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Bait 3D – film review

September 19, 2012

BAIT 3D

Reviewed on Monday September 10th 2012

Directed by Kimble Rendall. Written by Russell Mulcahy and John Kim. Starring: Phoebe Tonkin, Xavier Samuel, Julian McMahon, Lincoln Lewis and Sharni Vinson. Running time: 93 mins.

You know, I’ve never really been one of those people with a morbid fear of sharks.

Perhaps because I never spend any time at the beach, which is kind of ironic really, considering beaches are one of the things which Australia has in abundance. It’s not about what might be lurking beneath the surface which keeps me away. It’s more about the sand. It gets in everywhere and I guess because I lived in the UK, with its pebbled coastline, when I was young, this may explain why I have an aversion to sandy beaches. Anyway, this is why I don’t find sharks and films about sharks particularly scary, as I would never put myself in a situation where I’d be eaten by one.

Sure, I’d change my tune if sharks were able to make their way inland.

Not that that’s likely –

Right?

Well, if Kimble Rendall’s new film is anything to go by, I may have to have a rethink.

Alongside such highbrow classics as Breaker Morant and Picnic At Hanging Rock, Australia has a fine pedigree in producing shameless (in a good way) exploitation fare since the 1970’s – with films like Mad Max, Patrick, and The Cars That Ate Paris. Known affectionately as Ozploitation, it is only in recent times that Aussie genre B-movies are being recognized and appreciated as worthy of attention (thanks in part to the interest generated by Mark Hartley’s award-winning documentary Not Quite Hollywood). It was not so long ago some genre-writing friends and I were bemoaning the fact that all Australia seemed to be producing at the time were depressed urban junkie dramas – which failed to connect with audiences.

Where were all the Aussie B-movies, we wondered – like the ones we grew up with?

Well, of course, then Wolf Creek opened and made a zillion dollars and the new renaissance of Ozploitation was born.

Bait 3D is an Australian-Singaporean co-production shot mostly at the Warner Brothers studios on the Gold Coast.

I imagine an inherent hurdle to overcome when writing shark movies or any movie with a fishy antagonist (flying Piranhas notwithstanding) is that once the alarm is raised and the threat becomes apparent, how do you get your potential victims into the damn water? One way around it is to have your characters already trapped at sea, as in Open Water.

Another way is to do what happens in Bait 3D.

In an impressively-staged sequence, a gigantic tsunami inundates an unnamed Queensland coastal community (which may or may not be Surfer’s Paradise).

The narrative intercuts between the plight of two sets of characers: ten or so people holed up atop grocery shelves in a half-submerged shopping centre supermarket, and a separate couple trapped below in a submerged car in a parking garage, half-filled with water (why the parking garage wouldn’t be completely underwater is never explained).

Unable to escape this watery hell-hole, these two sets of survivors soon find themselves menaced by a couple of twelve foot white pointer sharks, which appear to have unending appetites.

Peopled with the usual stock-standard characters: the bad girl shoplifter (Phoebe Tonkin) and her father who’s a cop (Martin Sacks). The nice guy hero (Xavier Samuel) who feels responsible for the death of his best buddie (Richard Brancatisano) and who is also having to deal with the reappearance of his estranged ex-girlfiend (Sharni Vinson) with her new boyfriend (Qi Yuwu). The bickering couple (Lincoln Lewis and Cariba Heine). The bad guy thief who redeems himself via heroism (Julian McMahon). And the untrustworthy cynic who turns out to be a sociopathic asshole (Dan Wyllie).

The performances are adequate for this type of material, but the characters lack depth. Sure, they’re likeable enough, but we never really feel we know them well enough to care when their lives are in danger.

But having said that, there are some dramatically tense moments here. And a few effective jolts to be had. Director Kimble Rendall (who had previously helmed the Molly Ringwald-starring horror movie Cut, before directing second unit on Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions), shows an assured hand in creating tension and staging action sequences which are easy to follow (which is kinda’ refreshing in this current Michael Bay-style era of incomprehensible action with its whip-pan shaky cam and strobe-quick editing).

And the sense of claustrophobia works really well. The flooded sets have a great sense of authenticity thanks to Nicholas McCallum’s production design, Jenny O’Connell’s art direction and Suzy Whitefield’s set decoration.

Executive Producer Russell Mulcahy (director of cult faves Razorback and Highlander), also has a co-screenplay credit, along with John Kim – who, according to IMDB, has no previous writing credits. Another four writers are also credited with ‘additional writing by’ which gives the impression that not all was well with the development of the screenplay: Shayne Armstrong & Shane Kraus (Acolytes), Duncan Kennedy (Deep Blue Sea) and Justin Monjo (a television scribe known for Rush and Farscape).

The dialog is a combination of soap melodramatics and 70’s disaster movie cliches.

A prime example of this occurs in the final scene (it’s okay – I won’t mention who’s left alive) – when the remaining water-logged survivors finally emerge to find themselves in a devastated tsunami-ravaged landscape. One character says to another: “What do we do now?” To which the other character replies: “We start over.”  This (the last line of the movie) feels like it should be in a whole other film – the finale of one of Roland Emmerich’s overblown apocalyptic disaster epics perhaps? So, what – like, are they gonna repopulate the planet? Was the tsunami that huge? A world-wide catastrophe?

There’s also another line which could’ve come straight from an Ed Wood movie: Julian McMahon secures a rope so that another character may climb into an air duct and he says “The rope is strong, but it won’t hold much weight”.

Huh? Well if the rope won’t hold much weight – then it can’t be that strong, can it?

The scene where Sharni Vinson’s character’s current boyfriend (played by Qi Yuwu) dons a makeshift suit of wire mesh in order to protect himself from the shark and shut down the supermarket’s power was particularly ridiculous. And it was moments like this which had the preview audience at the critic’s screening I attended howling with laughter – but they seemed to be genuinely having a good time with it.

I don’t wanna seem like I’m dissing Bait 3D – but ultimately, the movie’s flaws are more endearing than groan-inducing – giving it a goofy charm which is quite appealing.

The animatronic sharks are generally convincing. Although we perhaps see too much of the CGI versions, when they’re not directly interacting with the cast – which dissipates the tension somewhat. The great thing about the original Jaws was – we didn’t actually see a great deal of the shark between attacks, which made the moments it did appear all the more shocking – the “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” scene is a good example of this.

The 3D for the most part is either ineffective or just plain distracting. But the image is a helluva lot sharper and less murky than the Australian-lensed Sanctum or more recently: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and seems to work best (in terms of depth perception) during the underwater sequences.

The film is quite bloody in parts, with various characters chomped in half and body parts floating about here and there. And I’m sure the film will do well on the suburban multiplex circuit and find favour with the 15 to 25 age-bracket target audience it is clearly aimed at.

Silly in parts, but overall, hugely entertaining – this film isn’t high art and nor does it intend to be. There is no subtext, no underlying themes to be explored, no pretense.

It’s a free-wheeling entertainment – pure and simple – a visceral thrill-ride.

Best filed under ‘guilty pleasures’.

And If I had to sum up Bait 3D using an Ed Woodism, I’d say this movie is seriously silly – but a lot of fun.

No, actually – that kinda’ works!

Viewed in 3D at the Palace-Nova Eastend Cinemas, Adelaide, September 10th 2012.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes right-brained people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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11 Comments
  1. Great write up Greg!!

    Really like Xavier Samuel after seeing him in The Loved Ones, and love sharks, so is win/win for me! I just watched The Reef again yesterday, love that and the fact they used real Great Whites in filming.

  2. Cheers, man! Hope I didn’t come across as too negative in my review. Despite its flaws (or perhaps because of them) it was really a lot of fun! I must check out The Reef!

    🙂

  3. When I see Bait I’ll come back and let you know if you were too negative or not 🙂

    • Cool! I look forward to hearing what you think of it. 🙂

      • Well, I saw it, and posted my thoughts. Then I come back here, and my review looks like shit in comparison to yours! You go into way more detail, hats off to you Greg 🙂

        At least we both enjoyed the film for what it was.

      • gregory moss permalink

        Thanks Tyson! But I think you really nailed it with your review. And not wanting to sound like a mutual admiration society here – I was going to review the Angels & Airwaves movie ‘Love’ (which I loved by the way) – but figured I could never do it justice the way you did brilliantly with your write-up. Cheers! 🙂

      • Haha, thanks, very much appreciated! Feeling the love right here (no pun intended!). You have to review it, and I can’t wait to read your take on it. The film needs as much exposure as possible. Nice to know you enjoyed it too.

      • You’re right, man – ‘Love’ is absolutely a little gem which deserves more attention. I’ll definitely be getting it on blu-ray when it’s released here in Oz (hopefully soon) – so I’ll post a review of it then. I feel in order to pay the movie its dues, I just have to see it again. 🙂

  4. Great review – I don’t think you came across as too negative but then I haven’t seen the film and so can’t judge properly. Anyway, thanks for drawing my attention to it – I will hopefully check it out someday.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers! It’s great fun and is well worth checking out – more fun than Prometheus. 🙂

      • Many things are more fun than Prometheus! But yeah I’ll be adding it to my watchlist 🙂
        Thanks.

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