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Dead Bite
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by Jay Seaver

"Hip-hop horror, with an extra Thai twist."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's actually a pretty fun movie inside "Dead Bite" doing all it can to get out, and it could be just as happily trashy as the one we got. After all, it's got a charismatic-enough lead (and director, and co-writer) in Thai rapper JoeyBoy, a potentially fun ensemble in his group Gancore Club, and all the other ingredients for B-movie fun: Bikini girls, gleefully bloody mayhem, and fun monsters. The beautiful Thailand scenery doesn't hurt at all. But, wow, does it get away from him.

For those of us not hooked up to Thailand's hip-hop scene, JoeyBoy (given name Apisit Opasaimlikit) is the frontman for Gancore Club, and as the movie starts (well, after a framing sequence), they're a little dissatisfied with their last concert, as only ghosts showed up. Their manager attempts to placate them with a music video shoot on the coast with plenty of pretty girls in bikinis, but when they take a boat out to Mermaid Island... Well, things go bad, as they've got a group of savages in the forest led by apparently-immortal Payee (Lakana Wattanawongsiri) and aquatic zombies coming from the sea.

As I said, I don't know anything about Gancore Club, and I suspect that the movie plays a whole lot better for fans. There's a half-dozen or so members in the group, and the filmmakers don't do a whole lot to establish characters and personae for newcomers like me. JoeyBoy seems confident but kind of shy for a big hip-hop star; Golf's a big guy with a big personality; and... uh, Teng likes fishing. They're a likable enough crew - even non-fans will enjoy them well enough - and I imagine if they're your favorite band, seeing them chased by monsters or getting turned into zombies probably makes things a lot more fun.

And things are fairly fun already. JoeyBoy knows what the paying customers are coming to the theater to see, and cheerfully supplies as much as he can (in Thailand, that's apparently buckets of blood and as much leering at busty, scantily-clad girls as is possible without showing a nipple). The hordes that Gancore has to deal with are both cool threats - you really can't go wrong with spears and arrows flying from the woods, especially when there are sea-zombies awaiting if you retreat toward the water, and the limited time those guys can last on dry land makes the weather a big factor. JoeyBoy also does a surprisingly good job on the big action scenes; there is stuff going on all over the beach and he gives us a good look at it all instead of trying to fake it with close-ups and fast-cutting.

That said, he's awfully raw in some areas. The movie slows to a crawl between action scenes on the island, and swings wildly between cheeky self-referentiality and attempts to be serious that the cast can't carry at all. He's so enthusiastic in spilling blood and making zombies early on that he has to maroon another group of tourists on the island later on (you've got to pace yourself!). A framing sequence is returned to several times and doesn't pay off as well as you'd hope.

"Dead Bite" is a fun midnight movie, no question. Seen on video, mid-day, without a crowd, it may come off a little too much like writer/director/producer/star JoeyBoy pouring the disorganized images of "stuff that would make a cool movie" onto film in raw form than a real cohesive thing, but still a reasonably good time.

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originally posted: 09/12/12 12:55:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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