Dir- John V. Knowles
Starring- Allison Scagliotti, Francia Raisa, Louise Griffiths, Eduardo Rioseco
UK DVD Release 20th April 2015 from Safecracker Pictures.
John V. Knowles’ CHASTITY BITES updates the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous and sadistic serial killing female who sacrificed many young virginal girls and bathed in their blood, in the belief that it would gain her eternal youth, and has taken this myth into the arena of the modern American high school, a place besieged by rampant hormones, clique groups and social politics of the classroom.
Leah (Scagliotti) is an aspiring journalist, feminist and social outclass, looked down upon by the popular bimbo clique of girls, yet still smart enough and clever to know what’s wrong with most things around her. This is put to the test when a mysterious female, Liz Batho (Griffiths), turns up at the high school offering her services to the parents to promote an abstinence group called V.A.G (Virginity Action Group), promoting chastity, to the pupils.
At first the clique of the popular girls join the cause, and soon Leah’s only friend, Katharine (Raisa) starts being drawn in by Batho’s seductive personality. Only with her budding investigative journalist skills at hand, that Leah starts to look into the background of Batho and discovers the true nature of her past, and the connection with the diabolical countess which leads her as the only one to put a stop to Batho, even if it means losing her own chastity.
Admittedly CHASTITY BITES has an enjoyable energy throughout, its sharp and witty, and spoofs the usual high school clichés, which gives it a slight edge that references other high school satires such as HEATHERS and MEAN GIRLS. Though this film is in more in common with HEATHERS as there is a more darker edge to the proceedings with the gore content, not explicit, but still there to offer some attraction to horror fans, and of course the use of the Bathory legend.
It also offers a unique spin on the slasher convention of the final girl, where this time the table is turned around, and Leah has to consider the possibility of going into the final confrontation with Batho, by having to lose her virginity, which is a nice twist on a familiar feminist theme picked up on in horror. In fact the film does have some strong female characters, with most of the male characters out of the picture with only Leah’s love interest (Rioseco) and Batho’s lumbering dumb assistant as the only men who appear in more than one scene.
This is not to say that this is a bad thing as the female roles are evenly handled and the feminist politics that Leah espouses is not hammered home to the viewer or made glaringly obvious, and this works as it makes any viewer of the film, male or female, relate and recognise with the characters, even though the strong female approach is apparent.
The film does have a witty script peppered some sharp dialogue and while some of this is funny, it’s not laugh out loud funny and some of the humour did become lost on me, making it seem quite hard to recognise whether what some of the actors where saying was meant to be funny or not and some of the dialogue spoken does have that annoying ring of dumb American high school girl talk that can grate on the nerves, and even seems a slight BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER esque approach to it.
Possibly it’s the director and the screenwriter trying to balance the humour with the horror, yet at times some of the sharp humour at the start of the film loses itself, and the pace of the story starts to meander towards the inevitable final confrontation scene and reveal, never really capturing the first part that worked well.
Performance wise Scagliotti is very good in her role and carry’s off the part with great confidence and creates an engaging enough character who predictably the audience will like. In fact most of the cast manage to have fun with their roles, particularly Griffiths as Batho, who strikes an excellent figure and presence, and I did like the fact that she was called European, yet has a clear upper English accent, though this could have been done deliberately to avoid having an actress having to put on a faux Transylvanian-English accent, that could end up sounding more like the Count from Sesame Street than Bela Lugosi in Dracula. Also horror fans should keep an eye out for a brief cameo from Stuart Gordon as a frustrated journalism tutor.
Overall the films is harmless enough fun, and comes off as something that lands in the middle between very good and very bad and ends up being, just good, which is not a bad thing as it delivers enough entertainment to hold horror fans attention and any fans of American high school comedy, making it a decent enough 90 minutes that won’t break new ground but in the end will deliver a fun and likeable genre crossover film.