James Nunn‘s Shark Bait earns its praise only by comparison in today’s grim state of contemporary fin flicks. Anyone could record more thrilling aquatic horrors than 2021’s Great White or 2022’s The Requin with a handheld camera, a kiddie pool, and a Street Sharks puppet. Not since 2020’s Deep Blue Sea 3 has shark cinema been shown any justice, but there’s enough of an upswing in Shark Bait to inspire hope for the future. There aren’t any discernible qualities aside from the nature of capsizing and different swimsuits on characters, yet Nunn oversees enough bloody gore and special effects competency to rise above other indies that mistake Steven Spielberg’s Jaws for splish-splashy child’s play.
The only difference between The Reef or Open Water and Shark Bait is the method of oceanic isolation. In Shark Bait, five spring breakers steal two jet skis and ride them miles into Mexican coastal waters, where they stupidly collide while playing chicken. One buoyant vehicle sinks, Greg (Thomas Flynn) severely breaks his leg — exposed bone around salt water, yikes — and Tyler (Malachi Pullar-Latchman) might be concussed. Mexico’s shorelines aren’t in sight, no matter the direction. To make matters worse (for dramatic effect), Kansas good-girl Nat (Holly Earl) finds out her boyfriend Tom (Jack Trueman) cheated with bombshell Milly (Catherine Hannay). I’m sure the hungry and aggressive shark that surfaces will allow Nat, Tom, and Milly to sort through their emotional baggage in peace.
Friend of multiple Bloody Disgusting writers Chris Evangelista proclaimed on Twitter: “CGI werewolves in movies should be illegal.” I’ll extend that sentiment to include sharks because indie horror films have since bastardized the art of aquatic horror with cheapo, Tomb Raider on PS1 lookin’ predators from the depths. The Shallows or 47 Meters Down get away with digitizing their swimming villains because they have the funds to execute lifelike animated sharks that look the part — so let’s get to the point. What’s up with the titular shark in Shark Bait?
Maybe the film’s executive producers learned a lesson after scoring rave reviews with 47 Meters Down and then heaping criticism with Great White. Nunn’s background as an action director (frequent Scott Adkins collaborator) and his special effects team’s efforts don’t equal the computerized greatness of The Shallows — but dare I say Shark Bait‘s torpedoing terror doesn’t look that bad in most glimpses? The moments where an underside attack means Big Chompy attempts to swallow everyone on the jet ski but ends up clamping down on legs, unable to bite through the fiberglass hull, are its weakest visual shots. We’re right back to The Requin or Great White when water splashes, snouts thrash, and an unfortunate-looking animated beast just doesn’t belong in frame. Elsewhere, Nunn uses darkening seabed depths or frantic quick cuts to give us something more ferocious and more natural.
Again, maybe this is coming from a sufferer of multiple horrendous cinematic shark attacks in recent memory (King Shark aside) — but Shark Bait generates a monster worth fearing in tension-drenched bursts.
Screenwriter Nick Saltrese attempts what many have before: convince audiences that characters are dumb enough to get themselves stuck in shark-infested waters. That’s less successful, as still-drunk partiers ignore local warnings and steal rentable vehicles only to slam them together miles (and miles) from shore. Once stranded, it’s hard to sustain their bickering, and schemes unfold with the most predictable outcomes. Like, of course Nat is adrift, crammed onto a two-person at best vessel with her cheating scumbag lover and their friend, his last sexual partner. This soap opera tactic adds nothing because Shark Bait isn’t 2022’s latest Shakespearean epic. Nor are survival instincts anything but foolish because plots must advance — or, more correctly, Nunn must endanger victims to stain the waters red. Performances are never offensive, but character arcs are soggy with stuck-at-sea clichés, and there’s never any attempt to elevate Shark Bait.
Why does the shark continue to pursue? How did Nat’s tourists travel so far away from land on jet skis? Why do the dum-dums keep separating themselves? Because you watch shark flicks for the feeding frenzies! No matter how filmmakers chum the waters.
To Shark Bait‘s credit, cinematography saturates all the deepest aqua blues and electric bathing suit colors, so it’s never outright ugly to behold. Better yet, inflicted wounds when the shark attacks get vastly more gruesome than one might predict. A significant death as one character clings onto another for dear life — their body submerged waist-down as crimson clouds sell what’s happening below — is pretty freakin’ exceptional for gore fans. Other moments of excitement are more about panicking swimmers bouncing into the air like a SeaWorld trick gone wrong, but that extreme glimpse of gore — albeit VFX heavy — is still a rad dielight for horror fans. Nunn’s highs reach for the sky, but lows find the Mariana Trench.
Shark Bait is another mediocre at best animal attack movie that adheres to countless tropes which plague the genre. It’s markedly better than the last few guppies but ain’t worth a trophy mount. It’s never as hoot-and-holler enjoyable as Shark Night 3D or terrifying as The Shallows. Shark Bait is an appetizer and not a very filling one — but if you’re craving blood as bright as Kool-Aid and a holdover shark movie until the next exceptional subgenre example? Maybe you’ll find that jet skis and Kansas City Chiefs trivia (don’t ask) add enough to shark formulas worth a quickie genre snack.
Shark Bait is now available on VOD outlets.
The post ‘Shark Bait’ Review – Another Mediocre Shark Attack Movie That At Least Has Gory Bite appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.