Twelve Things about Bait
12. Personally, I had no trouble buying the premise of a tsunami hitting a coastal city in Queensland, flooding an underground supermarket, trapping everyone inside, and throwing some sharks in for good measure. (Yes, plural: sharks.) We're not talking of "Sharksploitation," which is just gratuitous, but of "Worst Case Scenario Handbook," which is creative.
I later learned that the story was inspired by real-life floods in Brisbane, during which sharks would swim in the streets (Because: Australia); so it's not even that farfetched!
11. If you're looking for a Shark Slasher, in which stereotypical characters get taken out one by one by sinister selachians, I've already got you covered. That would be Shark Night 3D, and it has its own Twelve Things. (You're welcome!)
Bait is more of a Survival Movie in which strangers must learn to work as a team, and with the few resources available to them, that as many as possible may escape. Which is not to say that minor characters aren't "thrown to the sharks" in gaudy, gory ways. I mean, of course they are. But the point isn't to whittle the group down to a single special-snowflake survivor. Final Girl is fun, but Final Species is class.
10. I almost wrote "Final Civilisation" back there, except that sharks don't have a civilisation. And even if a second deluge came (which it won't, cf. Genesis 9:11) and sharks wiped out every human being on the planet, those winners wouldn't even be capable of an oral history of their own epic. But there's something every civilisation has in common, and the ragtag bunch in Bait, though thrown together for less than a day, have it, too.
Because every self-respecting civilisation needs to unleash a Kraken now and then
Seriously, even communities which have lost their sense of the divine still have to deal with the intense spiritual compulsion for a scapegoat. It is human, if also fallen, to long for someone on whose head to lay all the sins of the nation--that one may die for the many and the many have all their sins washed away with his blood.
These days, we like to pat ourselves on the back for no longer throwing virgins into volcanoes, but you should hear the way we howl for the blood of "bullies" . . . or "whistleblowers" . . . or as this movie calls them, "bait."
9. So how about those characters? For the most part, they are efficiently introduced: we have the bad girl shoplifter, her disappointed policeman father, her sweet boyfriend, the humourless supermarket manager, the two robbers in ski masks, assorted supermarket employees and customers . . . And twenty minutes later, two very hungry visitors! Bwahahahahahahaha!
Make that twenty-seven minutes later, if you count the prologue for our two romantic leads. Did we really need to know that they broke their engagement over a shark attack at the beach one year earlier? (Answer: no.) Even the jolting visual effect, the only reason to include it, isn't reason enough: remember that Bait is not about sharks in the ocean but sharks in a supermarket.
8. You know what I love about the supermarket setting? The way it circumscribes the story so tightly that we forget for over an hour that we're watching a Disaster movie.
Instead of sweeping views of a city devastated by nature and CGI (which, you must admit, are a huge cliche), the perspective is deliberately hemmed in . . . even trapped.
7. I'm sure you know that it pays to fit a certain profile when you are in a Horror or Disaster film. Although the males initially seem to come out on top, with nine survivors to the females' four, you don't need me to tell you that more men than women suffer horrible deaths. Is this sexist?
Although I rolled my eyes whenever a woman seemed to get a special pass, I had to admit that it suited the story. Sharksploitation may have license to make fodder out of females (in bikinis, no less!), but Bait wants to make heroes out of ordinary people. And like it or not, whenever a woman is lost, the men look less heroic.
6. Having counted the cast in the main group, I now get why the one who seemed "just there" was just there. I guess I'm not the only one with a fondness for the number 13! =D
5. As seriously as I'm taking Bait, I'm aware that it is this close to a crock of camp. I think the filmmakers realised that, too, which is why they included two characters who exist for no other reason than comic relief. And so the gravity of the life-or-death situation is preserved by the levity of . . . another life-or-death situation. =P It's very Script Writing 101, but it's also dedication to craft, people!!!
4. So I felt really let down when the characters cooked up a plan to crawl to safety through an air duct. Now, I'm not going to hate a movie just because it is set in that bizarre alternate dimension which is exactly like ours in every respect except the impractical design of its ventilation system; but until this point, I had been enjoying Bait as an instruction video on how to survive being trapped with a shark, and I wasn't crazy about running time being wasted on a plan I would never be able to execute in real life.
What happens next, I don't want to spoil; but I think it's safe to share my wonder that an architectural feature can be as much of a red herring as a character!
3. Still trying to skirt spoilers as much as possible, I want to say that the "shark cage" subplot was a great effort. Perhaps it could have seemed less gimmicky at the beginning; but the way it unfolds is something else.
For those who've seen the movie, this IMDb.com post points out two simple design modifications that would have made the difference between life and death. We should all be able to think like this in a crisis.
2. Please note that I am less concerned with what is than with what works. Even I know that a shark in that scenario would get started on the fresh corpses rather than targeting living prey, and would soon become so full you'd be able to swim right in front of it without being nipped. But Bait doesn't ask the question, "What would you do if you were trapped with a shark?" but the question, "What would you do if you were trapped with a Killer Shark?" Two different things.
Of course, you can argue that the likelihood of being at the mercy of a Killer Shark is extremely low, and therefore, this movie isn't teaching me anything useful at all. In which case, you really have no idea what kind of trouble I normally find myself in.
1. A final note . . . The scapegoat is such a universal theme that I shouldn't have been so surprised to recall that human sacrifice and the modern-day supermarket were first paired together in another movie: the adaptation of Stephen King's short story The Mist.
I guess there's something about our own consumerism that makes us think nature will get us for it in the end. Let's do a proper point-by-point comparison of these two someday. You bring the movies; I'll bring the snacks. I just hope I don't run into hell while picking them up at the grocery store. =P
Image Sources: a) Bait poster, b) Clash of the Titans screen cap, c) Oceania Food Mart, d) Killer shark, e) The Mist poster