The historical character Elizabeth Bathory (or Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed if we’re being formal) has appeared in many, many films over the years. The macabre history of the most infamous female serial killer of all time has inspired a multitude of writers and filmmakers, and stories of her sadistic crimes have gained an almost mythical nature through the ages. Chastity Bites is the latest of those films from husband and wife production team John Knowles and Lotti Pharriss Knowles.
Set in the heart of Republican America the film focuses on the local high school where mysterious stranger Liz Batho (Louise Griffiths) sets up a new female empowerment club concerned with vaginal awareness and the protection of innocence. This group promotes abstinence and is soon popular with the school clique of “mean girls” who see it more as a way of getting connected as virginity is not high on their list of priorities, or that of their jock boyfriends.
Aspiring journalist and social outcast Leah (Allison Scagliotti) is immediately suspicious of Liz and vows to get to the truth, especially when her only real friend Katharine (Francia Raisa) is drawn in by Liz’s promise filled words. There are many different themes and references in Chastity Bites and possibly too many.
The first thing to say is that the politics on display are not overly subtle but this is not meant as a negative. This is without doubt a film that promotes feminism and strong female characters but does so in a way that it doesn’t feel like these views are being rammed down your throat. This is very much a female led production but within this are still some of the same stereotypes you find in many teen slasher films.
The filmmakers appear to be poking fun at these familiar horror tropes while at the same time having an intelligent heroine with a voice. There are actually only two male characters of any significance; one being the Renfield-like servant of Liz and the other being there for the most part as Leah’s love interest. Other references in Chastity Bites vary from anti-bullying messages to commentary on suppressed sexuality and while obvious at the time they are skimmed over fairly quickly in favour of a decent one liner, and this is definitely a good thing.
Chastity Bites is without doubt a witty film. There is some extremely clever writing and the delivery of dialogue from the cast, especially the excellent Scagliotti who gets most of the good stuff, is tone and timing perfect. The shame though, and this may seem harsh, is that this humour is that of dry wit rather than laugh out loud funny and is arguably not quite enough to sustain the film as a comedy. When this is combined with the fairly tame levels of gore, Chastity Bites falls a little between two points.
In the end this is a good fun film if approached with the right attitude. Chastity Bites is a Friday night in to be enjoyed with a few drinks and a takeaway in the company of like minded friends. The intelligence of the filmmakers is clear and while this may not be wholly successful it does indicate exciting things are to come.