They Bite (1996)

In 1996, when this film came out, B-Movie Maestro Brett Piper had already made four films, including the one he seems best remembered for, the wildly miss-named A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell.

But this was the one that really defined his work for the next decade – and after ten years of post-Apocalyptic films, it comes as a real surprise.

Let’s be blunt about this:  They Bite is a mid-Nineties “Scream Queen” type exploitation film with more naked women per square foot than any other film Brett ever made.  But, like all of Brett Piper’s exploitation films, it is well aware of the fact that it is an exploitation film and it is having fun with it.  Which means, yes, it is often poking fun at itself and at exploitation films in general.

So there is a fish monster attacking people in a small seaside town and a porno film crew which just happens to be making a film in the area decides to make a porno with fish monsters.

One of the small joys here is that, as in Muckman, Brett doesn’t just give us one fish monster, but in fact comes up with three different versions: the fish monsters themselves; the suit the porno crew comes up with for their film (which, hysterically, has several inches of exposed wrist between the arms of the suit and the flippered hands); and the version featured in a “movie trailer” for the film (with the comic and unprintable name) the porno crew is making.

This trailer – which proves to be a dream sequence, is an incredible piece of demented fun, easily the best part of the whole film – even if you wouldn’t dream of sharing it with the kiddies.  It deliberately mixes classic Fifties black and white monster tropes, references to fish monster movies, wooden acting and plenty of sex and nudity. Perhaps its finest moment is when, after the announcer says, “You’ve seen The Monster of Piedras Blancas,” he then corrects himself and adds “Well…Oh, you probably haven’t”

In fact the whole film overflows with references to classic – and not so classic – horror films, often with a nudge and a wink as Brett lets us in on a few of the films that inspired him, like the silly beach film/monster movie, The Horror of Party Beach.

In fact, it seems more than a little strange that he never refers to the film that seems to have been his closest inspiration, Humanoids of the Deep.

He even manages to cram in a few aliens, a minisub, and a spaceship launch from beneath the sea, which shows just how far he’d come since his unconvincing spaceship work in Mysterious Planet. 

We’re talking trashy fun here, the sort of film where the monsters attack just as the cat fight breaks out at the Wet T-shirt contest.  

And yes, that really happens.

But it is also a knowingly trashy film, which winks at the audience and lets us in on the joke, and revels in being part of an often silly and exploitative sub-genre of the monster movie.

And, as always with Brett’s films, that’s the best part of the whole movie.


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