DIRECTOR: Marianna Palka
WRITER: Marianna Palka
Jill Hart is a loving mother and supportive wife. When her life becomes too difficult to handle, due to an unhelpful and inattentive husband, she suddenly snaps. Jill quickly assumes the psyche of a vicious dog. As her family starts to come to terms with her breakdown, her worried sister shows up as support and attempts to try and keep the family unit together during this increasingly bizarre crisis.
Every year, several genre movies come along that try to do something different. They decide to go against the grain. They want to be an original. I think somewhere along the way, Bitch thought it was doing just that. Without a doubt, I can safely say that I don't believe that you or I will see anything quite like this film this year. I feel that is the highest compliment that I can pay this film. The whole idea and concept really is the best thing about this movie.
I want to start with the issues that I have with Bitch because there are quite a few. I think the film tries to run the fine line between being this weird, offbeat drama and a comedy while also trying to balance out the darker stuff that happens in the third act. The story has elements that lend itself to the horror or suspense genre. This is in the build-up towards the final where the film takes a pretty twisted turn. I just don't think the story finds that harmony between the comedy and the horror.
Another issue that I have with this story is that the film doesn't really have a likable character within it. The entire breakdown of this character is all down to her husband being unhelpful, unattentive, and he's also cheating on her. So immediately, we don't like him. The film tries to give him this redemption story, but for the vast majority of it, he's just an awful husband. By the time they wanted us to care for him. I certainly didn't. It's just odd to have us hate him for so long and try to redeem him so late.
We also have Jamie King here in the supporting role. She's an actress who I really admire and enjoy watching on screen. She plays the sister here, and she is the one that tries to keep the family together, during their bizarre crisis. I felt that while she delivered regarding performance, her character is ultimately frustrating. She reveals that she's never liked our husband character, so she does everything in her power to try and end the marriage when it's confirmed he's cheating on the wife. This is, by all means, indeed what would happen. It just makes for a movie where it all ends on a happy note which doesn't feel like it's earned it.
A lot of the film is spent showing our wife slowly turning into a vicious dog. For most of the movie, she hides in the basement, barking and banging around down there. In the one attack scene that comes towards the end of this story, it's neither bloody nor very shocking. I think had it gone to a gorier place, it may have made the ending hit a lot harder. It's a film that I think while straddling a fine line between several genres, may have been a lot more enjoyable had the film taken it all the way instead of being entirely reserved in its approach.
The lead performance from director, writer, and lead actress Marianna Palka at times comes across as sympathetic. You actually feel sorry for this character, even if all of those people around her have their own motives. Some much darker themes do run through this story that comes across as interesting, even if the tone here sometimes feels a little silly. We have attempted suicide, it deals with mental illness a lot, there's cheating. There is stuff here to admire about the story.
Visually, I believe Marianna Palka is a very capable filmmaker. I've seen other people complain about how the film looks, and how it is shot. This has the feel a low-budget indie film. I wouldn't be surprised if this film was made for less than a million dollars. She still delivers something that looks well made for the story that she is telling and the budget. I thought the basement scenes, the shadows, and lights used to hide our wife when she is naked and playing a ferocious dog, looked good.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about the horror elements of the story. While the movie deals with some pretty heavy themes, this isn't scary. There aren't any real jump scares or gore. This almost feels like a dark comedy. Some moments feel almost slapstick with their approach. They are thrown in there with these darker elements, but nothing in the movie will scare seasoned genre fans. You'd be better to watch an animal attack film over this if it's violence and bloodletting you seek.
DEATH TOLL: 0
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman tries to commit suicide but is unsuccessful.
- A woman covers herself in excrement.
- A man is attacked, but no blood is shown.
To use an old saying, Bitch is all bark and no bite. In this dark psychological comedy horror, the story presents some heavy themes like suicide and mental health, but in trying to deliver this dark story about a wife closing herself off to her own family and turning into a ferocious dog. It loses its way with all these moments of silliness and slapstick. It also doesn't help that the movie barely has a likeable character to root for here. This story has things its trying to say, but they don't quite resonate by the time the film comes to its conclusion.