Bait is everything wrong with modern horror movies. It doesn’t know how dumb it is, the cast is terrible, and the CG is soulless.
The premise is, in fact, not supposed to be a joke. A tsunami floods a supermarket. Then a shark swims into the supermarket, trapping some survivors on top of shelves and in a submerged car in the parking garage. In a way, it reminded me of Tremors, which I’ve just rewatched. In both movies, people are trapped while something unlikely swims around beneath them (Bait and Tremors both have the besieged survivors attempting a fishing trap for the monster). Unlike Tremors, which was mostly a comedy, Bait has no idea that it’s dumb. Except for a few scenes of unfunny comic relief, Bait takes itself entirely seriously. If Bait doesn’t let me laugh with it, I will instead laugh at it.
The cast of Bait isn’t so much a cast as an intended demographic. Lead actor Xavier Samuel, who was perfectly cast as a lobotomy victim in another Australian horror movie called The Loved One, is certainly pretty and pretty vacant. He is exactly the wrong actor to establish the backstory and to carry the emotional weight. Yes, Bait thinks it has emotional weight. Don’t ask. At some point in the last twenty years, horror movies were overrun by dumb good-looking teenagers. Tremors, released in 1990, has no teenagers. In fact, its supposed college student was played by a 30-year-old actress.
But everyone in Bait is forgettable and disposable, even when they’re played by good actors like Julian McMahon (one of the leads in Nip/Tuck and the villain in the Fantastic Four movie) and Dan Wyllie (hilarious and memorable as the family lawyer in Animal Kingdom). Tremors is mostly carried by Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon goofing around. But I’d forgotten how adorable it is watching cute little Reba McEntire shoot guns, especially the way she screws up her face like she’s never fired a gun before. Or maybe she’s just trying to look grim. Whatever the case, it’s adorable. And you can’t beat a line like, “You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun!” I can listen to Reba McIntyre pretend to talk about guns all day. But I couldn’t wait for the models/actors in Bait to get eaten so they’d stop talking. Not that they do. Too many modern horror movies are too unwilling to kill many of their victims.
The CG in Bait is entirely divorced from the filming. The underwater scenes have no sense for how much room is actually in the flooded supermarket. Instead, it’s just random footage of a CG shark in deep water. Consider that image up there of the shark breaching to eat one of its victims. How is it supposed to leap that far out of water that shallow? Bait doesn’t care. And even though Tremors looks cheap, it comes from a whole different era when you could almost see the love that went into practical effects. Tremors almost literally uses sock puppets for its monster. I find it tremendously endearing to imagine some guy sticking his hand up into a latex tentacle puppet. I don’t find it so endearing to imagine the employees at a contracted visual effects studio at their keyboards.
Bait is available for video on demand, including Amazon Instant View.