Bait (2012)

Just When You Thought the SyFy Channel had Ruined Shark Movies Forever, Australia Delivers a Shark Flick With Bite!

Jaws” was the first PG rated movie I was able to talk my parents into taking me to see in theaters, and Steven Spielberg’s modern horror adventure masterpiece made an irreversible mark on me. I’ve been chasing the thrill that “Jaws” injected into my veins ever since. I collected shark books, t-shirts and even shark pencil erasers and sought out every “Jaws” knock-off that Hollywood could chew up and spit out from William Girdler’s “Grizzly” (1976) to “Tentacles” (1977) to “Great White” (1981), akaThe Last Shark,” which Universal Studios successfully sued for copyright infringement. It has never seen an official home video release in the United States to this day, but I saw it three times in the theater!  One of things most of these “Jaws” wannabes have in common, including “Jaws 2,” “Jaws 3” and “Jaws the Revenge,” is that they were usually pretty disappointing. Even so, my hunger for Great White sharks on celluloid would not be satisfied.

That is until the SyFy Channel cured my urge to ever see a “Jaws” knock-off ever again. The last shark movie I saw with a budget worthy of a theatrical release was Renny Harlin’s “Deep Blue Sea” (1999), and even though Harlin’s sharks were mostly computer generated, I had a lot of fun with his modern “Jaws” homage. Then “Mega Shark,” “Shark Attack,” “Super Shark,” “Shark Night,” “Mega Shark VS Giant Octopus,” “Mega Shark VS Crocosaurus” and “Jersey Shore Shark Attack” sucked every last drop of life out the shark movie sub-genre while the SyFy Channel’s intentionally awful CGI special effects became the new normal for the entire nature-runs-amok genre.

If you were to see the DVD box for “Bait” (2012) sitting on the video store shelf, you couldn’t be blamed for assuming that this little shark flick was just another SyFy Channel piece of crap, but surprisingly this isn’t the case here. This film is actually an Australian independent film with a decent budget, a capable cast and a novel concept. Really? Yeah, really.

The story follows the lives of a group of characters who are all brought together in a supermarket near a beach when, during an armed robbery, an earthquake causes a tsunami that floods the entire shopping center, trapping good guys and bad guys alike inside with two hungry Great White sharks! The main character, played by Xavier Samuel (“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”), is still suffering from the loss of his best friend to a shark attack a year previous which also caused a rift in the relationship he had with his fiance who was his best friend’s sister. The crisis causes them to re-examine their broken relationship while fending off sharks and robbers. One of the robbers, played by Julian McMahon (who you might remember as Doctor Doom in the “Fantastic Four” movies), is only doing this job to help get his son out of debut with a criminal organization. He’s a hardened badass, but one with an “honor among thieves” philosophy. His partner, on the other hand, is a total psycho. There’s a cop stuck in there too, so the tensions are high even though everyone eventually realizes they need to work together to survive.

The fun begins when everyone is stuck atop the store’s shelves on the upper level, while other characters are stuck in the lower parking lot, as the sharks swim in the aisles waiting for someone to fall into the water. Some of the poor folks in their cars in the parking lot are like fish in a fishbowl watching the sharks swim around their windows looking for a way in. Death is all around: sharks, electricity and sparking wires, the threat of drowning and armed psychopaths. Can love prevail? I can’t tell you that you’ll really care, but I can at least promise you a fun ride, a fair amount of gore and two 12 foot Great White sharks that don’t look like cartoons programmed by 8 year olds.

It’s all played straight, not for lowbrow camp like SyFy Channel shark movies, and “Bait” delivers a fair amount of suspense, drama and toothy horror. If you’re a reformed shark movie addict, like me, this one might actually cause you to fall back off the wagon. The sets are big and convincing and the water flooding into them is real and not computer generated. Some fun ideas are occasionally executed, like the “shark proof” diving suit constructed by the survivors out of wire store racks and everyday grocery supplies. While it’s still a long way from the high water mark set by “Jaws” in the Summer of 1975, “Bait” is oceans above most of the other copycats swimming the shallow waters on the SyFy Channel.

– The Phantom of the Ville

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