31 Days to Scare ~ Bait 3D

The Facts:

Synopsis: A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building – along with two great white sharks

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Chris Betts, Sharni Vinson, Julian McMahon, Phoebe Tonkin

Director: Kimble Rendall

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  It’s no secret to family, friends, or random strangers that my favorite movie is JAWS.  There’s something about that film that has always spoken to me, my fascination with the ocean, and my love of sharks.  It helps that it’s a damn fine film with assured direction, brilliant performances, that killer score, and one menacing shark.  All in all…perfection in my book.

Ever since JAWS was released I’ve always been a sucker for any movie with an underwater shark (or creature) chowing down on any kind of stock character the movie could throw at us.  I’ve watched the television movies, read the knock-off books, been loyal to Shark Week through all the iterations of Air Jaws, and even shelled out my sheckles for Shark Night 3D which stunk worse than a chum bucket left out in the heat.

So you can understand why I approached Bait with some trepidation. Though I was pleasantly impressed with the restrained shark thriller The Reef, it was clear that Bait was going to be more of the cheap scare variety so I could only hope that it at least did its business with panache.  The resulting film is a good news/bad news sorta situation.

The good news is that some of the shark effects look quite good.  The bad news is that for every good shark CGI effect there are five more that look like a bad Sega game from 1989.  In a perfect world, the sharks would still be built for practical use to avoid the cartoon-y look they almost always have in cinema.  To be fair, even films with bigger budgets like Deep Blue Sea had trouble making their sharks look convincing…though to its credit Deep Blue Sea used a lot of robot sharks that looked real.

More good news is that Bait places its sharks and their prey in an unusual setting which always keeps things interesting when you are dealing with weak effects and weaker acting.  Though the supermarket that is flooded by a tsunami and brings with it two hungry sharks is well set-up, it can’t escape looking like it was built in a large tank of water.  Clearly, the set was at the mercy of the elements that had to support large amounts of water and debris.

The better setting is an underground parking garage that sets the scene for some of the better scares and had me getting my feet up onto the couch and off the floor more than once.  While two lovebirds are stranded underwater in their car, another is trying to get to safety…and all three have to contend with a shark that knows they’re there and is figuring out how to get to them.  Director Rendall does his best work here by finding some clever means of escape for the teens.

In movies like this, if you’re going to insist on having several parallel storylines you must MUST make a case for it.  In Bait, there are about five subplots going on that just never catch on.  There’s a muddled twist about a store robbery gone awry, a love triangle, a father-daughter conflict…it’s just all too much to be supported on such flimsy, floating ground.

It doesn’t help that the acting is subpar to say the least.  While our leading man (Samuel) fares best with his haunted past angle, better known actor McMahon (Nip/Tuck) is totally out to sea with a half-baked character that he adds no life to.  The women, usually the surefire dodos in horror films, are actually given their due here with help from Tonkin and Vinson who don’t just scream and yell and wait to get eaten.

It’s interesting to note that Bait was released in its native Australia in 3D.  It had a small run in the US utilizing the same technology and while I saw the 2D version I couldn’t see many places were the 3D would have added much in the way of depth or scares.  In the long line of shark films Bait may have some teeth to it but it still can’t hold a candle to its bigger budgeted sister films that inspired it.  I wouldn’t put it in the same universe as JAWS but it’s better than the usual direct-to-video crap that drifts out of tinsel town every few years.

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