Outspokenly Feminist and Queer Bit (2020) Sinks Fangs into Vampiric Horror
After graduating high school, Laurel decides to visit her brother in Los Angeles for the summer before deciding what to do with her life. There, she falls into a seedy underground world of an all-girl gang of vampires, chauvinist vampire hunters, and demons from one of her new friend’s pasts. Laurel has to decide if she can stomach the rules and reality of her new life. Bit is a comedic coming-of-age film written as a love letter for queer women and generation Z.
The story behind Bit is charming. Laurel, played by Nicole Mains, is an 18-year-old trans woman struggling to find herself after leaving home. The introduction to a new environment that is fast-paced, fun, and above all, accepting is a transcendental experience for her. The most exciting aspect of Bit is how unapologetically queer it is written. Both roles of sexuality and gender are fluid, which makes for a story that rarely gets told in this genre. While I found some of the comedy hit or miss and the dialogue cringy at times, there was a lot of heart behind Bit. My one gripe is that several subplots are introduced only not to receive a proper resolution.
Bit shines through its dynamic cast of interesting characters. Mains glides through Bit with deadpan charm and panache that admittedly sometimes comes across as flat, but more often brings a different flavor of leading lady to the quirky teen horror-comedy film. Diana Hopper, who plays Duke, presents a brash foil to Laurel’s blasé naivety. Where Mains brings the lightning, Hopper brings the thunder, as much of Bit is a twisted tango of battling for power and control between the two vampire’s way of thinking, Duke is driven by a desire for retribution and revenge. Both give solid performances. Outside of these two characters, however, the rest of the cast is given paper-thin traits so they can pop up in the background every now and then. This is disheartening because the potential of the ensemble is wasted.
Dripped in an electric, graffiti-coated, punk aesthetic, Bit exudes the boldness of the countercultures that inspires it. The set design is truly inspiring. I could feel myself yearning to buy a ticket to LA just to bask in the glow of the bar lights of our heroines’ den. Accompanying its eye-candy design is the wonderfully eclectic and fun soundtrack. It gives Bit a euphoric feeling that catapults viewers into Laurel’s world. Bit is an immersive experience that utilizes sounds and design to turn LA into a teenage escapist utopia.
The technical execution of Bit is pretty standard. Bit does not do anything showy or interesting. The editing was clear, the sound was fine, and the effects were solid. One scene where two characters are flying definitely elevated a scene, pun very much intended, was easily my favorite. It captured the raw spirit and energy of a teenager learning to fly on their own for the first time, which is clearly rooted in some familiar symbolism about being on your own. This moment really cements Bit’s appeal. The only eye-rolling effects involved glowing eyes, which were onscreen for all of five seconds. Everything else felt grounded and believable.
The direction of Bit leads something to be desired. Oftentimes, it felt rushed and frantic; we are constantly hopping from one subplot to another, never really getting a chance to breathe or process what just happened. This also takes away from what could have been scarier sequences in the film. This leads to the next issue: tonal inconsistency. Bit is an amorphous experience where the buildup to every emotion is subdued by the buildup of another emotion. We are regularly set up for a punchline that turns dark only for things to get philosophical. Maybe this echoes the teen experience, maybe it doesn’t. I can’t tell for sure, but regardless it was not my taste.
Ripe with commentary on what it means to be a teen girl coming of age in America right now, Bit stumbles yet also strides with its ideas on how to make the world a better place. Surface level feminism is baked deep into the plot and dialogue of Bit, never really going deeper than man versus woman, which is ironic given the diverse cast of characters that could have led to a more intersectional approach. Ultimately, many ideas on empowerment felt tired. Conversely, Bit does an excellent job of breaking down power and power structures. It is fascinating to see Laurel come to terms with her newfound powers and seek to share it, rather than yield it for her own benefit or the benefit of an elite group of peers. It is poetic and cathartic and a great lesson to amplify.
There is room to say that Bit could have been improved in some regards while still honoring the importance it has for queer women. Bit is only the beginning in what I am sure will be a long line of teen-centric horror films to fully embrace LGBTQ characters in central roles. Bit is decently made and will hopefully find its niche audience someday. I recommend giving it a watch either if you enjoy horror films aimed at a younger audience or if you want to support art featuring a community that hardly gets representation in the genre. While an important film, Bit lacks the bite to be a staple in the subgenre of teen coming-of-horror films.
Overall Score? 6/10