Bite Marks (2011)

Description (from the IMDb):
Truck-driver Brewster takes over his missing brother’s delivery of a load of coffins to a funeral home. He picks up hitchhiking gay couple Cary and Vogel whose relationship is in trouble to help him stay awake but when his GPS leads them into a deserted junkyard, his truck breaks down, stranding them. Night falls, and the coffins reveal bloodthirsty vampires. Now the mismatched trio must barricade themselves in the cab of the truck and try to survive until dawn…

Major Cast:
Benjamin Lutz as Brewster, Windham Beacham as Cary, David Alanson as Vogel, Krystal Main as Chickula, Stephen Geoffreys as Walsh

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written and Directed by Mark Bessenger

Like zombie flicks, the vampire genre is one that has been making a solid comeback the last few decades.  And like zombie flicks, vampire movies each have their own sets of rules, their own ways of doing things.  I like the vampire genre – not as much as zombie flicks, but I have at least 15 bloodsucker titles in my collection, and I’m sure I’ve watched 3 or 4 times that amount over the years – and like the zombie genre, the thing that makes or breaks a vampire movie is its originality.  If you look up the keyword “vampire” on IMDb, there are 1639 titles marked, not to include the other 77 sub-keywords (like “lesbian-vampire,” “vampire-vs-vampire,” “nazi-vampire,” etc.) worth of vampire movies.  One of the many sub-genres listed is “gay-vampire,” and there are only 7 titles in that particular category (of course, the IMDb is in no way a fully comprehensive list of everything out there, but it’s the best I know of), and BITE MARKS is not listed there.  Which makes sense, and if you look at the keywords listed for BITE MARKS they include “gay” and “vampire” but not “gay-vampire” since the bloodsucker isn’t really gay, the prey is.

The comedic opening credits set the tone for BITE MARKS

Another shared characteristic between the zombie genre and the vampire genre is their ability to play in both the horror and comedy realms, sometimes both at the same time.  When filmmakers choose to go for horror-comedy, it is not the easiest task to accomplish.  If there is too much horror, the comedy seems out of place; if there is too much comedy, the horror elements are not actually scary.  It’s rare that a film can straddle the lines between the two successfully.  BITE MARKS tries, but does not complete that balancing act very well.

The plot of BITE MARKS revolves around three characters: Brewster, a disgraced truck driver that is called in to work when his brother fails to show up, and Cary & Vogel, a gay couple on the rocks who are trying to reconnect by hiking across the country.  Quickly their stories intersect, when Brewster picks up Cary & Vogel, because Vogel’s feet hurt and he doesn’t want to walk anymore.  Brewster happens to be carrying a load of coffins, and when the semi breaks down at a truck stop, they group finds out what the true payload is… a group of shirtless vampires.  Together the group must try to make it through the night without getting eaten by the pale pretty-boys (with the exception of the gore around their mouths) surrounding the cab of the truck.

I'm a scary vampire with a severed head!

BITE MARKS does a few interesting things with the genre.  First off, it has a bit of a SCREAM approach to things; once the guys realize that their wanna-be attackers are vampires, they wax intellectual about the vampire genre, talking about the fact that different movies have their own rules, what can kill a vampire, etc.  It also takes a different approach to the “mirror” trope; the vampire(s) can be seen in a mirror, but when you see them in a mirror they are seen as they truly are.  The bloodsucker is a bit of a psychic vampire, making the characters see what the vampire WANTS them to see, which while not completely original this was a nice, underused vampire power that worked well in BITE MARKS.  Unfortunately for me, all of the originality that the story did include was heavily overshadowed by other factors within BITE MARKS.

First off, BITE MARKS did not pull off the horror-comedy mix.  It is a comedy, and not really even that dark of a comedy, with some gore.  I was never scared for the characters at all, and the fact that there are scenes with very cheesy music and effects to emphasize the comedy elements made just feel that the filmmakers should not have tried to go scary at all.  The opening credits set the tone that BITE MARKS is a comedy, and there are reinforcements of this feeling throughout, so when there are scenes that are obviously supposed to be scary, they just felt really out of place.  Secondly, while the writing was pretty good, the acting was not up to snuff.  Vogel felt like the very stereotypical caricature of a gay guy that has been in so many movies before, and I was not at all (NOT AT ALL) surprised when sneaking a peek at Cary & Vogel in the throes of passion excites Brewster.  Not to say that I’ve got this incredibly accurate sense of “gaydar,” but it was pretty obvious right from the beginning that Brewster was playing for Cary & Vogel’s team.

Which one's the straight one?

On the technical side, there were good elements, and not-so-good elements.  The audio was well recorded and easy to hear, and the music was fitting and never too loud.  The production design and production scouting was successful; there were a lot of good locations in BITE MARKS and it never felt like the filmmakers had to try and dress up a set to look like something else, which is often a telling sign of a low-budget.  The video was very digital, and not nearly as crisp and clean as it could be.  This could be because it was not shot HD, this could be because of issues with either importing the video into editing software, or the final render from that editing software, but it was all too apparent that BITE MARKS was not a “film.”  The lighting was also a sore spot for me; some scenes had harsh, bright lighting that could not be explained by the environment the scene was inhabiting, and other scenes were way too dark.  Though, as a caveat to the lighting statement, there is a very nice orange light that is thrown across the group of vampires (as shown on the poster) that I really did like.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into BITE MARKS.  If it had gone full bore with the comedy aspects, I think it would have been a much more on-point flick, but by trying to make some parts truly scary, BITE MARKS missed.  It did have some interesting takes on the vampire genre, and for a gay themed film it was pretty restrained in its sexuality (except for Vogel, that character just screams “stereotypically gay and proud to have sex with any dude I can!”), but overall I just did not feel like it brought anything exceptional to the already heavily represented vampire genre, and it did not do anything for the burgeoning gay film scene.  Not a bad film; BITE MARKS just missed its mark.

Overall 5 / 10


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Bite Marks (2011)

One thought on “Bite Marks (2011)

  1. HBA Welcome Wagon…
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