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Interview with BITE director Chad Archibald

Where did the idea for Bite come from?

Originally, I was at my then-fiancĂ©’s family event and her sister had done a bunch of animal rescue work in Guatemala for about four weeks. She was right in the jungle, slept with a net over her bed every night, and would wake up with bugs, spiders and tarantulas all over this net. She came home and was just covered in bug bites, small ones, big ones, oozing ones. It was pretty horrific. I just got to thinking, you don’t even know what bit you down there. In the jungle there’s like a thousand new insects discovered every year in jungles around the world. There’s things out there we don’t even know about yet. I thought, what if one of those just got worse and worse? I started doing some research on the different horrific bug bites and what they do to people, and the idea sprung from there.

How many different bites and effects did you consider before deciding what would appear in the film?

It was a weird process because, for one, I’d have to wake up in the morning and do it a little bit and then stop by a certain time because it was just so gross. If I did it at night, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. There’s so many horrific videos on YouTube and gross creatures out there that I would never want to find in my bed. There’s creatures that cement liquids, there’s camouflage, there’s things that paralyze you and turn your blood to rubber in a matter of minutes. There’s just horrific insects out there and it was hard to pick a few things and go with it. But, we picked a few, everything from hiving their food to bugs that spray a toxic liquid into predators’ mouths which becomes a dried cement and kills them. I can talk about that stuff forever, we just used the ones we found that we could work with the story and have fun with.

Along with the horror of the infection in the film, there’s the story of how a looming marriage affects family and friends. What made you decide to juxtapose the body horror with social conflicts in such a way?

I think the big parallel in it is just her not being ready to grow-up, have kids and do all the things that society says this is why we are on this planet. Humans are intelligent enough where we can make up our own decisions, but it’s only after when she decides she wants to call off this marriage, doesn’t want to have kids, just slow down and wait that she’s bit by this bug and has these natural instincts that every other creature around the world is born with, to reproduce, which takes away the human element of having kids and becoming a mother, and she all of a sudden becomes this thing she didn’t want to become. She’s laid millions of eggs around the house and is raising a million little creatures, so she’s just the ultimate mother. She says she’s not ready to have kids and, in-turn, becomes super protective of these things that she lays.

What was the casting process like?

It was pretty fun. Usually you have a casting session where it is general dialogue you hear 40,000 times, and a lot of people coming out to audition were first-time actors, which can be pretty grueling. But there was so much room for interpretation with this girl turning into this creature that it was kind of fun seeing what everyone did with it. It was really, really fun watching people come in and act like bugs in their own theatrical way.

Being you had such different locations, what was the order you shot the film in?

We built the apartment in an auto-garage and slowly shot it chronologically, so every day when we finished shooting, our team would come in and put up more goo and more webbing to make it more and more disgusting. Everything was covered in goo, our cameras, our gear. It slowly got worse and worse, it turned into this hive. Then, we finished and cleared everything out and shot the boyfriend’s apartment there. Then, we tore everything down and had a team build the Hallway and that was the last stuff we shot in December. Then, in January, we shot everything in three days in the Dominican Republic. It was amazing to shoot there because anyone would let you do anything.

What made you decide to use practical effects and how did you decide on the look of the transformation and the eggs?

I had done a move called The Drownsman before, it was very water-based and we did some of the effects. It’s always tricky with liquid effects to make them look real. When we started coming up with stuff with the eggs, the studio was like “how are you going to do stuff with the eggs?” They were nervous we couldn’t afford it on our budget. I started looking online to see if there was anything I could find. I found this company that was making these little pebbles, you’d put them in water and they’d grow into a clear translucent ball. I bought a pack of them and poured them into a bowl of hot water and left them overnight. I came downstairs the next day and they overflowed everywhere. I ordered like 30,000 of them. We had just big buckets of these eggs and everyday would just swab them with people stirring these buckets constantly. We didn’t want to have to worry about going into the effects and seeing if they worked, it was much more fun to see it and know you got it. All these eggs growing slightly, just enough to push others out of the way. It was horrible by the end, it just smelled horrendous.

What inspired the super-isolated feeling of the film?

I kind of like the idea that she’s getting sick, she’s almost blacking out and the insect starts taking over. It’s like a bee going into a crevasse and starts building a hive. I like this idea that all her friends are out, not really caring about her that much, and her fiancĂ© thinks she’s upset and wants to break-up, so he’s giving her a bit of space, and meanwhile she’s getting worse and worse. She’s creating this giant hive that she eventually lures people into. It’s kind of a characteristic of a lot of insects out there, so I felt like it worked pretty well. The other thing being we had a limited budget and wanted to really utilize what we were planning on doing. The goal was to make a movie about her, instead of a character piece of her running through the streets spraying goo, she’s creating this hive and every time you see her, she’s just deeper and deeper in it.

Has anyone asked you to look at their bug bites since the film’s release?

You know, no-one’s really approached me that much about their bug bites. It is winter up here, we don’t have many things other than horseflies and mosquitos. But, they’re gross regardless. I have had people send in videos of gross things like giant zits being popped or giant bug bites getting infected and pussing and what not. It’s not something that I really enjoy, you know? We’ve had fans, after seeing the movie, think “oh Chad will really like this terribly gross video of a hospital in India of some horrible bug bite gone sour.” It’s definitely not enjoyable to watch, I’ve seen enough bug bites for now.

BITE Opens May 6th, 2016

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