When Laurel (Nicole Maines) agreed to crash on her brother’s couch, she never thought she’d be getting involved with vampires.
Take away stakes, holy water, and sunlight from vampire lore, and what do you have left? This is what Brad Michael Elmore aims to find out in his new film, Bit, about a gang of female vampires who have all the perks of living with fangs and none of the weaknesses. By making it so that fire is the only thing that can hurt them (a universal killer, rather than something vampire-specific), Elmore sands the vampire down until all that’s left is power and gender politics.
New to California, and freshly graduated from high school, Laurel has the summer to try and figure out what she wants to do with her life. Her first night in LA she goes to a concert with her brother (James Paxton) but ends up ditching him for some strangers, led by the unnerving Duke (Diana Hopper). It’s a decision that will change Laurel’s life forever, as she wakes up to find bite marks and a choice she needs to make.
Duke’s Vamp Club has three rules, but the main one is no turning guys into vampires. Duke says they can’t handle having special abilities and, like all broad generalizations, there’s some prejudice there, but there’s also cause, in a storyline similar to Jessica Jones.
While the film doesn’t make a fuss about it, Bit breaks ground by having a trans vampire as the lead. Played by Maines, who last year became the first trans superhero on TV (Dreamer on The CW’s Supergirl), Laurel never has to spell out that’s she trans with a speech or grand statement. Her friends and family already know, before the film starts, and Elmore trusts viewers to figure it out.
From the moment Laurel picks her nose while driving to LA, Bit strives for something realer than the average film. It’s a private moment – something you wouldn’t want seen but might do when nobody’s watching – but by playing it honestly, Maines makes you forget the camera is there. Hopper, for her part is amazing with a prop. There’s a reason cinema has moved away from this image in recent years, but smoking hasn’t looked this cool since Lauren Bacall in her movies, and the way Duke takes her time with every cigarette. It’s the one thing that can kill her and she keeps it close at hand.
Then again, Elmore’s vampires are a colder breed than most. Especially if you’re accustomed to TV’s guilt-ridden vampires, the girls’ lack of moral quandary when it comes to murder takes some getting used to, if you ever do. Even when you accept it from Duke and the others, Laurel you expect to be different, yet Elmore doesn’t write her to be above criticism. While she’s not eager to kill, she’s not agonizing over it either and, despite needing blood to feed, Elmore doesn’t make it seem urgent. All in all, the result is an inventive vampire film that isn’t afraid to let characters make unlikable choices.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★