Directed by Kimble Rendall || Written by John Kim and Russell Mulcahy || Stars Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson and Julian McMahon || Made in Australia and Singapore || Distributed by StudioCanal || Genres Action, Horror and Sci-Fi || Rated 15 for strong language, violence, horror and gore
In the wake of Twitter phenomenon Sharknado, it seems that audiences are biting (sorry) for more of that nichest of cinematic canon, crappy-sci-fi-where-people-are-terrorised-by-fish. Or at least, that’s what cheap production outfits like The Asylum would like you to think, judging by the flood (again, sincere apologies) of copycats, and unnecessary sequels, emerging from the ether.
Rather unfortunate for Aussie studio, erm, Bait Productions, Bait came to the game a little too soon, releasing in most territories a full year before Asylum’s magnum crappus (except the UK, natch). Not that the hype swept up by the ‘nado would have done much for it, because this effort from Down Under (and Singapore) falls far too short of the ‘So Bad It’s Good’ title that so many of its forebears aspire to. In fact, it doesn’t seem to realise that it is should be reaching for that lowest of goals, so straight it keeps its game-face throughout.
A flimsy rock-and-a-hard-place scenario sees a sudden tsunami trap a group of survivors inside an obvious abandoned warehouse posing as a mall. There, they are set upon by a pair of doll’s-eyed beasts, that Greatest of White Sharks (even if the promotional material only identify the one – what’s up with that?). All the ingredients for a sub-par MST3K viewing are in place; one of every stereotype – the bland guy, the bland girl, the slightly-less-bland girl, the baddie with a heart of gold, the disposable boyfriend, the jerk, the other jerk, the other other jerk – line up for the eatin’, with CGI effects so bad that they make good ol’ Bruce from Jaws look credible and a slim-downed running time that barely limps past an hour and a half.
The big difference here is that Bait isn’t trying to suck. Hell, it doesn’t even grant itself a Z-list actor to topbill the bargain bin, like a Hasselhoff or a Henriksen or a [insert other “legendary” actor beginning with ‘H’ here]. At least Sharknado had the common decency to cast Tara Reid: Bait only gives us “that one guy from Twilight: Eclipse” and “that dude who played Doctor Doom in those awful Fantastic Four movies”, neither of whom are worth watching ironically for.
The film does attempt to throw stupid stuff like character and plot into the mix, but ends up failing woefully. Most of the potential chow are either so dull that you instantly forget they exist as soon as the camera cuts away from them or just plain annoying, like the mean jock and his stuck-up girlfriend trapped down in the car park with a chihuahua, probably the only likable character in the bloody thing. Our leading love interests Samuel and Vinson, meanwhile, are gifted the flimsiest of emotional drama, making their inevitable re-hook-up strangely depressing (it actually makes you root for the tag-along new boyfriend). The excessively Australian robber Kirby provides a smite of enjoyment, if only for actor Dan Wyllie’s hilarious amateur dramatics performance that at least feels B-movie authentic.
Lest we grant it some credit for avoiding the grot-flick pitfalls, it sadly doesn’t hold up on the horror end either, due to a supreme lack of suspense. The set-up of water, water everywhere means that when they aren’t being devoured by sharks, the cast just spend most of their screen-time hanging around helplessly while their fellow survivors get killed in not-so-grisly ways. Makes for riveting cinema *sarcasm*. You’re probably thinking, well, at least they all die, right? Well, no. And that’s probably the biggest insult; barely anyone gets the chop, making this one of the worst disaster/horror movies in recent times. Aren’t people supposed to, you know, die in these things? That, coupled with the short running time, means that barely anything of consequence actually happens until they just suddenly decide, “oh, wait, let’s escape, duh-doi!”. Idiots.
Bait is obviously under the false belief that it’s more like that ‘other’ shark movie – clearly Spielberg has a lot to answer for – when it should be reaching for every other shark movie and embrace its inner crappiness. Dull, inconsequential, with planks for characters, and nowhere near bad enough to keep your attention.