Sunday, 8 September 2013

Bait - Movie Review

"I like your movie reviews, Andy," a friend said to me the other day, "but I would probably enjoy them more if they were films I had actually heard of."

I gave this some thought. After all, should I continue to write about the schlocky horror I love so much, or should I start to write about films people have actually watched? I mean, I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness last night for the first time, should I write about that?

And then I saw a film about great white sharks eating people in a flooded supermarket, and all doubt left my mind.

Business as usual, then.

Two things I should get off my chest first. Firstly, while Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus was hilarious, this film is not really the same sort of thing. It's much more like Deep Blue Sea, in which a ridiculous plot (sharks become smart enough to understand structural engineering) is at least treated with a degree of seriousness. In the same way, sharks in a supermarket (and underground car park) is a freaking ridiculous plot for a movie, but nobody points out how ridiculous it is as they are all too busy dealing with their personal problems, falling off shelves and being torn limb from limb. I like this. Group dynamics are always fun.

The second thing is that I love sharks-as-animals. They are purely instinctual hunting machines, but they need conserving and not to be seen as a Jaws-like threat. That being said, sharks-the-movie-monsters are one of my favorite things out there. This movie gets away with it by how unlike real world sharks they are. They stop, they eat humans, they bash through windows, they somehow ride a tidal wave into a supermarket, the same wave that kills a bunch of people just by hitting them (that is a pretty resilient shark), they move towards noise... 

Yeah, this is not a film you should watch if you want to learn about sharks. Or about supermarkets, probably. 

Our story begins with the death of our hero's (played by Xavier Samuels) future brother in law in a buoy-placing-shark-encounter incident. Of course, our hero blames himself, and fast-forwarding a year is working at the local supermarket after his ex-fiancee has gone to Singapore. Of course, she turns up again with a new boyfriend in tow. I expected there to be a subplot about how he's now afraid of the water but it never becomes an issue - the fact that he's witnessed his best friend eaten by a shark and is now trapped in a confined space with one is something that he handles surprisingly well.

ASDA can be hell on pension day
Meanwhile, the local (sheriff? I guess?) is having problems with his daughter, a character who we're supposed to sympathize with as someone grieving her dead mother but who instead comes across as a precocious brat who one really, really hopes will get sharked as soon as humanly possible. 

Rounding out this grab-bag of tropes is a man doing One Last Job with his sociopathic partner (who, in a fairly major plot twist/hole, he doesn't know by appearance)* and a couple who don't appear to have any issues other than a small yappy dog and that the boyfriend's a cheapskate. It is worth noting that these two are easily the most entertaining people on screen.

Hell, this would be a pretty exciting day at the supermarket BEFORE the tidal wave hits. 

But hit it does, and you know that everyone is going to act their hearts out, alternately being cowardly, sacrificing themselves and resolving their personal issues. None of them are particularly interesting and this isn't a film you watch for its characters. They are meat on the hoof, to be honest, and most of the fun comes from working out who's next for the chomp.

Two things make this film worth watching. The first is that the shark action is pretty great. Just when you think you've seen all of the ways the shark is going to attack, it does something else. And not always predictably, which is fun. My favorite moment (seen in the trailer above) comes from the slow realization that a guy may no longer be so attached to parts of himself as he once was. There's another great moment...but then again, half the fun is seeing them for yourself.

The second is that the novelty of the setting never really wears off, and it is used in interesting ways. It wouldn't surprise me if the initial idea for this film came from someone looking at a shopping basket and wondering if it could be used as a shark cage. Meat hooks, pipes, air ducts - someone has really thought this through.

So should you watch it? To be honest, it will depend on what you're looking for. This has much more in common with the monster genre movies of the late nineties (Anaconda, Deep Rising, Deep Blue Sea) than with modern tongue in cheek stuff like Jurassic Shark.** Ultimately, if you're looking for a fun film in which a bunch of stock characters get eaten in an unusual setting, you'll probably enjoy it.**


* Apparently this gets explained in a throw away line about 'protection'. I may not have been listening at this point, wondering when the hell a) the wave and b) the sharks were going to show up and punish these people for their idiotic conversations

** If you're wondering why I name-dropped this particular non-gem, it's because I also saw this this week. I'm not going to view it, other than to say it's craptacular, but Lilly's done a good job over on her corner of the internet.

***Addendum: There's an amazing cover of Mack the Knife over the end credits. For some reason it won't let me post it here, so the link is below. Enjoy!

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