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DEAD BITE belongs to a very small sub-subset of Asian horror
in which rock/pop bands play themselves and fight zombies. If you liked WILD
ZERO, chances are you’ll enjoy this one too.
Not only does Thai hiphop group Gancore Club star in DEAD
BITE (making its international premiere tonight and also playing Wednesday at
the New York Asian Film Festival), their
lead singer Joey Boy directed and co-scripted too. We first meet him on screen
via a framing device in which he’s trapped in a dark, confined, slimy place,
explaining his plight to a wrong-number caller on his cell phone. Flash back to
assorted band shenanigans (presented, like a good deal of what follows, as
camcorder footage), before the Gancore boys are offered another gig on an
island off the Thai coast. They’re at first reluctant, but are quickly
convinced to make the trip by the promise of…“bikinis!!!” And so it comes to
pass, as a bevy of hot girls—the most prominent of whom is named
“Bowling”—joins Gancore and their entourage, modeling an assortment of skimpy
swimsuits. Exploitation fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for more skin than
that, though; DEAD BITE’s sex content is largely tease.
The horror element is more aggressive, and it begins not
long after Gancore Club and co. have come ashore on Mermaid Island, where
numerous boats are rumored to have disappeared. They find out why when they’re
attacked on the beach from both sides: hatchet- and hammer-wielding savages
charge at them from the forest, while strange undead creatures arise from the
water to take bites out of them. To this point, DEAD BITE has been a
loose-limbed, at least partially improvised-seeming romp, but this lengthy
scene is quite well-staged by its neophyte director, who ups its dramatic
impact by having a sudden storm blow in (a gambit he uses during the climactic
action as well). By an extraordinary coincidence, only the key members of
Gancore Club survive to flee to a mountaintop, and try to figure out how to
survive and make it to safety.
Zombie fans may also be a little disappointed by what
follows, since the ghouls figure less into the plot than do the vicious
natives, who worship a mermaid goddess. DEAD BITE turns out to be a more
disciplined movie than one might expect; rather than anything-goes craziness
throughout, it attempts to develop an actual plot, complete with backstory
explained by flashbacks and the arrival of a couple of additional characters.
There are plenty of goofy moments and one-liners (some of them pretty funny)
throughout, including several self-referential quips such as “That’s like
B-grade horror movies,” but also a number of scenes that are played
straight-faced, as when the survivors take turns taping farewell messages to
their loved ones.
A tone of solemnity is never allowed to hold for long, of
course, before someone’s tripping on magic mushrooms or being threatened with
death. And getting back to the zombie thing: The undead have become such a
familiar, consistent presence in international genre cinema that DEAD BITE
deserves some credit from sidelining them a bit and trying something a little
different. It’s not a transcendently outrageous experience like WILD ZERO (or
RAW FORCE, with which it shares some basic similarities), but DEAD BITE is
worth a look for the midnight-movie-inclined; having viewed it on a screener, I
can say that you can easily add half a skull to the rating below if you see it
with an enthusiastic theatrical crowd. And it merges the pop-music and horror
genres successfully enough to make one wonder why nobody’s tried such a thing
in America. When are we going to get to watch, say, One Direction get attacked
by the living dead?
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