ANKLE BITERS (aka CHERRYPICKER, 2021)
Directed by Bennet De Brabandere.
Written by Bennet De Brabandere (screenplay), Zion Forrest Lee (story).
Starring Zion Forrest Lee, Marianthi Evans, Lily Gail Reid, Marienne Castro, Rosalee Reid, Dahlia Reid, Matia Jackett, Colin Mochrie, Michael Copeman, Jani Lauzon, Heidi von Palleske, Alex Gordon, Evert Houston
Zion Forrest Lee plays retired hockey player Sean Chase. He’s grown tired of the constant life-threatening fights and wear and tear he gets on the ice and decides to settle down with his beautiful girlfriend Laura (Marianthi Evans) who happens to be the mother of four young girls. When Sean decides to take the relationship to the next level, he asks Laura to live with him, which means the girls are a package deal. When the whole crew move into Sean’s house, the girls see a video of Sean and Laura having sex. Believing that Sean is hurting their mom, the girls hatch a plan to get rid of Sean and save their mother.
While this might sound like the premise for a daffy Disney comedy, ANKLE BITERS is actually a pitch black comedy with serious consequences. Sure, much of the film is played for laughs, but these are devious little girls who are best watched closely. ANKLE BITERS manages to maintain a level of levity, dealing with some serious issues about sudden parenthood from both the new parent and children’s sides. The logic behind what the children believe is a solid understanding of what is going on in the video. Sure Sean and Laura are just trying to get their kink on, but they don’t know that. Their reactions are extreme, but again, understandable that they would be protective of their mother in this way. I love the way this film really has a no fucks given attitude and presents this story, warts and blood and all. In all honestly, I’m surprised something like this really hasn’t happened in this wonky world we live in.
There really are only three scenes of violence and only one of them is truly gory in ANKLE BITERS. Most of the time we are given glimpses of the girls attempting to process this situation and plotting to do something about it. I think it works, but I do feel there is an unaddressed story there explaining why the girls mistrust Sean so much and how quickly they resort to murderous reactions. But when they attack, holy crap are these girls formidable. Yes, most of the film is played to outrageous lengths, but there is a serious undertone to the entire thing because Sean and Laurie honestly do seem to love each other and are so much in pre-wedded bliss that they simply don’t notice this growing malice towards Sean growing until it is too late.
I can’t say I laughed out loud at ANKLE BITERS, but the numerous scenes where adults look at the girls and think they are angels when they really are plotting a bloody death never got old. Seeing these little girls turn into knife wielding monsters is wrong, but for me, it was the right kind of wrong. Both Zion Forrest Lee and Marianthi Evans are solid in the leads; likable, charming, and believably passionate about one another. The little girls: played by Lily Gail Reid, Marienne Castro, Rosalee Reid, and Dahlia Reid, all come off as distinct characters and for the most part, are directed in such a way that their limited screentime works. If you like your comedies deeply darkened to perfection, ANKLE BITERS fits the bill nicely.