In the Post-Twilight world, where vampire mythology became entirely represented either via teen angst or dour existential drama antithetical to multiplex friendly fare, it’s no surprise that these formulas made the genre go stale and fall out of favour. Writer/director Brad Michael Elmore hasn’t revived the vampire film after a brief lapse in popularity so much as he’s created a feminist spin on The Lost Boys for the Tumblr era, leaving any existential dilemmas at the side to fulfil the promise of that film’s iconic tagline: “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.”
Bit, highly likely to be one of the bigger crowdpleasers in this year’s Outfest lineup, transforms this naive idealistic view of vampiric life into something approaching a feminist revenge movie, where the shitty men who are symptoms of larger societal failings get wiped out one by one. It’s scathing and satirical as it sinks its teeth into predatory men and far right conspiracy theorists, providing the broadest dark laughs while offering something far more groundbreaking for the vampire genre below such surface pleasures. It’s a humble film that has no intention above making horror fans howl in delight – but on closer inspection, it’s clear that it deserves far more credit than a film in this style is likely to receive.
Laurel (Nicole Maines) is a teenage trans girl heading down from Portland to LA to spend the summer with her brother, but on her first night out, meets a group of queer punk girls who turn out to be vampires. Of course, she doesn’t know this at first – and a brief hook up with Izzy (Zolee Griggs) leads her to get bitten and left for dead. That is, until group leader Duke (Dianna Hopper) intervenes, and wants Laurel to join their exclusive, girls only vampire clique. As Laurel slowly transforms into a vampire, she learns the group’s rules about feeding only on the shittiest men, and their duty to ensure men don’t become vampires and abuse the power that comes with it.
Centring a vampire story on a transgender protagonist lends a surprising depth to a familiar narrative formula, not to mention ensuring there’s actual food for thought between all the simple pleasures that a horror comedy provides. We’re first introduced to Laurel long after she’s transitioned, with the fact she’s trans largely remaining unspoken, and any adversity she’s faced referred to as firmly existing in the past. Instead of recycling the formulaic transgender character arc of internal conflict in relation to gender, Brad Michael Elmore offers an insight into the adventurous stories about trans characters we could be telling instead, while simultaneously breathing new life into a vampire tale as old as time.
Using the simple allegory of a trans character becoming a vampire and finding their strength following the transition, the writer/director creates an empowering narrative with a sincerity that’s all the more surprising due to the cynical jabs at a post-Trump, post-MeToo heterosexual culture at the side. The gags are painted in broad strokes – undeniably queer and feminist in their conception, but with simple messages that can be digested by the midnight movie audiences who are most likely to lap up this cult movie in waiting (comparisons with last year’s Assassination Nation are all but guaranteed). But the treatment of Laurel doesn’t share that same jaded disposition, and uses the formula of a vampire movie to illustrate how what many in the wider world could perceive to be a weakness is actually her biggest strength. It’s simple, not to mention a little corny, but it’s undeniably sweet.
Beneath the angsty jet black comedy, Bit is something far more sincere – not to mention something of a high watermark when it comes to transgender representation in genre cinema. Come for the blood splattered, darkly comic fun, stay for a well rounded, non cliched protagonist younger trans viewers will look up to.