Bite Marks (2011) – By Cary Conley

A gay couple, Cary and Vogel, are backpacking cross-country to "reconnect" with each other. Along the way, they hitch a ride with Brewster, a homosexual-in-hiding (we see him trying to consummate an affair with his brother’s wife with poor results), who is driving a tractor trailer. Brewster thinks he’s delivering a load of empty coffins; what he doesn’t realize is that he is actually delivering coffins that contain vampires. The three young men find themselves trapped in the cab of the truck, fighting to stay alive until dawn.

Bite Marks is a gay horror comedy film, or rather a comedy horror film, as the emphasis is more on laughs than on gore or scares. While the homosexual aspect of the film could be a draw for some, and the vampire theme for others, perhaps the biggest coup for director Mark Bessenger was the addition of Stephen Geoffreys, famed for his role as Evil Ed in the original Fright Night (1985). Geoffreys enjoyed a brief modicum of fame in the mid- to late-eighties in several low-budget thrillers, beginning with his biggest hit Fright Night, and continuing with The Chair and 976-EVIL (both 1988), and Moon 44 (1990), in addition to starring turns in the eighties television shows, Amazing Stories and The Twilight Zone. Geoffreys, who is gay himself, then turned to gay hardcore films where he has found steady work for two decades. He is now experiencing a small resurgence of popularity in mainstream film and has appeared in several low-budget horror films over the past few years. Unfortunately, Geoffreys’ character is limited to two tiny near-walk-on scenes, so fans of Geoffreys will likely be disappointed.

This leaves the vampires and the comedy to entertain the audience. The comedy is of the frat-house variety and ranges from giggle-inducing to plain flat. My favorite bit actually contained no dialogue and consisted of seeing one of the main characters in a sports team short (such as a small-town softball league team would wear), identifying him as a member of the "Swallows." There were a few other bits that put a smile on my face, but most of the humor was sophomoric and lame.

Which leaves only the vampires as entertainment. Bessenger, who also wrote the film in addition to directing chores, gamely attempts to make a few new spins on what has become a tired genre. One of the best bits is when one of the young men drinks some holy water and then has to urinate. He cracks the truck door a bit and commences to relieve himself right in a vampire’s face. The vampire starts screaming and smoking, presumably because the kidneys don’t filter out the "holiness" of the water. That scene was unique and funny. Bessenger also tries to throw in a bit about mirrors and vampires having the ability to force their victim to see what they want them to see (for instance, the truck driver sees a beautiful girl while the two gay hitchhikers see a man), but it is ultimately confusing and doesn’t contribute much to the plot.

Bessenger is obviously a horror film fan and throws plenty of homages and quips about films into Bite Marks. This is dangerous territory as the results, while often smart and funny (as in Shaun of the Dead), can also fall flat if the references are either too broad or too obscure. This is the case with many of the references in Bite Marks. Many fans will "get" the appearance of Stephen Geoffreys in a vampire film. They may also "get" the obvious reference to Fright Night and the irony that Geoffreys ends up a vampire (again) in a film. But his final comment, "You’re so cool, Brewster"–or the fact that one of the characters is named Brewster in a direct homage to Fright Night–may be a bit obscure for most fans. There are plenty of other references to horror films, like Dawn of the Dead and the argument that the remake is inferior to the original, even without the "blue zombies", that are played for laughs and end up falling flat. Another case in point is a discussion the characters have about how to kill vampires. One character references a vampire film where the vampire is killed by lightning while the other pokes fun at his friend for even thinking that Mother Nature could destroy something that is undead. But soon after, a stray bolt of lightning–that comes from a clear sky–does strike and destroy one of the vampires. This is intended to be funny, but it really just produces a good bit of eye rolling on the part of the audience.

Technically, the film is excellent. The lighting, sound, and cinematography are all very good. Even the acting isn’t atrocious and is played for campy fun. The soundtrack composed by Rossano Gallante is a highlight and is quite good and very effective. My favorite part of the film is the animated opening credit sequence designed by Jovani Olivares. It is funny and highly entertaining and alone is worth the price of admission.

If you don’t mind campy fun with lowbrow humor and plenty of bad references to horror films, Bite Marks may be a good way to spend a rainy Saturday night. The film is being released by Breaking Glass Pictures. More information can be found at breakingglasspictures.com.