Fresh from its world premiere at Dances With Films comes the delightfully cheesy horror comedy “Chastity Bites,” which takes a John Hughes high school world and puts a blackened spin on it. Director John V. Knowles pushes his blade-sharp, dark wit upon his audience in a pre-credit sequence in which a virginal blonde-haired high school lassie preaches to her jockish boy friend that “the only truly safe sex is no sex.” We get a tickle of what’s gonna happen over the next 90 minutes as the young man, taken aback by her proudly puritanical approach to his aching groin, unexpectedly finds an abrupt, red storm of blood oozing down his face. There’s not going to be any hokey pokey tonight.
So, welcome to San Griento U.S.A., a rolling hilltop community filled with stereotypical students and parents and looking very much like Agrestic, the fictional California suburb that was home to the first three seasons of Showtime Networks’ “Weeds.” [The movie was shot in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Clarita.] Here we find four self-absorbed Hilton princesses who prize themselves above everyone else, and dimwittedly decide to lose their virginity as a team sport. Their scheme, alas, might be outed by tomboy, gung-ho student journalist Leah, portrayed by Allison Scagliotti (also one of the film’s executive producers), with the same spunk she displays as Claudia Donovan, one of the investigators of supernatural relics on SyFy’s “Warehouse 13” series. Leah’s Tonto is never-kissed-a-boy, flower child Katharine (Francia Raisa, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), her pimply, insecure, and seemingly only best friend. Leah has an admirer, Paul (Eddy Rioseco), but she nearly doesn’t recognize his philosophical, sexual, and good guy worth until it’s too late. The now-and-future slut quartet is adequately filled by Kelly (Chloë Crampton), Ashley (Amy Okuda), Britney (Sarah Stouffer), and Noemi (Lindsey Morgan).
Meanwhile, the town’s commitment to family values allows the bimbos’ empty-headed moms, who fear their dear community is under attack from socialists and “the liberal, homosexual agenda,” to hire exotic European, dressed-to-kill beauty Liz Batho (Louise “The Revenant” Griffiths) as an abstinence consultant, unaware that she’s actually the 453-year-old Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory (heck, she’s got a Wikipedia page!—in the movie, that is), slaughterer of many hundred virgins. Liz sets up a local chapter of her Virginity Action Group, its banner playfully oversizing the first letter of each word). The real purpose of this whole set up of Chastity Leaders In Training (ha ha) is unearthed by Nancy Drew, er, Leah, upset that her group sex story evaporated when the Valley Girls signed up as V.A.G. leaders.
The weird feeling I get about the predictable script by Lotti Pharriss Knowles (wife of the director) is how it occasionally pulls away from its own cockeyed morality. Sure, it’s meant to show the hypocrisy afoot at various levels of society, but it’s also so obvious, particularly in the mothers Judy (Jennifer Gimenez), Jan (Maria McCann), and their leader, Ashley’s mom Jillian Thorne (Laura Niemi), that they might be painted way too broadly for best comic intention. How many airheads can poor San Griento support?
Sure, the parents want their children blossom pluck free, but they themselves want supreme beauty (conveniently supplied by Liz’s “beauty regimen”) to bed the next guy who walks in the door. As an advanced genealogist in one of my other lives, there’s at least one wildly coincidental ancestral surprise in the script I won’t pooh pooh, because I’ve connected some really distant people under similar circumstances, although my tree doesn’t connect (yet) to any devious, life-sucking countesses. We’re all one-sixth degree of separation away from one another.
Director Knowles, in his feature film debut, does have fun with his presentation, especially when setting up the various kills by you know who, providing a possible MacGuffin-esque diversion (Custodian T0rg0 Neyman, Keeper of Shoes. Threat? Or Not?), or adding in some serviceable, fanciful, and often thunder-enhanced, effects. Technically the low-budget film looks quite good under the lens of cinematographer Justin Thomas Ostensen, including the Autumnal Equinox, Stepford moms climax at Elizabeth’s resident mansion on the über-posh side of town.
Fans of Stuart Gordon of “Re-Animator” fame, will spot him in a “special appearance” as a disbelieving high school principal.
“Chastity Bites” isn’t an oxymoron. It might be if “Chastity Bites Again.” Keep an eye out (metaphorically) for this warm-blooded farce at festivals near you—or maybe the Syfy channel, where it would be a nice fit.