Considering the shark-attack micro-genre was – like the exorcism movie – largely perfected by the film that invented it, it’s no small relief that Australian-Singaporean horror hybrid Bait 3D circumnavigates sincerity with a sort of tinny-swigging swagger, gleefully wedding disaster movie cliches to the drive-in 3D thrills of Jaws 3.
Confronting the whole issue of ‘how do we keep getting people into the water?’ that plagued the Jaws series from the third film on by bringing the shark to the protagonists instead, Bait 3D contrives a tsunami that floods a Queensland coastal town, trapping a cardboard cut-out collection of survivors – played by no fewer than six Home & Away allumni – in a flooded supermarket with two peckish, iron-jawed seabastards.
Co-written by Aussie schlock king Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction), a leading enabler of this sort of nonsense thanks to his 1984 cult giant pig movie Razorback, and directed by capable second unit mercenary Kimble Rendall (The Matrix Reloaded, I, Robot), there’s a note-perfect professionalism and studied shoddiness to the narrative that’s easy to criticise, but infinitely harder to dislike.
Opening in The Past, handsome lifejock Josh (The Loved Ones and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse‘ Xavier Samuel) is having a perfect time being ever so slightly hungover and hanging with his hot girlfriend Tina (Home & Away‘s Sharni Vinson, soon to be appearing in You’re Next and Patrick), when a Great White leaps from the water (and into the camera), swallowing his bezzie, and Tina’s brother, Rory (Home & Away and Power Rangers: Mystic Force Richard Brancatisano), whole.
Rory isn’t entirely blameless in this. He should’ve known it was coming, uttering portentous last-day-before-retirement dialogue like “You shouldn’t have asked my sister to marry you last night.”
A year or so later, tragic backstory concluded and his well of leaden exposition run dry, Josh is stacking shelves in an underground supermarket and estranged from Tina – his smug handsomeness replaced by brooding handsomeness. A remarkably daft web of relationships and dramas are quickly introduced with all the naturalistic grace we’ve come to expect from a film about a shark in a supermarket.
Tina, back from Singapore, walks in with anonymous new friend Steven (Qi Yuwu). Josh gets chewed out by emotionless robot boss Jessup (Adrian Pang). Flirty bad girl Jamie (Home & Away and The Secret Circle‘s Phoebe Tonkin) shoplifts before being chased by a security guard (Terra Nova and Daybreakers‘ Damien Garvey) hiding with her boyfriend Ryan (The Host and Chronicle‘s Alex Russell), who works at the supermarket and is then prompty sacked by Jessup who threatens to call the police. A policeman, Todd (Martin Sacks), turns up altogether too quickly – for he is Jaime’s father. Meanwhile two idiots get it on in underground carpark – Kyle (Home & Away AND Neighbours‘ Lincoln Lewis) and Heather (Cariba Heine), the latter doing an inconstant American accent in what can only be a desperate attempt to get the film some sort of US release.
So far so shitty teen movie, but then the top-tier talent strolls in as a change agent – Nip/Tuck and Fantastic Four‘s handsome douchebag Julian McMohan, as armed thief Doyle, plus idiot masked thief Kirby (Dan Wyllie). Both, in radically different ways, sporting two of the worst accents ever (McMohan has been in LA so long he can’t even remember how to do Australian, and Wyllie is hamming it up even by the standards of a big dumb shark film), they hold the shop at gunpoint – engaging the grizzled supercop Todd in the sort of Hard Boiled/Reservoir Dogs standoff that real world police officers almost certainly never get engaged in.
At that precise moment a tsunami hits, the FX team going great-guns 2012 style outside, while inside our cast get the entire water-tank in the face. Lights flicker and we wake up in the darkness, Ryan trapped in his slowly flooded van, and Kyle and Heather trapped in their surprisingly water-tight car in the carpark, while the rest bob around in the shop floor. BUT – spoiler alert – they’re not alone, and the long road to survival involves much bickering, futile self-sacrifice, people getting snatched out of mid-air, and secondary threats like live wires itching closer to the water.
Everything in Bait unfolds pretty much as you expect it to, and on the rare occasions it doesn’t – such as Josh’s underwater shotgun fight, and Steven building a shark cage out of shopping trollies – it’s because the course of action is so stupid it defies all expectation.
No mean feat for a film that proudly wears stupidity on its fin.
A strangely charming throwback to an earlier, arguably more fun, age of Australian horror, now represented by Greg McLean’s gristly Wolf Creek and Sean Byrne’s stomach-emptying The Loved Ones, Bait 3D isn’t ‘so bad it’s good’ or any other cliched qualifier designed to infer intellectual superiority while still allowing oneself to enjoy the film. Bait 3D is simply great fun – the clunky and awkward scripting and incredibad acting shored up by satisfying effects, tolerable tension (it’s not exactly Open Water) and shark-leaping, limp-chomping moneyshots that provoke giggling in a certain kind of horror fan.
Basically it’s just as good as Anaconda, only with a comatose Doctor Doom instead of a ridiculous Ice Cube.