Wednesday, September 19, 2012

'Bait' is great outing in shark attack genre

Very few shark movies are actually good.

Really, the only one that’s a quality movie is ‘Jaws.’

All four sequels to ‘Jaws’ get progressively worse in quality, though, culminating with the fourth film – where the shark actually follows the family from the Northeast to the Bahamas.

There have been imitators over the years – but most have been severe disappointments.

Take ‘Deep Blue Sea.’ It was supposed to be really smart sharks, really dumb scientists and Samuel L. Jackson. The movie wasn’t horrible – but it wasn’t great either. And the special effects? Even though it was 30 years later, the fake shark in ‘Jaws’ was more believable than the digital ones in ‘Deep Blue Sea.’

Then there was a string of SyFy Channel and straight-to-video titles like ‘Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus,’ ‘Shark Attack’ and ‘Raging Sharks.’

One of the most realistic ones debuted a couple years ago. ‘Open Water’ was the story of a couple accidentally left behind after a scuba diving outing. It was notable because it was filmed with real sharks. Of course, the shark attacks in that movie are off-screen. That film is more about ambiance.

I will say, I absolutely loved ‘Lake Placid.’ Sure, it was a giant crocodile movie instead of sharks – but it was not only tense and atmospheric, but it was also hilarious. Betty White at her foul-mouthed best, but I digress.

My least favorite outing in recent years, though, was last year’s ‘Shark Night’ which was supposed to be campy fun and ended up being ridiculously ludicrous to the point of painful.

Essentially, I’m a big fan of shark movies. The problem is, most of them are either so bad they’re unwatchable or they’re so bad they’re good. Ever since ‘Jaws,’ there hasn’t been a truly great shark movie.

That changed for me this week when I sat down to watch an Australian indie film called ‘Bait.’

‘Bait’ is the story of a group of people that get caught in an underground store when a tsunami hits. Not only does the tsunami bring a wall of water – but it brings in two Great White sharks as well.

I know, I know. It sounds stupid. Or is it stupid enough to be awesome?

I’m going for the latter.

Maybe it’s because I had absolutely no expectations for ‘Bait.’ I loved it, though. Don't get me wrong, it's not 'Jaws' but it is better than any other shark movie I've ever seen.

The action in ‘Bait’ is separated into two parts. The group of people stuck in the store with one shark are led by Xavier Samuel’s Josh and Julian McMahon’s Doyle – two characters that couldn’t be more different if they tried. Josh is still dealing with the death of his friend by a – you guessed it – shark attack. Doyle is trying to get his brother out of trouble by robbing the store at the beginning of the movie.

They’re joined by a group of different characters – most of which you realize going in are meant to be shark food. The standouts in the rest of the group are Phoebe Tonkin’s Jamie and her father Todd – played by Martin Sacks.

The other action sequences are set in the underground parking garage adjacent to the store. There boyfriend and girlfriend Kyle and Heather are trapped in their car – with her annoying lap dog – while a shark continues to circle them and Jamie’s boyfriend Ryan tries to save them.

‘Bait’ is never going to win an award. It’s sharks in a shopping mall for crying out loud. If you’re a movie purist don’t even bother.

Still, if you like a little fun, ‘Bait’ has a lot to offer – including character development.

The fact that ‘Bait’ even manages to make some of their fodder characters not only likeable but interesting is something to behold. While some of the deaths are played for fun – and two you’re even rooting for – there are poignant moments as well.

Ultimately, ‘Bait’ is about pretty people and how they’re going to survive. It’s still a lot of fun, though.

Now, if only they'd make Steve Alten's 'Meg' into a big screen bonanza.

‘Bait’ is currently out on Blu-Ray and DVD. It is also in limited theater release.


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