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February 14, 2014

Chastity Bites

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John V. Knowles - 2013
Grand Entertainment Group Region 1 DVD

This is one of those times when I figured I would venture a bit outside of my usual turf. And I know that I am far from the target audience for Chastity Bites, in part by virtue of having said goodbye to high school several decades ago. (Class of '69 if you must know, and don't bother with the jokes, we were already there with them.)

In a small, affluent community, Countess Bathory, in the guise of Liz Batho, shows up to encourage high school girls to preserve their virginity. What appears to be another program of promoting abstinence education is actually designed for the Countess to cultivate donors for one of her rejuvenating baths of blood. Meanwhile, school reporter Leah Ratcliff is trying to convince everyone that the town's foreign visitor is up to no good, much to the annoyance of almost everyone she encounters.

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What gets in the way here is that too much of the film is dependent on topical humor, the kind of stuff that might possibly be amusing during a brief moment in time, but is the kind of stuff that years later can befuddle a casual viewer. I can't entirely dismiss any movie where the boy and girl initial hook up with the discovery of shared admiration for Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex. I'd even be thrilled to know that someone who saw this film was inspired to do some reading of their own.

I don't know how tall Louise Griffiths is, but she towers over the rest of the cast, and virtually owns this movie as the visiting vampire. Sure, she speaks with her own British accent and never attempts to sound even faintly Hungarian, but her screen presence makes such details unimportant. Grittiths' regal bearing is such that it's never a question as to why everyone is in awe of her.

Writer Lotti Pharriss Knowles, wife of the director, may have a feminist agenda, but she also comes with an interesting group of credits, producing the documentaries Vito and I am Devine. She also appeared in something called The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen. More impressive is that when there is commercial pressure to dumb things down, the Knowles aren't afraid of letting the audience know that they've read a few books.

I will also admit that the first onscreen death took me by surprise. Even while grimacing to jokes about Rachel Maddow or the Kardashians, some of the horror elements were handled quite nicely. And I would hope that I wasn't the only one who laughed as that totally unexpected reference to Du Maurier and Hitchcock's Rebecca.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 14, 2014 07:04 AM