In what kind of a sick world does a shark movie allow the majority of its cast to walk away unchomped? That’d be the world of Kimble Rendall‘s Bait 3D, where almost all genre promises are broken, accents are in a constant state of flux, and everyone is the absolute worst. We rarely watch horror flicks to enjoy the sparkling repartee of the inevitable mince-meat, or to invest in their emotional traumas, and that is doubly the case for one that features this particular batch of damned souls. Bizarrely, the tedious personal trials of the 13 people trapped in a flooded supermarket are given precedence over their efforts to survive the great white sharks circling them. You can get away with that if you’re actually telling a compelling story (Jaws), or toying with tropes (The Cabin in the Woods), or intentionally teasing the audience to hilarious effect (Drag Me To Hell), but not like this. Not like this. Any film this bad needs to make up for its sins with gore and cheap thrills. Even in that respect, Bait fails spectacularly.
Proceedings commence ominously with Gold Coast life-saver Josh (Xavier Samuel) failing to rescue his buddy from the toothy embrace of a shark. The sequence concludes, even more ominously, with him howling ‘No!’ towards the heavens. One year later, Josh is working at the Oceania underground grocery store, where he runs into his ex-girlfriend Tina (Sharni Vinson). Meanwhile, bad girl Jaimie (Phoebe Tonkin) indulges in some light shoplifting, causing her boyfriend (Alex Russell) to get sacked from his plum security job. Her cop father (Martin Sacks) is called in by the manager (Adrian Pang), which is bad news for a couple of crooks (Julian McMahon, Dan Wyllie) who had hoped to rob the place. What big score they had hoped to nab from a grocery store, I don’t know. Then, a tsunami strikes, the store floods, and the few survivors are forced to contend with the 12-foot beasts swimming around their feet. Also: their feelings!
The performances are atrocious, save for Wyllie’s, whose full-throttle insanity seems to at least indicate his knowledge that this should be a nutty, fun, amusement park ride of a picture. Tonkin, Russell, and Sacks – who have each impressed in the past – are betrayed by awful, overly-serious dialogue, provided by screenwriters John Kim and exploitation king Russell Mulcahy. I don’t want to talk about Samuel and Vinson, and I hope to never even be reminded of Lincoln Lewis‘ pink-polo clad douchebag, who is relegated to the shopping centre parking lot with a whinging girlfriend (Cariba Heine) and a yapping Pomeranian. The special effects are a little more convincing, particularly the animatronic sharks and the animatronic Julian McMahon.
An early suggestion that the water levels might rise and see everyone submerged never comes to fruition, which is a real betrayal. It’s one thing to be intentionally bad; it’s another thing entirely to be intentionally boring. Rendall might be able to make the case for the former in future years, just as Tommy Wiseau did once The Room became a cult hit. But the crime of monotony can never be retconned, and Bait‘s low kill-count and total absence of terror seeks to make this an entirely redundant effort. The stone-faced script and tension-free direction amount to one of the worst Australian productions in years; only a slight step up from the likes of Birdemic and Dinoshark. It can’t even claim to be the best supermarket spookfest; that honour belongs to The Mist, which better balanced the unrelenting horror with biting social commentary and character development. Even if the choice of setting is a nifty one, I can think of at least one location scarier: any cinema or lounge room screening Bait.
Bait 3D arrives in Australian cinemas September 20, 2012.