Synopsis: A vampire Countess needs to drink the blood of a virgin in order to keep her eternal beauty. It seems that all is hopeless, until she bumps into Mark Kendall.
Stars: Lauren Hutton, Jim Carrey, Karin Kopins, Cleavon Little
Director: Howard Storm
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Before he was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, before In Living Color, heck, even before Earth Girls are Easy…Jim Carrey paid his dues like most every young actor in Hollywood: he starred in a teen sex comedy. With the popularity of the Porky’s films (along with other raunch fests made on the cheap) and teen horror flicks it was only a matter of time before some wise screenwriter mashed a few genres together to create a teen horror sex comedy…which is exactly what Once Bitten is. Surprisingly, it’s also an entertaining romp that lets its actors to play on their strengths which pretty much saves the film from being another forgotten picture.
An unlikely (if modest) hit when it was released in October of 1985, Once Bitten turns the seductive Dracula story on its head and casts sultry Hutton as an aging countess out for virgin blood. Said virgin is Carrey who can’t convince his longtime girlfriend (Kopins) to go all the way with him. Frustrated, he explores the Hollywood nightlife with two of his friends…leading him right into Hutton’s embrace. Bitten by the Countess, our young hero finds some strange changes are occurring within him…like an aversion to sunlight and a craving for raw meat. With Hutton in pursuit for two more bites and a romance on the rocks, how will Mark Kendall survive?
For all its sex jokes and vampire goings-on, the sum of the parts of Once Bitten combine to deliver a pretty enjoyable film that has held up nicely since its original release. I recall waiting for this one to come out on VHS so I could see yet another vampire movie…which along with the Jaws films was my go-to films at that point in my young life. So many of the jokes went over my head…watching it now I cringe a bit at how lascivious the content was but am happy that I was blissfully ignorant as to its deeper meaning. What did land for me is a well delivered F-bomb that of course was broadcast loud and clear to my parents in the next room…I had to think quickly on my feet to explain that away so I could continue watching.
Hutton was the main attraction when the film was released and she’s as gorgeous as ever. A stunner, she is game to play along with the script and its jabs at getting older in Hollywood. It helps that she’s in tip-top shape and gets to show off her trim figure in a variety of revealing costumes. In his first starring role, Carrey is refreshingly free of some of the ribald mannerisms that would follow him on his rocket-fueled trajectory a decade later. He doesn’t attack the comedy like a rabid dog but revels in some of the smaller moments where he can use his considerable talent to good effect. Viewing the film now, it’s not hard to see a real gift present in the young actor and it stands as a reminder that some people just have the talent to make it big.
Kopins (who I’ll always remember from Troop Beverly Hills and the made for TV Archie movie) is a nice good-girl girlfriend that eventually turns vixen when her boyfriend attracts the attention of the mature vampiress. Carrey, Kopins, and Hutton participate in a fairly ridiculous but grandly entertaining dance off during a high school Halloween hop. It comes out of nowhere but winds up fitting in nicely with the overall tongue in cheek nature of the film. As the attendant to the Countess, Little sashays around Hutton’s gaudily 80’s Hollywood Hills mansion with a striking aplomb…free of any self-awareness and not lacking in the knowledge of exactly what kind of movie he’s in.
Once Bitten became a popular fixture at sleepovers and parties when it was released on video where it wound up making the majority of its money. I’ve owned the film for several years but only recently watched it again for my 31 Days to Scare. I was struck by how many of the jokes still land and how much of the comedy feels right at home under Storm’s direction. Taking a stab into the horror comedy genre was a risk for the studio but they wound up with a funny film that is bloodless enough to attract a younger crowd and playful enough to keep hormonal teens at bay.