"A tsunami just flipped the food chain"
A group of people get trapped inside a supermarket when a devastating tsunami hits the coast of Australia. But soon they realise that being trapped on top of shelves inside a flooded supermarket is the least of their worries as the storm surge brought with it a pair of massive great white sharks which are now swimming around the store.
There's not a great deal more story to add to this Aussie impersonation of Deep Blue Sea. Simply swap an underwater research facility for a flooded underground supermarket and you've pretty much got the gist of this, with a little bit of Tremors thrown in for good measure. And after a flood of increasingly-ludicrous, reality-ignorant killer shark films like Sharktopus, 2-Headed Shark Attack and Super Shark, it's nice to get back to something a little bit more grounded in the basics and take sharks seriously. Who needs a shark that can fly or has two heads when it just needs to do what nature intended it to do best - kill? That's what audiences are scared of. Nature's most fearsome predator needs no gimmick to sell itself as a killing machine.
Does anyone really care about a story for a film with a set-up like this? I mean it's not like we care whether two characters had a relationship in the past which isn't quite over. Or that there's a bank robber who wants to get out of the business and go straight. Or a guy who has just been fired from his job thanks to his shoplifting girlfriend. Bait spends a little bit of time (not too much however!) at the beginning to try and develop something of a story and characters but all you'll be doing is counting down the moments until the tsunami hits. It's sad to say it but it's true.
When the tsunami does strike, Bait quickly picks itself up and starts to deliver some decent thrills and tense moments in between brief moments of visceral shark violence. It helps that both the flooded supermarket and garage sets look the part - both twist day-to-day environments that we're all familiar with into something unnerving and claustrophobic. The garage is particularly effective in providing constant background tension - we know that there's a shark in the calm, semi-lit water but we can never see it. Shots of the shark circling around a submerged car with two people trapped inside really hammer home the fact that Bait wants you to feel scared and apprehensive...and you will.
Bait plays itself seriously and it's for the better. Though the idea could have easily been lampooned into some spoof (I've seen the phrase Sharks in a Supermarket banded around as if this was the illegitimate follow-up to Snakes on a Plane), the film does its best to treat the central premise as real and as deadly as possible. Even the film's most outlandish moment involving one character's plan to turn off the electricity ends on a sombre, heart-rendering note of tragedy which really deserved to be in a better film.
Julian McMahon (from Nip/Tuck or, if you're talking films, then Dr Doom from Fantastic Four) is the only real star on show but he's desperately trying to hide his accent underneath some Americanised persona. This goes for a few of the lesser known cast members too. They're all Aussies trying to sound American - even though the film is set in Australia. The film provides plenty of shark fodder, though unfortunately it's a tad too easy to spot who's going to live and who's going to end up in the shark's belly. Not one of the characters is memorable to say the least and the majority seem to stand around doing nothing until it's their turn to be fed to the shark.
The major surprise in Bait is that the sharks look great. Well, most of the time. Spoon fed a mushy diet of low grade CGI shark effects by Sy Fy over the last few years, it's a godsend to see someone actually producing something worthwhile. The sharks are mainly CGI and the quality varies from the awesome (one particular underwater sequence involving a guy in a makeshift cage looked frighteningly realistic) to the absurd (sharks leaping out of the water to chomp on people suspended from the ceiling). But there are also some animatronic sharks amongst the effects shots and they look top notch too. With the sharks being well-fed, there's a decent supply of severed body parts and showers of blood which again vary in quality based on whether it's CGI or practical effects. Sadly, the worst CGI on show is that of the tsunami and its after-effects on the town at the end.
Does Bait live up to its ingeniously-simple premise? Not quite. But is it a lot of fun? Yes. One of the best killer shark films of recent years and whilst the rest of the field doesn't exactly provide much competition, Bait can at least hold its head high and say it tried. It's not exactly a wash-out of Waitrose, more like a flooding of Asda (but there's always a bargain to be had in the reduced section).
Director(s): Kimble Rendall
Writer(s): Russell Mulcahy (written by), John Kim (written by), Duncan Kennedy (additional writing by), Justin Monjo (additional writing by), Shayne Armstrong (additional writing by), Shane Krause (additional writing by)
Actor(s): Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson, Adrian Pang, Yuwu Qi, Alex Russell, Phoebe Tonkin, Martin Sacks
Duration: 93 mins