Spooky Movie Festival 2013: “Chastity Bites” Reviewed

Posted by Michael Parsons on October 25, 2013 in / No Comments


“Chastity Bites” is essentially an unfiltered pilot for a CW television series, which could be an entertaining diversion or a terrible annoyance, depending on your threshold for pop culture references and irreverent teen humor. Either way, this coming-of-age horror/comedy thing definitely needs some sort of a makeover.

In the meantime, though, you could do much worse than “Chastity”, which is imbued with enough confidence, humor and personality to feel more like an homage to than an imitation of its influences (Amy Heckerling and Joss Whedon seem at the forefront). Clever, pistol-quick dialogue from writer Lotti Pharriss Knowles is the film’s undeniable strong point, though her all-too-obvious, all-too-familiar social commentary exacerbates some creative lulls. However, one major plot point is completely counterintuitive to the tropes of this particular sub-genre: promiscuity might actually save you from an untimely and gruesome demise.

chastity-726x248As it goes for the Virginity Action Group (I’ll let you work out the acronym) at San Griento High School, it’s their pledge to remain chaste that brings that ironic death wish. A collective of conservative, mean-girl stereotypes led by Ashley (Amy Okuda) who are merely stifling their inner ho-bags for an ulterior motive, they’ll do just about anything to appease Liz (Louise Griffiths), the beautiful new abstinence counselor who runs the group. Little do they know that Liz, who has mysteriously sashayed into town and charmed the pants off all of their self-obsessed, collagen-lipped mothers and the frumpy, oblivious school principal, is really 400-year-old serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, an evil countess who needs their virginal plasma to maintain her vitality.

Outsider Leah (Allison Scagliotti), the film’s focal character, is a cynical, uber-feminist journalist for the school paper who suspects something’s amiss, while her bestie Katharine (the obviously gorgeous Francia Raisa playing the acne-plagued “ugly duckling”) gets lured into Liz’s web. After Leah puts the pieces together with a couple of quick Google searches and the assistance of Paul (Eduardo Rioseco), who also assists in her transition to womanhood (for safety reasons, of course), the movie culminates in one giant cliché that involves Liz’s bloody “botox” ritual and some awkwardly choreographed fighting. At that point, it’s tough to tell whether it’s reaching a new level of self-awareness or if it has just run out of ideas and is regressing to the requisite plot points of less intelligent, not-so-nuanced genre fare.

“Chastity Bites” seems like it has a lot to say about sex, social status and Republicans, but it observes these things almost as superficially as the reality shows it seems to condemn. I guess that’s called parody. And the horror element, which initially teases us with a “Fright Night” kind of quality, eventually fizzles. It’s okay, though. Director John V. Knowles keeps things fast-paced and fun while the blood-thirsty countess takes her sweet time getting down to business. I think if there’s one message to take away from this anti-cautionary tale, it’s not to take things too seriously.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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