Covens of trend-following Instagram witches are officially out of style and intersectional vampire girl gangs are the new creatures of the night that should really be feared with the release of Brad Michael Elmore’s BIT hitting VOD today.
Laurel (Nicole Maines) is a recent high school graduate who moves to Los Angeles to spend her summer vacation with her older brother. She sneaks into a party one evening and has a chance meeting with a girl named Izzy (Zolee Griggs), where a seemingly innocent one night stand leads to her being attacked, thrown off of a building, and turned into a vampire by her would-be fling. Now a full fledged bloodsucker herself, this new life of immortality leads Laurel into finding her new clique in the form of a man eating, feminist brood led by the cool, calm, and collected Duke (Diana Hopper).
Without divulging any spoilers, I want to cut the same ol’ criticisms “woke” (by which I mean “humanistic”) films regularly get off at the pass. Yes, BIT is extremely forward with its message, and had less skilled people been at the helm, it could have easily come across as heavy handed, BUT, thanks to writer/director Brad Michael Elmore, everything makes sense within the universe. The progressive subjects organically fit within the vampire lore, as most vampire stories across all iterations have rules, codes, or morals they follow. BIT has its own set of rules, but ones that easily align with the natural progression of what a modern vampire story should be.
Once Laurel meets Duke and the rest of the vampire gang, she is offered a position and is informed that the number one rule is that they must never turn men. Why? Because men have a track record of abusing any power they are given and wouldn’t be able to handle the responsibility becoming a vampire would entail. It would be easy to dismiss this rule as “man-hating,” but as the film reveals, this rule is rooted in Duke’s backstory and essential to their vampire lore.
Even better, is that this #1 rule of “Bite Club,” (yes, they make the joke and groan about it too) is that it doesn’t follow TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or shitty, outdated feminists in layman’s terms) rules. This matters because Laurel is transgender, and played by a trans actor.
That choice alone in and of itself is an unfortunate rarity, but what’s most refreshing is that Laurel’s story is in no way defined by her transness. Her gender identity is acknowledged in passing, but this story could have easily existed with a cisgender main character with almost no changes needed. Being trans is recognized as an alternative to the “norm,” but all of the punk-chic L.A. chicks in the vampire brood are challenging the norm in their own ways, and that in essence normalizes all of them together.
All too often, films with trans folks focus their characterization entirely on the trans suffering, either from transition or lack of acceptance. That isn’t BIT’s story. Laurel is past the growing pains of figuring out her gender and is accepted immediately.
If any writers happen upon this article, I want you to take notes from this film for how to write trans characters.
Laurel is a person, and there is no obsession with her genitals or painting her as a tragic figure. Hell, this even subverts the trope of killing trans characters to show the drama of our lives by making it an event of empowerment and strength.
Laurel is one of the best trans characters in film history. I will not humor any arguments saying otherwise.
Now, with all of the nasty feminism out in the air, I do want to stress that this is not a “big, gay, trans” movie about a lesbian sisterhood that think men are the dirt worst. Don’t get me wrong, that is a very satisfying piece of the story, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. The actual theme of BIT, however, is power. Internal struggles like taking control of one’s own identity, the feeling of powerlessness, as well the external battles with inequity, are all at the heart of BIT’s core.
Men, in general, are not presented as the enemy. Awful men, on the other hand, are absolutely ripe for the killing. As easy as it might be to generalize, for the sake of simplicity, the real villains, regardless of gender, are those with too much control that become corrupted by power it gives them.
After seeing an early festival screener for this film last year, I have been waiting for more people to get to experience it. Unfortunately, had I not been keeping a super close eye on things, I feel like I wouldn’t even know it was coming out today (April 24th for anyone reading it after the fact). The trailer dropped on YouTube less than a week before the film’s release and with the exception of people directly involved in the film itself, like Nicole Maines, there has been almost no promotion for BIT. Maybe I am just reading too much into this, but it feels like the studio, the marketing department, or someone is supremely dropping the ball by not promoting this film because it is so well made and is very important.
We are living in an era where aggressively feminist films, or films simply with largely female casts, are being slaughtered online before they are even released. Public opinions are being formulated based on comments from primarily male fans who haven’t even seen the film, and have expressed no intention of even seeing them (see Black Christmas (2019) and Birds of Prey as recent examples). Of course the themes of BIT will not personally resonate with everyone. There will be those in the boy’s club of horror that will but uncomfortable with it because of its dominant pro-women, pro-queer themes and you know what….good!
Horror, above most other genres, should elicit an emotional response. If there are people who are going to get upset by this film while bragging about how they are unphased by wildly more gruesome and bothersome films, then they SHOULD have to explore why this film makes them feel the way it does.
Or they can stew and suffer.
I’d prefer the former but it’s their choice.
Above all else, the statements the film is making and the trails it’s blazing are great, but BIT is downright fun. It’s stylish, witty, and does absolutely everything right to stand alongside other classic vampire properties. It’s like smashing the girl power of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the similarly edgy and gay as fuck elements from The Lost Boys and sprinkling some vampire-on-vampire action goodness a la Blade (specifically the best one, Blade: Trinity, obviously).
BIT is a perfect blood bank for future vampires to feed from for years to come, and an absolute triumph of queer horror cinema.