On paper, the idea of a pair of great-white sharks taking advantage of a freak tsunami by going grocery shopping sounds like a good deal of fun. It's the sort of B-movie schlock that delivers silly laughs along with over-the-top gore, and in some respects, this low-budget Australian production actually succeeds at doing precisely that. The entire first half, in fact, is taut and very well-done as director Kimble Rendall, making his second full-length feature, moves the action at a brisk pace. Excusing the bad CGI effects of the massive wave laying waste to a beach community, the movie brings with it some thrills, particularly when seeing people fighting for dear lives inside the market and the downstairs car park. An air of apprehension brews once the lucky survivors realize they're not alone in the aftermath.
Taking a cue from pretty much every disaster movie ever made, 'Bait' features a small, ragtag bunch of strangers that will learn to work together in battling and outsmarting an unexpected, bloodthirsty terror. There's the young lifeguard (Xavier Samuel) with a traumatic past he has yet to deal with while a former girlfriend (Sharni Vinson) is coincidentally back in town. A troubled, rebellious daughter (Phoebe Tonkin) is at vulgar odds with her widowed-cop father (Martin Sacks), there to pick her up for shoplifting. Alex Russell ('Chronicle') plays the daughter's much too understanding boyfriend, but trapped in the lower-level garage with a snotty, bickering couple (Lincoln Lewis and Cariba Heine) and their dog. And finally, there's the criminal (Julian McMahon) who is actually a good guy when you get to know him and predictably becomes the hero.
After the initial mayhem of nature's wrath, the tension that builds between the characters is the movie's most engaging aspect. It worsens when the ferocious predator makes its presence known, slowly perusing the aisles for several fairly creepy minutes, undecided on what to eat until it learns fresh meat is kept on the top shelf. Trying to determine a survival and exit plan with a group of anxiously frightened customers is bad enough, but a 12-foot man-eater raises the stakes significantly and creates a great deal of panic. Never mind the specifics of how two incredibly large sharks entered the store, which are just as terrified and confused as the people, if not more. Figuring out an escape while a hungry animal is ready to pounce plays to the B-quality horror and humor expected of the silly premise.
Unfortunately, where the film flounders and jumps the shark, so to speak, is in the melodrama that ensues after a while. From a script that swapped hands between six separate writers, the narrative suddenly goes from fights and jump scares to confronting personal demons, redemption and rekindling old loves. The oddest and most awkward exchange is the daughter making sense of the tragedy by turning it into some kind of karmic justice. Everyone must pay for her immature selfishness? Rendall also hams it up during the second half, transforming a tale of horror with a popular shark theme into a formulaic survival story that coincidentally features a shark in it. The tongue-in-cheek possibilities of the plot are soon forgotten in favor of generic action sequences and a simplistic, happy-ending exit strategy.
Other than a well-played first half, the one thing 'Bait' has going for it is its original low-rent premise, which is sure to ironically bait the most curious of horror fanatics for at least a rental. Indeed, the film can be quite fun in those moments of characters realizing their predicament, and Rendall handles the plot's charm rather nicely — something to the silliness of 'Snakes on a Plane,' only with sharks inside a market and missing the overacting. It's even one of the better movies from the latest trend involving underwater predators, like 'Shark Night' or the hideous 'Jersey Shore Shark Attack.' But somewhere along the lines, the filmmakers forgot the sort of film they were making and wanted it to be more than what it really is — a pair of great-white sharks taking advantage of a freak tsunami by going grocery shopping.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Starz and Anchor Bay Entertainment bring 'Bait' to 3D Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The first is a Region A locked, BD50 containing both 2D and 3D versions of the movie while the second is a DVD-5 copy in 2D only. Both discs sit comfortably on opposing panels inside a blue, eco-cutout case. At startup, viewers can skip a series of 2D trailers to a 3D menu screen with the standard options while full-motion clips and music play in the background.
Filmed natively in 3D, the Australian horror flick swims to Blu-ray with a smashing and highly-detailed 1080p/MVC encode. The filmmakers make great use of the format as a device for fun gimmick effects as well as a method for drawing viewers into the action. The shark's snout protrudes only inches away from our nose; debris floating in the water swims in the middle of the room; blood and body parts fly at your face; and random sharp objects pierce through the screen towards our eyes. From the start, separation in the foreground is astounding with background objects piercing deep into the far distance and generating a believable three-dimensional space. The aisles in the market feel elongated and the car park seems expansive, immersing viewers into a terrifying sense of constant danger.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the image is sharply defined and detailed. Shadow delineation is superb as the tiniest item in the far back of the store remains plainly visible throughout. Fine lines around hair and clothing is distinct while facial complexions appear natural with lifelike textures that expose every pore, wrinkle and blemish in the faces of the cast. The picture comes with a limited color palette because it's mostly shot under deliberately poor-lighting conditions and with lots of shadows. Still, primaries are bright and accurate with healthy flesh tones. Contrast is spot-on with brilliant whites, adding a terrific pop to the 3D picture. Blacks are generally deep and rich, but they noticeably lose some of their luster in several scenes. Overall, the movie makes a spectacular debut on 3D Blu-ray.
Continuing the horror of the open ocean on the mainland is this satisfying and enjoyable Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The front-heavy presentation creates a wide and open soundstage with a well-balanced channel separation and flawless movement between all three speakers. The music and action effects are terrifically detailed with accurate off-screen directionality. Dynamics and acoustics are sharply rendered with clean, precise dialogue reproduction in the center of the screen. Rear activity, full of mild and very subtle discrete atmospherics, creates an immersive listening environment that smoothly enhances the soundfield. On a few occasions, sounds occupy the background with great clarity and panning. Most impressive is an often authoritative and palpable low-end which adds an amusing effect to the jump scares while generating an air of bass-rumbling apprehension.
The only available special feature is a still gallery of storyboard pics, presented in HD and in 2D.
Part of the latest horror trend of underwater predators, 'Bait' starts off strong with good suspense and frights as a pair of great white shark claim a market as their feeding territory. Unfortunately, this low-budget Australian production soon forgets the silliness of its premise and quickly drowns beneath the weight of its own melodrama. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent 3D presentation and satisfying lossless audio. Supplements, on the other hand, are in very short supply, making this package more of a bare-bones release that serves at best as a rental.