Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chastity Bites - Or, The Young Feminist's Guide to Losing Your Virginity

I am so digging the influx of retro-style posters these days.
What can I say about Chastity Bites? Well, first off: any movie that gives old horror tropes a satirical bent has my attention. But more importantly: any movie that has characters reciting Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex like it’s a Shakespeare sonnet has my heart. Chastity Bites is self-aware horror comedy at, if not its best, then its most fun.

The plot centers on Leah Ratliff, a teenager and aspiring investigative journalist looking for a big story that will land her a college scholarship. She finds her story when an abstinence educator named Liz Batho arrives at Leah’s high school and forms the “Virginity Action Group” – a.k.a. “V.A.G.” Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows their history, Liz Batho turns out to be Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the murderess who killed hundreds of girls in the 1600s, supposedly to bathe in virgin blood and retain her youthful good looks. Ms. Batho’s scheme is to get as many young girls as possible to join V.A.G., thus allowing her access to an endless supply of virgins to slaughter.

It’s a clever conceit, and it seems everyone involved had a lot of fun with it. While some of the side characters are a bit too hammy – the housewives and the clique of “mean girls” vacillate between on-point, acerbic irony and exaggerated caricature – the leads are a perfect mélange of charming, witty, and entertaining. Allison Scagliotti as Leah in particular is charismatic as the lead, an earnest feminist who is both amusingly self-serious and admirably tenacious. She doesn’t for a moment buy Ms. Batho’s act, and quickly pegs her club as a “rightwing nutjob cult.”

But Ms. Batho is confident and, more importantly, beautiful, and she quickly has most of the town firmly in her clutches. Leah’s best friend, Katherine, is Leah’s prime foil; sweet but cursed with low self-esteem, Katherine easily gives in to the allure of Ms. Batho and everything she appears to represent. Thus, Leah is forced to get involved not just for the sake of her story, but for the sake of her loved ones.

In traditional horror movies, the heroine has to save herself for marriage in order to save herself from death, but the opposite is the case in Chastity Bites. Sure, it’s not the first time we’ve seen that old saw turned on its head – Scream’s Sydney Prescott was the original unchaste final girl, and it’s happened more than once since – but never has it been so blatantly, hilariously spelled out for us. It’s that brazen grin, rather than a sly smile, that makes Chastity Bites such a pleasure to watch.

Final Rating:

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