Clean up on aisle 12! Can someone bring the mop, sanitizer, and body bag?
I’ve been tracking Bait for a while now, ever since I stumbled upon some fanboys talking up a crazy Australian flick involving sharks and a super market. Such a premise was right up this horror aficionado’s alley, as it sounds like the perfect start of something full of campy action and indulgent aquatic gore. I mean, Snakes on a Plane worked, didn’t it?
Director Kimbel Rendall’s dangerous tale essentially plays off the same type of ludicrous scenario, except he opens up the setting a bit and increases the size of his aggressive creature. These lumbering monsters gave the term “express checkout” a whole new meaning to our characters.
To fully enjoy all the thrashing bodies and underwater escapes, check your rationality at the door. You’re going to see a movie about sharks who are killing people off one by one in a soaked supermarket of death, as the water level slowly rises along with our character’s worst fears. Should the building probably have collapsed like numerous others appeared to have done as the camera zoomed out and gave a panoramic view of the desecrated Australian coast? Probably. Could mild-mannered people keep their cool so efficiently in such a horrifying circumstance? Probably not. Could you fashion a shark-proof cage out of groceries and shopping materials? Psh, screw it, why not!
Much like most successful “that sounds so awesomely bad” films, Russell Mulcahy and John Kim’s screenplay focuses more on shark-attacking insanity than realistic survival skills. A script has been created in a completely fantastical and plot-oriented world, but isn’t that half the fun of movies? Intelligent horror fans will sit smugly critiquing every subtle inconsistency while more event focused fans can partake in a bevy of ridiculousness and blood. Bait would rather focus on creating fun and entertaining original ways of its own to kill off yet another cinematic finned foe, trying to one up Chief Brody’s exploding oxygen tank finale from Steven Spielberg’s iconic ocean horror Jaws.
Along for the ride are a gang of Australian based faces. Xavier Samuel – whom you might know from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, yet I know from Sean Byrne’s psychotic prom horror The Loved Ones – plays main character Josh, a heartbroken and sullen ex-lifeguard still mourning the loss of his future brother-in-law who was killed by, you guessed it, sharks. Nip/Tuck star Julian McMahon shows up as a shady character named Doyle, whose robbery attempt is interrupted by Mother Nature. Finally, Chronicle star Alex Russell wishes he still had those high-flying superpowers, instead of being stuck in a flooded parking garage as an average supermarket employee. The remaining chum, I mean cast, is filled out by budding local stars like Phoebe Tonkin and Sharni Vinson, along with more veteran actors like Dan Wyllie and Martin Sacks.
Acting was what you would expect, admittedly having more life than a film like Shark Night 3D, but no performance warrants screen-killing hatred. Some actors just had the simple job of spouting a few lines then bobbing up and down while the water clouded red and jets of water bubbled around them, so there wasn’t much demand for A-list supporting talent.
My biggest peeve both character and story wise though came from random relationships flourishing while characters are facing death, but not even from main character Josh and his fling. I get the whole teen love interest aspect of the story, and it does add a little depth, but Bait also tried to push other wasteful and confusing relationships, having two characters fall in love with no rhyme or reason. One corny relationship I can deal with for dramatic purposes, but the focus here is on surviving 12-foot long man eaters. Save the poorly constructed and completely underdeveloped romantics for the next Gerard Butler flick, just give me giant animatronic sharks eating people!
Which Kimble Rendall did.
While Bait used a mix of mechanical and CGI shark appearances, I never felt the digital creatures were poorly designed enough to break my focus. These lifelike beasts surely packed a wallop, and looked just as menacing as their actions, and Rendall doesn’t hold back on ferocity. Differentiating from predecessors like Shark Night 3D, Bait continues to film victim’s savage deaths underwater as well, showing sharks ripping people to shreds, as opposed to cheap thrillers which simply pop a character up and down a few times only to vanish beneath dark surface waters. Serious gore hounds and genre fans will find plenty of action and excitement to revel in, as Bait heavy-handedly plays to the half of the horror community who love a good non-challenging watch.
Thanks to some cheeky horror charm and a tight focus on popcorn entertainment, Bait avoids being just another shark filled thriller. So many films evoke flawed thinking that assumes anything involving sharks immediately amps up terrifying intensity, but Rendall does all he can to solidify such a feeling, refusing to produce another puffy genre piece. More importantly though, Rendall makes sure you have a good time watching, knowing what he created is far from a perfect film. It’s bloody, it’s momentarily scary, has a fluid fun vibe, but is far, far from perfect.
But if you enjoy yourself, who cares?
More Deep Blue Sea than Jaws, Bait is your typical “patrons trapped in a flooded supermarket being hunted by a great white shark” type of film – wait, typical?