Lyric Cinema. 

(Spoilers)

One of the largest reasons why the story just does not work is the lack of any real suspense or tension in the story. One of the central questions is if James will approve the vampires’ status as a religious group, but that question loses all suspense when James immediately confirms his romantic interest in Sarah. There’s no “will he or won’t he” tension brought on by the ambiguity of their relationship, thus there’s no real worry that he’s going to disapprove their religious tax status.

It may seem like having James be so sure of this relationship for so long would be perfect for when he actually does deny their status, but it actually worsens the situation. It does not make the scene shocking as much as it does confusing, and it’s unclear why he would so readily deny them their status when he did not try to find some way out of the situation first.

If, hypothetically, James had not rushed into a relationship with Sarah and instead their relationship had developed over time while James had to choose between a life with Sarah and his own mundane life, then it would be a genuine conflict that would drive interest in the story. Not to mention it would make for a much stronger scene when he does deny their religion status because it would relate to one of the central conflicts of the story. The audience would have just been lulled into a sense of security by them just entering a relationship, and the quick turn in direction would have felt more impactful.

This problem in tensions stems from another major issue with the film. Though the characters are expressive, they lack thematic depth, or to put it simply, the characters are not fulfilled or expounded upon enough to create full thematic journeys. Basically, anything related to the characters is either not explained enough or the audience has to assume for themselves. 

Does James take after his father in some way and that is why he craves a sense of adventure? Why does James seek oddity in his life? Does Sarah try to use James initially but then is charmed by him in some way? Or does Sarah see in James some semblance of a normal, sturdy life and that’s why she’s so infatuated with him? Does Sarah not actually care about being seen as a vampire and really just wants a sense of community more personal to her sense of identity? You won’t actually know the answer to any of these questions because the film is not at all preoccupied with giving any sort of answer.

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This is what makes “Bite Me” so frustrating; you see the potential that isn’t being fulfilled when it’s so close. It’s akin to looking at a connect the dots picture. You can see what the full image is supposed to be, but only some of the connections are made, leaving an image only a fraction of what it could be.

Ty Davis can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or Twitter @tydavisACW.