The goal of any self-respecting horror movie director is to provoke a reaction. Chad Archibald’s new film, however, has induced a reaction far more physical than he could’ve anticipated.
“I could tell from being on set and seeing how well the crew reacted to the gross shots when we filmed them that the audience was going to get a treat,” Archibald says.
“A treat” is one way to put it. When the director’s new Grand Guignol opus, Bite, premiered recently at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, some people threw up in the theater and others passed out, prompting an ambulance dispatch. Archibald’s team had distributed novelty barf bags bearing the film’s title throughout the theater, but nobody thought they would actually get any usage. Perhaps it was the power of suggestion, or perhaps the movie actually is just that gut-punchingly disgusting.
“I wanted the film to be gross, but I had never planned on it being such a factor in the actual release,” Archibald says. “A few people got sick during the premiere, which was a shock to me. As the credits rolled, the festival director showed me a picture of an ambulance outside picking up a guy who fainted in the theater and hit his head. We also had someone puke in an aisle. As soon as I heard everyone was okay, I went, ‘Wow, I think we definitely made it gross enough.’”
Bite tells the story of a woman who gets bitten by an exotic bug during a tropical bachelorette party and gradually turns into a bug-like creature herself. Think Kafka, but with all the existential ennui replaced by body horror and viscous egg sacs. Over the course of the movie, the lead character, Casey, goes through a transformation that eventually required the actor who plays her, Elma Begovic, to be in makeup for four to five hours at a time. It does not go well for her or those in her circle. Considering how gross the movie gets, though, it might be a bit of a surprise that the revulsion factor doesn’t come from more straightforward blood and guts.
Archibald, a huge fan of the Alien movies, wanted to emulate the way those creatures were always coated in dripping slime. To that end, he made sure that Casey’s transformation involves more forms of fluid and eggs than any stable stomach would be able to handle unperturbed.
“I never had a gross-out goal in mind,” he says. “Things like fish eggs really gross me the hell out, and I wanted to put that on screen. I showed the film to a few friends near the end of post-production, and it wasn’t until then that I really realized how gross the film really was. I think from filming in the goo and eggs every day, I became immune to the gross-out factor of it all.”
As for Internet accusations that the ambulance and theater vomiting are pure PR stunts, Archibald brushes those off like annoying bugs.
“I laughed when I saw someone write that online,” he says, “because the ambulance that picked the guy up who hit his head was 10 times better than the makeshift ambulance we had for the movie.”
Hopefully, readers won’t need any kind of assistance after reading Archibald’s breakdown below of the disturbingly large amount of awful fluids used in the movie. Please wait at least one hour after your last meal before going any further.
“At one point when I was writing the script, I was watching so many disgusting insect videos that I would have to limit the time I spent on it in a day, or I would just feel gross well into the night,” Archibald says. “There are so many amazing insects out there and so many new ones being discovered every year. Each one with unique attributes and many of them secreting some sort of crazy liquid or poison. I basically just designed Casey from a hybrid of my most interesting insect finds.”
Thick Viscous Vomit
Toward the beginning of the film, this is her body trying to fight the infection, but it eventually just becomes a base mucus for the hive.
Basically, it’s her insect instincts creating a wet mucus that would help keep her eggs moist. Many insects lay eggs and secrete fluids all around them until they hatch. This is basically what Casey is doing. She’s creating a moist hive for her eggs. It’s the insectual instincts taking over.
Auburn Leg Pus
This was meant to be a mucus-like discharge that the human body would create with an infection. It was probably the most natural human byproduct of this bug bite.
This is basically the yellow mucus once it’s dried. It would drip and become web-like as it solidified.
Red Egg Fluid
Any time there’s reds in the fluids, it was meant to be her human side. It’s her blood melding with the eggs/goo. There’s very little blood in this film, but I wanted it to come through somehow.
Blue Sticky Fluid
This is based off of a weird beetle in Japan that would spray out this blue sticky substance into the mouths of its attackers, and it would not only become very hard but its fumes would suffocate them. It’s pretty crazy.
Thick White Mouth Drool
This was just a moistening agent. It also causes paralysis. This white liquid appears a few times in the movie, but I don’t want to drop any spoilers.