Bite Me (2019) Review

Sarah (Naomi McDougall Jones) is a real-life vampire who wants little else from life than her regular drink of blood and the chance to hang out with friends Chrissy (Naomi Grossman) and Lily (Mahira Kakkar).

Romance and financial trauma are the last things Sarah needs but the prospect of both suddenly looms large as her vampire church is audited by the IRS on suspicion of tax evasion and there’s a possible spark between her and James (Christian Coulson), the agent sent to dig into the accounts.

New York set romcoms are as common as vampire movies but there are fewer examples which combine the two and the more well known of these tends to lean into the silliness of the concept. In the case of Bite Me, it’s good to see that the wackiness is generally toned down and the more outlandish interludes, such as foremost vamp Stacz appearing on an MTV-style reality show called Freaks In Paradise, are at least in keeping with the alternative world building.

If you’re still hankering for the archetypal wacky friend of the lead, there’s one of sorts in Chrissy, played by Naomi Grossman, who gets to be the protective one as she throws suspicious looks and dialogue at James. She also gets to be the full-on vamp of the group, trying out temporary fangs, casting shade on “mundanes” (that’s non-vampires to you and me) and embracing the culture far more than the lower-key Sarah.

Did I use the term “lower key”? Well, Sarah’s about as low key as someone can be when they also happen to have a facial tattoo. It also sums up our lead’s personality perfectly, a rebellious streak that’s mainly covered by her want of a relatively quiet life. That doesn’t prevent her from taking James along to a vampire meeting, which is basically an excuse for a fine party featuring some superbly Goth AF couture.

In addition to the tax man, we’re also treated to a second, potential big bad (well, big-ish bad) in Faith, James’ religious colleagues who organises prayer meetings at her home and can’t wait to see Sarah’s charity the House Of Twilight (see what they did there?) go down for its nefarious tax-dodging evils. Wondering if there’s a scene in which vamps and virtuous throw down? Of course, there is.

Bite Me is, in many ways, your typical indie romance which avoids those enormous romantic gestures which look great on screen but leave the audience hollow in a “that would never happen” sort of way. Grounding its central couple in the mundane realities of life – going to work, paying bills – might sound like you’re in for a fairly dull time but the appealing combination of McDougall Jones and Coulson ensures it never seems like a chore.

There are interesting parallels between revealing you’re a vampire and coming out in other ways. Lily, one of Sarah’s roommates, talks about what it’s like to be a Muslim and a vampire and although this isn’t explored in detail, there’s a clear message about how it is to be different. It’s important that these differences are celebrated as part of the ongoing story and there’s no doubt that these are generally lovely people, even the unrelentingly spiky Chrissy.

The more satirical elements are almost inevitably soft-pedalled in favour of a more conventionally humorous “will they/won’t they” tale but the winning turns carry it through and in Naomi McDougall Jones it does possess a lead who is at least a step away from the norm for this kind of thing. That said, Sarah is so attractive as a person there is the usual suspension of disbelief required here. In real life, there would be a queue of folks wanting to date her.

Bite Me is a nice change of pace for both the horror fan that is looking for something a little lighter and fun, as well as the romcom aficionado who’s interested in something genre-adjacent that doesn’t turn into Martyrs along the way. Its fangs may not be as sharp as they could be but it left this hardened horror hound with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Take that as a recommendation or a warning – it’s your choice.

Movie Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 

Trailer:

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Darren Gaskell

Darren is a writing machine, producing content for a range of channels. You can catch more of his content at The Strange Colour Of Deej's Reviews and The Horrocist. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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