Chastity Bites (2013) d. John V. Knowles (USA)
In the small conservative southwestern community of San Griento, life is its own particular brand of hell for fiery liberal high school student Leah (Allison Scagliotti, Warehouse 13) and her demure bosom buddy Katharine (Francia Raisa, Secret Life of the American Teenager), being the constant butt of taunts and jokes from the popular clique of chicks dubbed “the Hiltons.” But there’s a much more serious threat on the horizon in the form of Liz Batho (Louise Griffiths, The Revenant), a newly arrived and seemingly radical extremist seeking to promote abstinence among the fairer sex. The new spiritual leader soon has the town – and Katharine – wrapped around her immaculately manicured and suspiciously youthful fingers, even as exclusively virginal bodies start piling up in her wake.
The notorious 16th Century “blood countess” Elizabeth Bathory (yes, you figured that out, didn’t you, precious pups?) has been the subject of numerous screen scares, including Hammer’s Countess Dracula (1971) starring the inimitable Ingrid Pitt. One of history’s most notorious serial killers, Bathory’s reported victims numbered in the hundreds, mostly young girls in whose blood she was rumored to have bathed in order to preserve her beauty. Ripe material for budding horrormeisters, and it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for someone to transplant the sexy sanguinarian into a high school setting.
Comparisons are inevitable given the setting and the subject matter, but it’s fairly clear that first-time feature screenwriter/producer Lotti Pharriss Knowles has been inspired by another girl-power icon. That said, viewers might be a little surprised regarding the lack of Buffy Vampire Slaying on hand – though Liz does achieve her eternal youth through the application of virgin blood, there are no fangs or even nibbles to be found, making the title a bit of a puzzler.
However, other classic vamp trappings are present, including three desperate housewives – the mothers of the Hiltons – who allow themselves to become the Countess’ “brides” in order to literally save their sagging skins. It’s up to would-be Van Heslings Leah and her sensitive man-crush Paul (Eduardo Rioseco) to expose the truth before the un-tapped Katharine is tapped out.
There are a few other quibbles to be had – the Google search epiphany as to Liz’s true identity is a bit of a head-smacker and some of the teens’ snippy quippy “hip” dialogue is often OMG and not in a good way – but overall, this is a well-shot and lively horror comedy that buys itself a lot of goodwill thanks to Griffiths’ classy and sexy siren turn, a truly inspired foot job, and enough pop culture references and assorted Whedon-isms to satisfy the Buffy faithful. Plus, Stuart Gordon shows up for a cameo as Scagliotti’s harried school newspaper editor, so extra credit points!
Chastity Bites is now available on DVD (which includes an amiable making-of doc with the cast and crew, along with the official theatrical trailer) from Grand Entertainment Group and can be found at most major retailers, including Amazon.com.
Official website HERE
--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine