This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 11th November 2012
It’s entirely possible that this low-budget Aussie horror film is having a laugh at the audience’s expense, but the whole exercise, in gratuitous 3-D, is so mishandled you don’t know whether to grimace or guffaw.
Following a creative setup – a tsunami smashes through a small beachfront community causing sharks to swim into a flooded supermarket where hapless shoppers are trapped – the usual horror scenes are rolled out. The cast, comprising the customary cross-section of humanity (the estranged couple, ditzy blonde, sullen teen, psychotic criminal), boasts Singaporean, Australian and pseudo-American accents. Thrown together in this life-or-death situation, the unlikeable ensemble bicker unconvincingly as they are picked off, one by one.
The shameless abundance of cliches – our nominal hero (Home and Away‘s Xavier Samuel) is a surf lifeguard, haunted by his earlier failure to save the life of his ex-fiancee’s brother – initially gives you hope that perhaps the film-makers have taken heed of parodies such as the brilliant Cabin in the Woods, and even the latest in the Scream franchise, and are preparing to entertain us with in-jokes and knowing nods to the genre.
Alas, this Singaporean-Australian co-production instead wades through plot holes and rising waters, serving as nothing but a showcase for impressively straightfaced acting by the entire cast. If they were directed to play it earnest, then the misstep was in failing to wink at the audience so we’re in on the joke. Instead, the terrible script (at times banal, in moments laugh-out-loud ludicrous), deadpan delivery and inconsistent tempo ruins our ability to get truly wound up by the suspense. And death by shark gets pretty samey after the first few times.
Is Dan Wyllie’s crazy crook sending up the role or just overacting? Is Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck) merely a bad actor taking himself too seriously? If only we knew, this film might just fall into so-bad-it’s-good territory. Instead, the result is somewhere in between, and the most frightening aspect of Bait is that films like this get made at all.