Februrary 20, 2013

Once Bitten (1985)
Starring Jim Carrey, Karen Kopins, and Lauren Hutton

Comments:   Once Bitten is on this countdown for one reason and for one reason only.  It is here because it is the earliest noteworthy Jim Carrey movie.  And what is amazing is that so few people out there are even aware that it exists.

Alllllbitey then

Once Bitten came out in 1985 (yes, nine years before Jim Carrey's "debut" in Ace Ventura), and at the time it was considered little more than a B-level forgettable teen sex comedy.  Yeah, it was kind of a quirky little movie, since it had vampires and dancing, and because it had a goofy sense of humor and all, but at the time it was one of those movies that you maybe saw once with your friends, you laughed a little, and then you pretty much forgot about.  In no way was it ever a big hit like something like Ferris Bueller's Day Off or The Breakfast Club (which both come out around approximately the same time.)  Once Bitten was fun, but it was never destined to be a movie that people were going to talk about twenty five years later.  It just wasn't that good and it just wasn't that memorable.

Oh yeah, and at the time, the only real name actor in the movie was former model Lauren Hutton.

For the first nine years of its existence, Once Bitten was pretty much just known as a Lauren Hutton film.

Lauren Hutton

Ah, but then we come to the talented young actor who played the lead in the movie.  An anonymous young Canadian who, in 1985, often still went by the name James.

James Carrey

Yes, it is easy to forget this now, since he is one of the biggest names in movies and all, but at one point in his life Jim Carrey was a struggling young actor just trying to get a break in Hollywood.  And he thought he got his break in 1985 in Once Bitten.  Which was the very first movie he ever played the lead in.

Was not talking out of his butt yet

Jim Carrey plays a young man named Mark Kendall.  And unlike pretty much any other character that Jim Carrey has ever played in a movie, there is nothing odd or quirky or even remotely bizarre about Mark.  He is just a normal teenager in Los Angeles who walks around doing normal teenager things.  And it is quite jarring the first time you see this movie.  It is weird to see a young Jim Carrey walking around and not see him doing Jim Carrey things.

Normal Mark and his normal girlfriend

Anyway, Mark is a teenager in L.A. who (like most teenagers) is interested in sex.   And (again, like most teenagers), he has never actually HAD sex.  He keeps trying to talk his girlfriend into it so he can lose his virginity, but unfortunately she isn't really all that interested so for now he is stuck.  He is a virgin.  He is a virgin in Los Angeles.  In fact, he might be the oldest virgin left in Los Angeles.

Mark's disapproving girlfriend, the adorable Karen Kopins

One night, after another particularly frustrating evening of a lack of action,  Mark's friends decide that they are going to do something about this.  They are going to help deflower their buddy.  So they take him out to a nightclub in L.A.  They figure, well this can't hurt.  We'll introduce Mark to some random woman who is just out looking for some action for the night, and then after it is over he will stop pissing and moaning that he is still a virgin.  And then everyone will be happy.

Sounds like a good plan, right?

Mark at his first singles bar

Well this is where Once Bitten begins.

You see, there is a female vampire living in Los Angeles who goes by the name The Countess (Lauren Hutton).  She is extremely vicious and extremely powerful and extremely beautiful.  But the catch is that she is also extremely old.  She is thousands of years old.  And the catch with female vampires is that the only way they can remain powerful and young and beautiful is if they drink the blood of a virgin every so often.

And, well, it is just about time that The Countess needs to feed again.  And because this is Los Angeles in the 1980's, she is having a hard time actually finding a virgin to feed from.

The countess and her manservant Sebastian, trying to conceal her age and keep her looking young

And there you have your movie.  The Countess runs into Mark in a nightclub in L.A., she can instantly tell that this naive young doofus who drives an ice cream truck is still a virgin, and she spends the rest of the movie trying to drink his blood on three different occasions.  Since, you know, vampires need to feed on the blood of a virgin three different times in order to stay young.

And the rest of the movie is Mark's friends and his girlfriend trying to figure out what is going on, and trying to save Mark from The Countess.  And from turning into a vampire.

Mark gets his buttons bit

Like I said, Once Bitten was never destined to become a classic.  It was funny, but it wasn't THAT funny.  It was memorable, but it wasn't THAT memorable.  Lauren Hutton was hot and Jim Carrey was likeable and the story was interesting, but it never really stood out at the time as much more than "Oh yeah that movie about the female vampire."  In fact, if Jim Carrey had never become a big star, I doubt we would be talking about this movie at all.  I bet not even I would have remembered it, and I remember just about everything.

Once Bitten faded into obscurity for more than half a decade.  It just completely disappeared.  And then Jim Carrey suddenly hit it big in the world of comedy.

All of a sudden, around 1991 or so, "James Carrey" became a really big deal on In Living Color.  He was "the white guy on that sketch comedy show made by black guys."  And people started to take note of how bizarre he was.  And how odd his sense of humor was.  And how he could contort his face and how his body was basically made out of rubber.  

Because they saw him every week on In Living Color, Jim Carrey was a name that people were suddenly talking about.

Thinks that John Denver is full of shit, man

I will admit, I was never the biggest Jim Carrey fan when he was on In Living Color.  I thought he was too spazzy and too weird, and he was never my favorite castmember.  If you ask me, the funniest guy on In Living Color was always Damon Wayans.  But for whatever reason Jim Carrey was the guy who really sort of resonated with people, and then for whatever other reason it was decided that he would get his own movie.  And then, voila, in 1994 Jim Carrey made his movie "debut" in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

And you know the story after that.  After that he became pretty much the single biggest comedy star in the world.

Mostly because of stuff like this

I remember when Jim Carrey hit it big after Ace Ventura.  It was like he just sort of showed up in movies out of nowhere.  And all of a sudden then he was in EVERYTHING.  Within one year he was in Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber.  And then he was in Liar Liar.  And then after that he was the villain in a Batman movie.  And the list goes on.  When he hit it big man he hit it REALLY big.

Like I said, I was never the biggest Jim Carrey fan prior to Ace Ventura.  I thought he was way too much of a niche talent and I figured he would never hit it big as a mainstream movie star.  And I thought that Ace Ventura looked like the stupidest movie I had ever seen.  In fact, when I first saw the previews for Ace Ventura, I would have bet you money that that movie would have turned out to be a flop.  I mean, come on.  Jim Carrey as a movie star?  That weird Canadian guy who does all the impressions on In Living Color? Who would have believed that he ever would have made it as a movie star?  

Well to sum up this story, I saw Ace Ventura and I wound up loving it.  I didn't want to love it, on paper that is still the stupidest movie that has ever been made.  But damned if Jim Carrey didn't try so hard that he actually won me over in the end.  I remember seeing that movie, and I remember thinking, wow this guy is actually pretty talented.  Maybe he actually WILL make it as a movie star one day.  Then he was perfect in The Mask, and he killed me in Dumb and Dumber, and the rest is history.

And that is when a friend pointed out to me, hey did you know that Jim Carrey was actually in a movie about ten years ago?  Do you remember Once Bitten?  Well Jim Carrey was the teenager in that movie.  You should check it out, if you watch it now in retrospect it is actually pretty funny.

Well I pretty much ran to the nearest video store to find a copy of Once Bitten.  And there it was, dusty and untouched in the comedy section since nobody had rented it since about 1986.  And wow, what a find.   Look at that, right there on the cover.  Teenage Jim Carrey.  Who would have thought that the guy who gets paid millions of dollars now to talk out of his ass had ever once been a normal awkward looking Canadian teenager.

I rented Once Bitten, and I liked it so much (in retrospect) that I immediately went to Suncoast the next day and I bought it.  And it has proudly been on my movie shelf ever since. It is one of those random little movies that nobody else loves but me, but I love pulling it out every year or so and watching it because it is fun and because it is very 80's and because it always make me happy.

Also, where the white women at?

Is Once Bitten one of the greatest comedy movies ever made?  Of course not.  It probably isn't even one of the top 20 best comedies made in 1985.  But it is cute and it is likeable and it is quirky.  And it has Jim Carrey.  And if you go back and watch it again, you can see how talented he was, and how he made this movie so much better than it had any right to be in the first place.  

And yes, you can see that it is possible for Jim Carrey to be in a comedy movie and not have him doing Jim Carrey things.

There are two moments in Once Bitten where Jim Carrey actually breaks out of "being normal" and he suddenly morphs into being "Jim Carrey."  It doesn't happen often, but if you watch for them in the movie you can see hints of the type of performer he would later become.

The first moment where he becomes "Jim Carrey" is the scene where for no reason at all, in the middle of talking to his girlfriend, he suddenly busts out a dead-on accurate perfect Robert De Niro impression.  I don't know why he chose to do that, it didn't fit the story for Mark Kendall to suddenly become Robert De Niro for two seconds in  the movie, but it is one of my favorite little moments in Once Bitten.

You see that scene now and you realize, ah yes.  Jim Carrey was at one time considered the single best impressionist in Los Angeles.  A lot of people don't know that now (since Carrey quickly decided to move away from impressions and move on to physical comedy), but at one point in his stand up comedy career-- say around 1985-- he was considered the #1 top impressionist comedian in L.A.

Here he is impersonating a vampire

The second moment in Once Bitten where Jim Carrey becomes JIM CARREY is the scene towards the end of the movie at the school dance.  This is the scene that EVERYONE remembers from Once Bitten, and it is 100% pure Jim Carrey just being Jim Carrey.  In fact if I would recommend this movie for one scene and for one scene alone, it would be for the school dance scene.  

If you are a fan of Jim Carrey at all, you need to see it at least once.

Jim Carrey in the famous Once Bitten dance scene

At the school dance, Jim Carrey gets to dance with two women.  And he gets to flop around.  And he gets to contort his body into rubber.  Basically he gets to do all the stuff he would later become famous for on In Living Color.  At one point he lifts his leg up over his head and he plays it like a guitar.  I remember seeing him do that the first time I saw Once Bitten and I remember thinking "Ah HA.  And right there, that is why everyone needs to see this movie.  That was Jim Carrey's very first Jim Carrey moment."

Oh yeah, and then to top it off, Jim Carrey ends the scene by pulling an incredible Michael Jackson impression completely out of nowhere.  At the end of the scene, Mark Kendall turns around and he just pulls a perfect dead-on Michael Jackson dance impression out of his butt.

You watch that dance scene and you realize, okay now THIS is why Jim Carrey would one day become a star.  Even when the guy was a teenager he could do things that nobody else could do.

I love the leg guitar scene so much that here it is again

And so there you have it.  Once Bitten.  I am quite certain that I love it more than most people love it (the user reviews on the IMDB are particular brutal) but I don't care.  I will ALWAYS love it.  Like I said, this is one of those movies that I try to rewatch every so often because it is cute and because it is funny and because it always makes me happy.  I honestly don't understand how some people can claim to hate it so much.  I mean, no it's not the greatest comedy in the world but there sure are tons of worse comedies out there.  And 99.99% of them don't have a babyfaced kid named Jim Carrey who can play his leg up in the air like a guitar.

I mean, come on.  Mark Kendall doesn't even drive a car, he drives an ice cream truck.  How can you dislike a movie where the main character drives an ice cream truck?

Also, Karen Kopins is absolutely gorgeous and she should have been in more movies

By the way, I would be irresponsible if I didn't point out that Jim Carrey HATES this movie and he will never talk about it in interviews.  I wish that wasn't the case but oh well.  I heard that John Cusack is also like that when it comes to Better off Dead.  I should also point out that in real life Jim Carrey and John Cusack are both rumored to be dicks.  Again, oh well.  At least Jim Carrey can play his leg like a guitar.  I wish I could do that.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Once Bitten:

early role for Carrey - 6 November 2006
This is the first film in which I ever saw Jim Carrey. I told all my friends they just had to see it (back in '86).... I said, "Pay attention to the guy who plays Mark Kendall. He's the only one who could act in the whole film, and he's gonna go places." Boy, did he ever! Carrey plays the innocent Mark Kendall with charm and sweetness. His virginal girlfriend, who has been stringing him along for quite some time, is just not ready for "going all the way". What's a young, red-blooded, American teen supposed to do?? Well, Mark's friends have the answer: go to a singles bar, of course! Not only does Mark meet one hot woman, he goes home with her. Strange, though, he can't seem to remember it at all... He's changing, and not for the better. What's gotten into this sweet, naive fellow? It's a typical 80's movie. Watch out for big hair and dancing. And Carrey was sweet in this role. Don't expect the wild and crazy guy many have come to know and love on screen. (This is pre-"In Living Color"/"Ace Ventura".) Look on it as a retrospective! (and if you don't find the movie itself funny, it's also easy to make fun of...) Enjoy!

Well, we all have to start somewhere - 23 November 2003
Ah, gotta love our struggling starving actors, hard to believe that Jim Carrey was once one of them, right? You know in the strange trend that was the 1980's where not only horror movies were made into goofy comedies, but a lot of stars popped out of them. Look at Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, Nicholas Cage in Vampire's Kiss and Robert Sean Leonard in My Best Friend is a Vampire. Jim Carrey also had to jump the band wagon with the camp classic Once Bitten. A classic 80's romp with the dated clothes, hair and talk as well as goofy vampires who are chasing high school teenagers.

Over the course of the centuries, the Countess has collected a stable of young men and women who will accompany her on her journey through eternal night. While she is immortal, she requires three shots of a virgin's blood to keep her appearing youthful. At the same time, Mark wants to have sex, but is being put off by his girlfriend Robin. One night, Mark and his friends go into L.A., and Mark meets the Countess at a singles bar. He goes back to her home, and passes out when she bites him. When he wakes up, she pretends they have had sex, and implies they are now connected. Mark does not realize what she really means, and begins having strange dreams, avoiding direct sunlight and drinking the occasional glass of blood. After the Countess gets a second bite, Robin notices Mark's odd behavior and confronts the Countess during a dance off at the high school's Halloween dance. While it appears that Robin has won back Mark, this is only temporary. The Countess kidnaps Robin in order to lure Mark to her home for a final bite before her deadline expires, and it is up to Robin and her friends to stop her.

Over all Once Bitten is worth the look, just to see one of Jim Carrey's first movies, he's such a baby in this movie. It was interesting seeing him as someone who wasn't so crazy physically, I was expecting so many goofy faces, but it's all good, he's fun enough. I loved the countess, how she dressed was so funny and they way she acted. It was pretty funny to see the countess and Robin have a little dance off as a battle for the affection of Mark. Definitely if you were or are into those campy 80's teen horror movies that were just a cheesy good time, Once Bitten is one not to be missed.

I <3 it! - 15 July 2003
I love this movie! I was flipping through chanels the other night and found this movie was on like HBO or something. I saw that it had Jim Carrey in it (one of my favorite actors) and I thought it was very interesting seeing Mr. Carrey as this young man. I liked the random jokes and hilarious scenes that make this movie a hit (in my book) from Mr. Carrey from the 80's. I enjoyed the plot and it really seemed to interest me a lot because I am a teenager myself. It has the basic teenage sex drama that many people can relate to in real life. Sure they do not have Countess Vampires seducing them or anything, but just the way they arranged this old favorite plot of Sexy Bad Girl vs. Cute Sweet girl will just attract any young viewer. Great movie that makes me want to live in the 80's!

so that was Jim Carrey... - 30 June 2005
Most of us think that Jim Carrey started out in lead roles in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective". Well, here's an interesting flick from the mid-1980s with the man known for butt-talking getting second billing, and he could easily get top billing. He plays high school student Mark Kendall, who has a one-night fling with a woman (Lauren Hutton) who turns out to be a vampire; she has to keep drinking blood to maintain her youth. And when she drinks Mark's blood, she doesn't bite his neck, if you know what I mean! Overall, "Once Bitten" is nothing special, but it's pretty funny, for what it is. I guess that you just can't go wrong when you mix vampires and comedy. And Lauren Hutton was hot, as always.

All Star Must See Bad Flick - 21 December 2003
I saw this several years ago. My reaction then was "Holy mackerel, Lauren Hutton and Cleavon Little in a low-budget teen flick!" Well, then time passed and I am watching it now (12/20/03) and thought to myself: "HOLY MACKEREL, JIM CARREY, Lauren Hutton AND Cleavon Little!"

Although it is still formulaic, tiring, and simple it is well worth watching alone for Carrey. E.g. while all of the other actors tried to look evil, and didn't, Carrey was able to be convincing by transfiguring his face.

Jim Carrey has several good scenes and lines, but perhaps that's because his talent was shining through at this early stage in his career. 

One of Carrey's best... - 29 September 1998
You get the impression Jim Carrey and his fans would like to forget this movie, but it's actually one of his better flicks: it's certainly one of the best he did before going mainstream. The dialogue between Hutton and Little is amusing, some of Carrey's acrobatics (particularly the three-way dance sequence - at one point he plays his leg like a guitar) are downright incredible, and generally it's an entertaining flick, with hints of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to come down the road.

* My favorite trivia about Once Bitten:

* Screenwriter Jeffrey Hause campaigned for Michael J. Fox to star in the film, but executive producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. was convinced that Fox would never be able to carry a big-screen movie.

* Morgan Fairchild turned down the role of the Countess.

* My favorite quotes from Once Bitten:

Countess: I haven't had anything this pure since the Vienna Boys' Choir hit town.

Mark Kendall: Are you a prostitute?
Countess: I'm whatever you want me to be.
Mark Kendall: [relieved] Good! 'Cause I only have five dollars.

Robin: Could one of these lady vampires actually bite a guy? You know, like a teenage guy?
Bookseller: Well how old would he be?
Robin: Like, 18.
Bookseller: Well I seriously doubt it. You see the female vampire needs the blood of a virgin, and an 18-year-old boy would hardly be a virgin, now would he?
Robin: Well just hypothetically, what if he -was- a virgin?
Bookseller: Well then I think he has a lot bigger problems to worry about than female vampires.  [chuckles]

Robin: Mark doesn't want you because you're mean and evil. He wants me because I am nice and sweet and pure, so *fuck off!*

Countess: How many days left till Halloween, Sebastian?
Sebastian: Oh, a little more than a week, Countess. I told you not to worry.
Countess: Not to worry? How amusing. But then you're not the one who needs to have the virgin blood of a young man not once, but three times before All Hallows Eve. Not to worry? Being a vampire in the 20th century is a nightmare!
Sebastian: Did we get up on the wrong side of the coffin this evening?

Mark Kendall: I don't want to be a vampire. I'm a *day* person.

Countess: Wait! I have to replace every door you people smash. Can't you at least try the knob first?
Sebastian: [Vampire in front tries the knob and it opens easily] Jocks.

Robin Pierce: [emerging from a coffin, smirking] You're too late.
Countess: You couldn't have! You've been in there for less than a minute.
[Mark emerges from the coffin smirking]
Countess: [dejectedly] You could've...
[raises an eyebrow]
Countess: ...but you didn't have time to enjoy it.

Mark Kendall: Please don't bite my buttons.

* My favorite scene in Once Bitten:

Everyone loves the big dance off between Carrey and the two women (especially the part where Jim Carrey plays his leg like a guitar) but to me the defining moment of Once Bitten will always be the end.  To my dying day this will always be one of my all time favorite movie quotes:  "Mark doesn't want you, because you're mean and evil.  He wants me, because I'm nice and sweet and pure.  So FUCK OFF."  Right there, that is Once Bitten in a nutshell.

Oh yeah one more little moment I forgot.  My wife and I have always thought this scene was cute.  At the end of the movie, the vampires are running around chasing Mark and Robin through the Countess's mansion.  And every door they come to they smash in with their fists.  Well after about the fifth door the Countess gets mad and she screams at her minions to stop smashing in doors because she has to replace them all afterwards.  She asks them to at least please try the doorknob first to see if it is unlocked.  I always thought that was a cute little moment you don't see very often in a movie.

Once Bitten at the IMDB

Once Bitten at Wikipedia

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