The Spooktacular Eight #15: Once Bitten (1985)

While we wait for the third Sonic The Hedgehog film to remind us that Jim Carrey still works because why wouldn’t he say no to Sega asking him to redo his old shtick… well, let’s go back to one of his earlier film for this year’s entry in old horror comedies that time forgot.

I could have reviewed instead The Silence Of The Hams, but we did revisit Dracula Dead And Loving it last years, so Mel Brooks and Ezio Greggio get a pass this year.

I actually haven’t seen nor heard of this one before doing some research, so serendipity today brought us to shine a spotlight on Jim Carrey’s early carriers, and it’s hard to go back even further than Once Bitten in terms of feature films, since this movie marked Carrey’s first major role ever, playing the innocent and naive high school student Mark Kendall, seduced in a Hollywood’s nightclub by a sultry countress, whom happens to be a four centhuries old vampire.

Why him? Well, in order to keep her youthful appearance (and immortality), she has to drink blood from a male virgin man 3 times by Halloween each year, which starts to become a issue, since its the 80s and this centuries old vampire countress figured it was best to settle in frigging California to satisfy this specific need. HM.

Putting that aside, Mark gets bitten once by the Countress, starts inheriting vampire traits (avoiding the sun, sleeping during the day, getting a taste for raw meat) but eventually his girlfriend realizes something’s off, investigates a bit and tries to stop the Countress’ scheme of suckulence….

Obviously going into this one today comes with expecting a lot of dated comedy tropes… and you absolutely get those, from the telephone blind date matching one of Mark’s friend with a trans man, theoverall random homophoby, the whole “virginal hunt”, but it’s not that horribly dated, and in some occasions it feels delightfully naive because of some of its old fashioned values, like the countress tricks Mark into thinking they did the (non-penguinal) intercourse when they didn’t, but also sex isn’t demonized, actually serving/acting like a protection from horny vampire mistresses.

Though it’s a “mixed message” since the subtext warns about the dangers of promiscuity, which clashes with the overall light hearted, care-free tone, and feels kinda unnecessary in what is – at heart – a teen comedy about sex that happens to also be about vampires, one clearly isn’t interested in providing action or anything to make it proper horror, Once Bitten just wants to be fun, light entertaiment, which really gives the whole movie a really amiable quality, but as a teen sex comedy it’s a bit too clean for it to pack any serious comedic bite (har har har).

As a comedy it’s more cute than proper funny, more stylish than hilarious, and – again – the sexual elements are very mild, a bit too mild, especially compared to many others sex comedies from the decade that went the extra mile to be more daring, but also hadn’t any pretense about giving out moral lessons about the danger of venerial transmitted diseases… which feels unnecessary and preachy in a movie like this which isn’t even that interested in making that point anyway.

The soundtrack it’s still pretty good, i love how over the top some of the sets are, like the oversized ass telephones in the blind telephone date cafe-restaurant, or the custom vampire coffins, and you can already see Jim Carrey’s comedic qualities and mannerisms of his “naive and innocent goofy dork” persona in his decent performance here that would be refined later in his carreer, but the flaws of the movie can’t be brushed aside, especially when you consider the idea of Jim Carrey as a vampire had a lot of potential to it… a lot more than this script and direction ultimately do with it.

It has some cult appeal today due to Jim Carrey’s involvement and the odd – in retrospect – choice of movie for his debut film performance, its “80s”-ness and the horror trappings, good soundtrack, okay special effects, and one deliciously ridiculous dance scene, but overall Once Bitten it’s a flawed, mid (in many ways) 80s teen sex comedy with a cute premise and a surprisingly “clean” quality to it (which is detrimental to its genre choice), decent acting but unmemorable characters.

It’s not what i would call a “hidden gem”, but definitely it’s a cute curio that could have aged better and had the misfortune of coming out in a decade with better films all around in every aspect, regardless of you wanna see it more as a sex comedy or a horror comedy with vampires. I mean, Fright Night came out earlier the same year, so it’s wonder a PG-13 sex comedy about vampires with a lead actor that wasn’t yet popular didn’t leave much of an impression at the times.

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