Teen romantic comedies have certainly become a genre in their own right, the shared awkwardness of our teenage years have managed to spew forth recognisable stories that audiences can relate to, whatever generation happens to watch. When you combine this with fang-toothed vampires, you’ve got a winning combination of love, lust, and blood-lust, as in the mid-eighties the public found with the release of vampire rom-com Once Bitten.
When a 400-year old unnamed countess needs the blood of a virgin in order to remain youthful for the next century. The list of candidates in the decadent 80s are slim at best, enter the young Mark Kendall, who is desperate to lose his, yet his ex-girlfriend is more hesitant. He ends up in a singles bar and after some flirtation into bed with The Countess. Now he has one heck of a venereal disease as he has special powers partially and the proposed bragging rights, but at what cost?
Mark’s vampire transformation, at least his partial transformation, is an avenue of comedy that the film takes great pleasure in exploring, most of this is due to the wonders of the films lead actor. Fans of physical comedy would be pleasantly surprised that this is one of the earliest film roles for Jim Carrey. A lot of his trademark expression has yet to manifest, but you can see the origins and the prototypical version of the moves here. Blazing Saddles star Cleavon Little makes one of his last film roles as The Countess’s camp and sarcastic assistant.
The soundtrack and score are as colourful as the cast and setting with synth-heavy salsa-esque love main theme, by John Du Prez, who music buffs may know from Salsa-pop English band Modern Romance. These compositions are accompanied by energetic new wave and rock anthems that manage to underscore the film quite well. Mid-eighties California is also a great setting for comedic vampire flicks, as 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer will find out. Neon night-clubs and Miami-Vice styled art-deco manor houses add an extra dose of glamour and fun to the proceedings.
The name once bitten is quite apt as the film feels like a teen sex comedy that has had a chance encounter with vampiric un-life. It’s funny, just a right amount of camp to help ease the juxtaposition of these two elements. At one hour and thirty minutes, it’s an interesting artefact to behold of a time that’s gone by, of an iconic actor at the start of his career, and another towards the end of theirs. It’s a terrific date night flick, just make sure your partner isn’t too bitey.
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