Yeah yeah yeah … I know; another shark movie. Sure the situation is slightly unique (although it was done before in 2009 by the SyFy channel in MALIBU SHARK ATTACK, my review here), but at the end of the day BAIT is just another movie about sharks attacking and killing people. But there’s an exception. What’s the exception? BAIT kicks ass!! Seriously; this film gets it right and delivers tension, solid performances, scares, and a great final act. Let’s find out what makes BAIT stand out.
Just like in MALIBU SHARK ATTACK, a tsunami is the major plot point in BAIT. It’s such a simple setup, yet director Kimble Rendall takes this material and really makes it his own and gives it a unique flavor. I got scared when I saw that there were six, count ‘em SIX, writers (including Duncan Kennedy, Justin Monjo, and Russell Mulcahy), but whoever was responsible for the final draft did a fantastic job of eliminating the cliches (and there were tons of opportunities to sink into cliches) and really creating a great atmosphere of suspense and tension. There’s quit a few moments in this film where I found myself holding my breath and not even realizing it.
Rory (Richard Brancatisano) and Josh (Xavier Samuel) are life guards and best friends. Josh is engaged to Rory’s sister, Tina (Sharni Vinson), and life is good. One day while on duty a great white shark swims in close to shore without anyone seeing it and before you can say, “What’s that white fin-like thing coming at me,” the shark starts chomping on swimmers and kills Rory. Josh is devastated over the event because he couldn’t save Rory and it eats him up inside to the point where he loses both his job and Tina. Sure the opening will give you flashbacks to the opening of CLIFFHANGER where Stallone couldn’t save the chick on the mountain, and sure the CGI in this opening is horrible (seriously, they’re horrible), but I promise if you stick with BAIT the payoff is well worth it.
Flash forward a few years and Josh’s life is a disaster. He’s broke, Tina left him, and he works in an upscale grocery store stocking shelves. The grocery store is underground in a pretty swank shopping area. Then without warning an earthquake hits the area which causes a tsunami to flood the better part of Queensland, Australia leaving it underwater. Unfortunately the flooding gives a couple of hungry great white sharks the keys to the kingdom and allows them to freely swim around the flooded grocery store, terrorizing the survivors in the aftermath. The survivors in the store include Josh, Tina (who just got back to Australia), Steve (Tina’s new boyfriend), two guys who were at the grocery store to hold it up, Doyle and Kirby (Julian McMahon and Dan Wyllie), and a handful of other shark fodder. There were also a few survivors trapped in the flooded parking garage. The action goes between the survivors in the grocery store and those in the parking garage and director Rendall does a great job keeping the tension high in both story lines.
Other than the opening, pre-credit sequence, the f/x are fantastic. The sharks are very real looking and the attacks are ferocious and brutal. The acting is also way above par. Xavier Samuel (Josh) is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre. He starred in the phenomenal THE LOVED ONES (my review here) and once again proves in BAIT that he has the chops for a long acting career. But what I really appreciated here is that director Kimble Rendall, who also directed the 2000 flick CUT, really delivers. He knows that what makes a great shark attack flick is when sharks fucking attack and kill people. But we don’t just get scene after endless scene of people getting killed by the sharks. We get great setups full of tension and suspense and Rendall does something not usually done in these kind of films: He scares us!! There’s a few legitimate jump scares that are extremely effective and really fun.
The story is also very different than most of the films in this sub-genre. The new trend in these “nature gone amok” films is to have the sharks bigger, smarter, and more aggressive than your average shark. BAIT, though, goes back to the basics. We don’t get some ancient, ‘thought-to-be-extinct’ shark or some shark that’s had it’s intelligence amped up due to steroids. These are just great white sharks, albeit very large and hungry great whites. It was a great choice using the good old, reliable great white.
The ending will also have you on the edge of your seat. The survivors pretty much make a last stand realizing that no one is coming to save them and if they do nothing they’re gonna die. It’s exciting, fast-paced, and really well filmed.
If you’ve given up on the killer shark sub-genre and are simply burned out on SyFy originals, you are in for a treat. BAIT shows that there’s still a lot of bite and fight left in this genre and it shows how damn good it can be when you have a great cast, a great director, and a great script. Don’t miss this one!!
Director: Kimble Rendall
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer