When people find out I write a blog about movies, naturally they ask questions about what kinds of movies I discuss. They may ask, “Do you write about the art of cinema?” or “Do you talk about the films of [insert artsy-fartsy director name here]?” or “You talk about that there Grinch movie from 2000??? I liked that movie somethin’ fierce!” Normally, it comes down to me saying I write about B-movies, and that I’ve done it almost 150 times. That usually spurns the question, “So… Can you explain what those movies that you watch are like?”
To which I can give only this response: “They Bite.”
Welcome to the 150th edition of B-Movie Enema!
You know, that is one hell of a milestone if I do say so myself. Just a few days ago, I turned 42 years old. So between a birthday and my 150th entry of my shitty movie blog, I guess I have nothing at all to celebrate. Just kidding. I am goddamn proud of my little blog and horrible attempts at humor. And, you know what? You like this goddamn little blog and my horrible attempts at humor too.
There is actually a little bit more of a reason why I chose the 1996 comedy/horror movie They Bite beyond my dumb punchline above at the expense of the movie’s title. First, I’ve covered a movie by its director before. Going back to July of 2016, I talked about Drainiac, directed by Brett Piper. I had seen that movie on Bizarre TV, a now-defunct Roku channel. I thought it somewhat charming and halfway decent entertainment for a very small budget and somewhat very weird ending. I had already known of They Bite from an early episode of RedLetterMedia’s Best of the Worst show on YouTube. When I connected those dots after Drainiac, the die was cast that I needed to also see They Bite.
However, before I could get here, I made a pit stop in the land of Roger Corman with Humanoids from the Deep in July of 2018. That’s the movie about fish monsters that decided they really wanted to mate with human women. It was also when I learned nothing good could come from asking “Where’s all the fish rape?” They Bite turns out to be somewhat of a spiritual remake or distant cousin of Humanoids from the Deep in the sense that this also has sea creatures that decide to fuck about with our women. Except They Bite includes a porn production, a mistaken identity joke that kicks off the main plot of the movie, and Ron fuckin’ Jeremy.
Oh, plus it has this movie-within-a-movie trailer that is fucking brilliant.
(Side note: whoever actually edited in the fish heads to cover the bare breasts is a goddamn genius.)
As the movie begins, we see a photographer taking pictures of a bikini model on Black’s Island, Florida. The girl is bitching about how late it is getting in the day, but the guy claims he wanted to work that late in the day for the shadows or some such shit. He also asks if she does any nude modeling which she quickly shuts down.
However, because it is the 90s, the guy isn’t one to fold so easily on what he wants. He floats the idea again that he’d like to try some shots without her top. Again, she shuts him down saying, “I just don’t want to go around flashin’ mah bewbs!” Her southern accent and the use of the pronunciation “bewbs” is fucking adorable. She eventually decides to go ahead and let them ta-tas fly. The guy, a “professional photographer” and “legitimate artist”, nearly creams his fucking jeans over her bewbs. After she shows him a full on look at dem tittaes, then flashes him, he gets pissy at her jumping into the water, effectively ending the photoshoot.
You know… Between his insistence that she show skin, to his flimsy arguments over art, and his equally flimsy refusal to help her when a fish monster grabs her and eats her, I’m not so sure he’s all that professional – or nice.
The guy didn’t want to help the model because he decided to snap photos of the creature so he can probably sell them for fame and riches or something. Meanwhile, a family comes to the beach. There are like three kids and the mom and dad and NO ONE ELSE on the beach. Fish monsters aside, I feel like it would be a pretty bad sign that no one else wants to be on this seemingly perfectly fine Floridian beach. Anyway, it turns out that fish monsters is a good reason to cancel the family trip as the little boy finds the bikini model’s hand. The police come and start an investigation.
Well, one of the cops assumes it is a shark attack. The other isn’t so sure. He says that usually sharks don’t leave anything behind, and I would say it probably is an appropriate response to be a little curious about the attack. When the cops come back to the station, they receive a letter from one of those “decency” groups that I think run pretty rampant in Florida (no shit, that is not a joke – I really do think most of those groups originate in Florida) about a porno production coming to the area in Dixie Cove.
They also receive the photos from the fish monster attack. One cop knows a girl named Melody Duncan who studied ichthyology and might be able to help them figure out what the hell that creature is. Cut to Melody’s hotel room where she is being kept awake by the couple next door fucking the shit out of each other. When she calls the front desk to complain, we realize it is only 8pm and they don’t really care to stop the fuck sesh next door.
Wah wah wah waaaaaaah.
That brings me to something about this movie that I should probably bring up. This movie is actually meant to be more of a comedy than a horror movie. We had the horny photographer trying to get the model to show her bewbs. We had a family with kids who drive the mom bonkers – which led to another running joke about how she dresses frumpy even when they are at the beach. Now we have uptight ichthyologist Melody who is getting driven crazy by the porn production next door. Oh, and we have the decency group trying to bible-thump the porn guys out of town.
On top of these little jokes, we have the higher brow joke – or the attempt at least. The porn production, led by director Mel Duncan (you see where this is going, right?), has all sorts of yucksters. You have a girl you expect to be the dumb bimbo but treats the job like a real actOR (pronounce it like I typed it and that will make sense). Director Mel is a creep who treats her like meat. The main guy actor doesn’t understand who or what he’s supposed to be in the movie. The Spike Lee-esque producer is trying to say the movie is some sort of indictment of how society treats women. Then, there’s Ron Jeremy, who is always a delight.
My point, I suppose, is that your mileage is going to vary on this type of movie. Piper’s Drainiac certainly had lighthearted moments, but primarily focused on the horror set pieces. Humanoids from the Deep absolutely played it straight and took itself very seriously. It probably isn’t going to take long if you do enough research on this movie to find a trailer or that “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers” clip to realize this is the late night, Cinemax style boner comedy that was common between the 80s and 90s. With that said, again, the mileage will vary. For me, I still find the humor, but some may be a tad turned off over the intentional dig at 90s feminism or the very flimsy comedic setups, etc.
Director Mel is trying to sort out his movie to try to make this one really special. He’s trying to find a hook. He claims he wants to be the “King Kong of porno” but the actress cracks the joke that she’s not going to do it with no ape. I suspect she’s seen the movie Jungle Blue then. So here’s where we get our main thrust (pun totally intended) of the plot. The Mels get mixed up and the porn director gets the fish monster pictures and the ichthyologist gets the pictures of the other porn actresses they want to see about bringing into the current production. This leads to Mel deciding he wants to make “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers” and Melody just… well, I guess she just starts her investigation a little later than she intended.
Before we can get to that mix up, the fish monsters attack some drunk teens partying on a little boat. I guess that is to remind us that, oh yeah, this is a fish monster movie. However, when one of the fish monsters goes to kill one of the kids, it gets tasered by some mysterious guys in biohazard suits. Surprisingly, the biohazard dudes don’t kill the kids. They just all decide on their own that they get ripped, the boat tipped, and two of the kids died. Basically, don’t tell nobody about no fish monsters.
Anyway, the mix-up at the hotel front desk goes down, and the porn production gets confronted by some weirdo church people from the decency group. The main preacher guy apparently thinks the porn actress is “special” and probably will turn on the production? I dunno where that will go. The important thing right now is that director Mel now knows about the fish monsters which gives the guy who runs the porn studio the idea to make a movie about fish monsters who fuck women. He pitches “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers” because apparently no fish monster movie ever lost money.
The guy who runs the studio is hilarious. He’s a loud jerk who pretty much shouts all his lines with an east coast accent. Not only does he come up “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers” he also had a movie idea called “Rape Dog”.
We then see the “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers” trailer in context with the rest of the movie as pretty much the exact middle of the movie. What’s funny is that the real movie They Bite could have been a classic if it could have been the Fish Fuckers movie for the majority or entirety of the movie. I almost feel like someone else made the Fish Fuckers trailer. I tip my hat to Brett Piper for effort and some decent ideas, but there are few people who could make a trailer like Fish Fuckers.
Okay, the Mels meet and realize the mix up. Director Mel is not a total jerk and actually knows what an ichthyologist is to Melody’s surprise. He would like to make a film documentary over the discovery of the fish creatures, but she doesn’t want anything to do with him. He actually agrees to leave her alone (which is a surprise considering the attitude of the photographer earlier). She calls the editor of the paper she apparently works at as well? I thought she was a fish scientist, but I think she might work a day job at a newspaper. She was in town because of a nuclear waste story and now have stumbled onto the fish monster deal.
It’s right about here, where my main concerns about this movie starts to really surface. The movie is roughly 98 minutes in length. It’s got some funny ideas about two characters who go by “Mel” with very different personalities, a porn production, jokes about religion and society, etc. However, it’s not quite over the top funny enough like the Fish Fuckers clip, nor has there hardly been any real fish monster thrills. It is spinning its wheels considerably. It has the ideas but the execution can’t support the good ideas it does have. It’s just all a little too cluttered.
If it were me, I’d narrow it down to the only A plot being the porn production coming across the fish monsters. cut out the mistaken identity thing and reduce the Melody character to a side character working on the issue when the police come in. Load the movie with low brow sex jokes from the porn people and trim the fat. Cut the runtime down to about 75 or 80 minutes and keep it lean. If nothing else, it can bring the lighthearted stuff to the surface and give more of the monsters.
I’d maybe even cut out the preacher guy working with the decent citizens brigade or whatever their names were. You could reduce that whole thing to just a few lines which could make for a killer joke. That would, however, cut out one of my favorite scenes between Tammy (played by Christina Veronica who is absolutely giving her all and maybe the best character in the movie) and Rev. Stoner.
More shenanigans happen with the Mels. We then find a fish monster raping and killing one girl and attack a second. The second girl wakes up on the beach. When her boyfriend takes her home, she can’t remember what happened and becomes aggressively horny. She starts fucking her boyfriend and here’s where we get the second most important thing this movie has to offer after “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers”:
Dick-eating vagina monster. ‘Nuff said.
After the vagina monster attack, which we never see again and I’m fairly sure it was just an idea tossed out one day on set, Tammy and Rev. Stoner go to his fuck boat where another fish monster attacks. It seemingly only cares to kill the reverend at first – which I suppose is an allegory for his sinful nature of wanting to have sex with the porn actress. When Tammy goes to escape by jumping off the boat, the monster attacks, but is ultimately ran over by a car on shore. She calls the guys from the production to get the body of the fish monster.
Mel calls Melody to take a look at the monster. She lies about what she might know. She tries to play off that maybe these monsters were made by pollution but when Mel forces the truth from her, she explains that there was a tanker that recently wrecked that caused a radioactive spill. These aren’t mutated fish, but creatures that have always existed that may just have been living in the depths where people don’t really go.
Alright so here’s the deal: These fish monsters are actual fish monsters, not mutations. Melody knows something caused them to resurface. She warns the porn guys that someone is probably coming to look for them. And with only about 15 minutes left to go in the movie, the most natural third act thing to do?
Go to a wet t-shirt contest at a bar.
Have I mentioned yet that I’m not sure this movie didn’t quite have enough weight behind its ideas?
So while Melody creates a stir at the bar over being offended by consenting women taking part in a wet t-shirt contest and a few of them willing to show bare breasts for attention, the fish monsters descend on the bar. They break in and start grabbing the wet t-shirt contestants. The mysterious men in the biohazard suits also show up. As they work their way through the bar, the men in the suits disintegrate any fish monsters and any women who apparently have vagina monsters (or at least will like that one girl).
Melody escapes, but the guys in the suits take Larry, who was basically your Spike Lee guy on the porn production team. He gets taken to this place underwater in… I dunno a spaceship or something hiding underwater and gets looked over by the people in the biohazard suits who are some sort of underwater creature guys themselves. The Mels go into a little submarine and discover the ship thing that Larry was taken to.
Larry is released and found swimming back to shore. The Mels hightail it back to the surface too because there’s a giant underwater spaceship thing, and I’d get the hell out of there too. Larry tells everyone that the fish monsters were just specimens and they got out when the spaceship had to make repairs. They watch the spaceship take off and that’s pretty much the end of the movie because… sure.
Here’s the thing. Is this movie any good? Eh… Again, as I said above, your mileage will vary. There is at least some care put into the movie to give it a style that would be like if the 50s sci-fi movies were continued to be made the way they were up through to the 90s. I mean I guess. The jokes aren’t great, but there is a mid 90s boner comedy charm to it.
The real problem with the movie is that there are ideas that are kind of squandered. I will say this, yet again, you had “Invasion of the Fish Fuckers”, a porn production team, fish monsters, and a vagina monster. The movie completely fumbles tying them together, but then also goes nearly 100 damn minutes when it probably could have been 80 tops. Brett Piper certainly has a love for old style movies. Drainiac seemed to follow a little bit of the “old dark house” style of horror to a certain extent. They Bite definitely tips its hat to Roger Corman style movies. I can’t fault him for effort.
I just feel like he has ideas but can’t really translate them properly. Even the jokes in this movie expected something more than we could give. During the credits, we get each featured actor and actress a little dance as their names and characters appear. Kind of like they are taking a bow if you will. The sequence continues to play with the whole running gag that Melody is a prude about letting loose and taking off her shirt and showing a little skin. That, in and of itself, is fine, but then it has to have that stinger when she does toss off her flannel shirt to show a little more, it gives us the aside:
I don’t think I need to say that the movie didn’t really earn this. In fact, before this, it even had a thing saying “Dance bitch!” to her when she didn’t really want to. I get it, we’re supposed to be having a good time with these characters. However, Melody wasn’t a great character that we rooted to loosen up. She is a scientist. The rest of the characters made porn. You’re not going to typically see one side loosen up to the other.
I don’t mind the dancing actors. It adds extra personality to a movie that, for better or worse, had a lot of it. It’s just not doing anything good by having additional jokes written into the sequence.
Despite my main critiques, I still enjoyed the movie for what it was. It’s a far cry from, say, Messiah of Evil, which is probably the very best movie I’ve ever written about, or a Space Babes from Outer Space or Amazon Hot Box that dripped with its own personality, sexuality, and knowledge of exactly what they were trying to be. It’s also a far cry from Pot Zombies or Ninja Cheerleaders, which are probably at the very bottom of the barrel because they just didn’t know how to take advantage of their overly silly premises and find their own personality that we could all adhere to.
In the end, They Bite doesn’t bite, but it lacks the bark it needed to go over the top.
Alrighty… B-Movie Enema #150 is in the books. It’s time to start a new batch of 150 movies (and hopefully beyond). I figure it’s a good idea to take a look at a newer movie that seems to be mixing some of my favorite things together – Star Trek, Doctor Who, and a whole lotta Australians! Come back next week as I take a look at Sheborg!