Judge Gordon Sullivan thinks chastity needs braces for Chastity Overbites.
The mean girls have met their match.
If you've got an axe to grind, telling a story in a high school setting can be a great way to say your piece. A film like Heathers takes on the costs of conformity by focusing on high school love. Saved! looked at Christianity, peer pressure, and teen pregnancy by setting things in a high school. There are, of course, more realistic examples (think John Hughes), but high school seems especially suited to less realistic takes on the world (hello, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Chastity Bites is another in a long line of high school films that add a little twist to the usual formula, this time poking fun at abstinence only education by putting a vampire in high school. For fans of the horror genre, high school flicks, or teen comedies, Chastity Bites is a fun ride.
In the world of Chastity Bites, Countess Elizabeth Bathory didn't die imprisoned for her crimes (which included draining the blood of virgins to keep herself young) in 1614. Instead, she (Louise Griffiths, The Revenant) survives, and in the twenty-first century she still needs a fresh supply of virgins to keep herself looking and feeling young. Her bright idea is to become a counselor at a school in a Red state, offering abstinence-only education to teens. This ensures a fresh supply of young virgins until nosy high schooler Leah (Allison Scagnetti) gets suspicious, as her best friend appears to be lured into Liz's promises of a virginal life.
Chastity Bites wears its politics on its sleeve. There's no doubt that the filmmakers want us to think that people are empowered through knowledge and facts, and that strong female characters are to be valued. Abstinence-only education, and its conservative foundations, are mocked, as are those who would bully others or not allow the expression of sexuality.
Chastity Bites, however, is not a negative movie in any sense, ranting about the terrors of patriarchal oppression. Instead, though it definitely pokes fun at purity myths, it spends much more of its time promoting a good example rather than point out all the bad ones. Leah is our heroine, and the film's good example. She's smart, inquisitive, and loyal to her friends. The film hangs much of its success on her, and by casting a likable actress and giving her an interesting character to play the film keeps a focus on the good.
Perhaps more importantly, though the film deals with mature themes and difficult problems, it does so with levity and wit. Chastity Bites is a horror-comedy hybrid, but it's definitely leaning towards the latter. Jokes and one-liners abound, with some of them rivaling the genre classics (I'm thinking here especially of Heathers, which I quote at least weekly). This levity keeps the film from being a downer, and might even win over those not disposed to like a critique of abstinence-only education. The film is also willing to poke fun at itself, including a number of obviously stereotypical characters to further the jokey atmosphere.
The film's DVD is pretty good. The films 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is solid. Detail is pretty good, colors are okay, and black levels are consistent. It's not the greatest-looking film, but given the budget this is a fine presentation. The film's 5.1 audio track is similarly good. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and there's a bit of surround activity in some scenes. It won't test your home theater setup, but it serves the film. Extras include a 14-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and the film's trailer.
Horror-comedies always run into the problem of being either too scary or too funny (unless they're perfect, like Evil Dead II). Chastity Bites definitely falls into the comedy camp. There are definitely horror elements (as most would expect from a vampire-driven premise), but they're more to get the plot moving than to carry the point of the film. Those looking for a film more like Ginger Snaps, which touched on some of the same feminist themes but with more overt horror, will be disappointed. The humor is also a bit dry, so those looking for slapstick guffaws might be equally disappointed.
It's also possible that the film bites off more than it can chew—a number of very significant social issues are brought up by the film, and that can make the focus wander occasionally. A show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer can get away with handling so many themes because of its weekly format, but when Chastity Bites strays from the main point of, well, chastity and female empowerment, it loses a bit of steam.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Grand Entertainment
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