Bait 3D [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (1st December 2012).
The Film

It can be frustrating being a fan of sharksploitation pictures. And let’s be clear, “Jaws” (1975) does not belong in that category. That’s a film which transcends the exploitation moniker, despite some who claim it’s nothing more than a well-made B-movie. I’m talking about the films that make it clear from the onset that they’re all about one thing: getting people eaten. Look, there’s just no way anyone will ever make a shark movie that’s better than “Jaws”; it won’t happen. So, rather than waste time, energy, and valuable resources on a fool’s errand, most filmmakers just try to entertain the hell out of their audience in between shots of people being mercilessly mauled and torn apart by the most feared animal on the planet. Unfortunately, for every “Deep Blue Sea” (1999) there’s a “Shark Night” (2011). And for those of you who have been keeping your own scores at home, you’ll probably note that there are far more losers than winners in this category. I don’t know why it’s so hard to get right. Once you get past the obvious hurtle of figuring out how to create your shark (practical vs. CGI), the only issue standing in the way should be scripting. Nobody seems to care about writing a smart, sharp shark script, though. It’s almost universally done with disposable characters, inane plot devices, and a roster of hammy C-list actors desperate for anything that comes with prominent billing and a paycheck. You think Lorenzo Lamas enjoys top billing anywhere BUT the SyFy channel? Exactly. Lucky for us, every once in a while a film of moderate quality slips out from the abyss, reminding fans of sharksploitation films that there can still be some life found in this bloated, beached carcass after all. “Bait 3D” (2012) is such a film, and while it isn’t close to perfect it’s certainly the best thing to come around in over a decade – dubious as that distinction may be.

Josh (Xavier Samuel) is living the good life in Australia. He recently proposed to his girlfriend, Tina (Sharni Vinson), who is the sister of his best bud, Rory (Richard Brancatisano). The two of them both work as lifeguards on a main beach, enjoying sunny days, tasty waves; it’s a life most of us would envy. Until one afternoon, when Rory paddles out to assist a man being attacked by a great white shark and, unfortunately, it eats the two of them in grisly fashion. Josh is apparently so distraught that he quits his job and starts working as a stocker at the local grocer. Flash forward a year later and Josh is at work when he’s suddenly surprised to find Tina shopping on his aisle… with her new boyfriend. Also occurring: some guys (one of whom is Julian McMahon (a native Aussie!) of “Nip/Tuck” (2003-2010) fame) outside have planned to rob the store for some reason. Probably money. After they’ve entered, a hostage situation quickly arises but is ended almost immediately when a huge tsunami hits the coast, flooding out the underground grocery store and trapping a big group of people inside. Also inside: two big great white sharks – one in the main grocery store, the other trapped in an underground parking garage. So, now the group inside the grocer’s has to clamber onto the frozen foods cases to stay out of harm’s way, while the people trapped in garage basically have the same problem but in a much smaller space. Oh, and one of the robbers is still a dick despite their dire situation, so that doesn’t help matters much either.

“Bait 3D” rides that very fine line between camp and playing it straight, usually erring toward the side of the latter. While I have to applaud the filmmakers for not going the easy route and producing a film they don’t take seriously so we wouldn’t have to either, it’s also a very difficult to play a shark-in-the-submerged-grocery-store movie as anything more than tongue-in-cheek. It’s a ridiculously absurd premise, so you can’t try to make “Jaws” inside an Albertsons and hope it’s seen as such. Director Kimble Rendall does a good job of trying to keep the tension high, while subtly winking through his lens so audiences don’t overly scrutinize the film. I mean, you’ve got to applaud a guy who can actually draw some decent tension from a scene where a character makes a shark suit out of metal grocery baskets and cart parts. The parking garage is equally as implausible, with two of our actors (and a furry little yapper of a dog) are trapped in their car with the water at just the right level so that their vehicle is fully submerged but they can still open the sunroof. And there’s a shark swimming around in the four feet of water surrounding them. Who cares if it would ever happen? I can’t think of a more mind-blowing experience than to be trapped underwater, in car (which is inexplicably NOT taking on any water), and there’s a 12 ft. shark patrolling around you. Rendall has to take one of man’s most basic primal fears – being eaten by a shark – and intensify it in ways most shark films can’t, and that’s by having our characters in extremely close proximity to the sharks with no way of getting to total safety. This is largely how “Bait 3D” manages to succeed. Almost all other sharksploitation films are set on land, so the tension is only present when someone is dumb enough to go back out onto the water. They’re also usually hampered by a budget so low it wouldn’t pay for catering services on a Michael Bay movie, so when sharks do show up, they look terrible and scare no one. This film takes the correct approach of keeping our cast in constant danger, and using a mix of both CGI and practical shark FX.

Speaking of which, great job by the special effects team for making a shark that actually looks legit. Forget the CGI sharks that pop up here, because they do look like every other poorly rendered shark I’ve seen in countless bad movies, I’m talking solely about the rubber-and-metal, practically realized beast. While the “real” shark isn’t capable of the more impressive movements (read: frenzied eating) that CGI can produce, the fact is that this shark genuinely looks like a real one. And that has to be a tremendous aid for the actors on set. I know that even if I were in the water with what is clearly a lifeless, rubber husk of a shark I would still be turning the water around me brown once they got it moving. This film could have easily gone the cheaper route and used CGI exclusively, but using real, tangible props gives the film some much needed weight. I only wish more of these cheapie shark flicks would take heed – hell, take the damn prop and borrow it if you have to – and use more realistic measures to keep their films from being as terrible as they often are.

The plot does suffer under its own weight, with no less than 4 or 5 subplots occurring at any one time. We’ve got Josh & Tina – and Tina’s new boyfriend, a father/daughter drama, the failed robbery/hostage, the couple trapped in their car; it’s a lot to keep going. And they draw fairly distinct lines as to who’s “the bad guy” and who isn’t, so none of our hero group is really in much danger since you already know who they’re likely to off. Honestly, once the credits start to roll you’ll wonder why so many cast members are still alive. I was hoping for less talk-talk and more chomp-chomp. I’m not watching this for the emotionally satisfying dramatic resolutions; I want to see people eaten by large sharks. Is that asking so much? We get enough of a body count that I can’t jump on a soapbox and whine about it, but a few more logs on the proverbial fire wouldn’t have been too much to ask. My gorehound needs put aside, the inclusion of so many little subplots actually takes the onus off of the sharks, which is a good thing because no film can be sustained purely on waiting for sharks to eat people. By giving us two locations inside the same building, we can seamlessly move the action from one setting to the next and create new tension once a conflict has been resolved. This really helped the film from getting stagnant. While none of the character issues are unique, they’re at least relatable enough that you can almost forget there’s a shark in the water. “Bait 3D” is just the latest in a string of shark films constructed on wildly outlandish plots, but this one does enough right that it becomes a damn fun ride that should satisfy most fin fans who are dying for something worth sinking their cinematic teeth into.

Video

This is one of those rare moments when I’m genuinely upset to not have a 3D set up at home since I’ve heard the effect on “Bait” is actually quite good. And, you know, with it being called “Bait 3D” and all I’d like to see it how the filmmakers intended. Unfortunately for me, the only theater it hit was about 60 miles away, and as much as I love a good sharksploitation film it’s not worth the drive. Still, the 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 (MVC codec used for 3D version) MPEG-4 encoded image presented for the 2D picture looks defined and crisp, so we’re not missing out on too much. The opening takes place primarily on the shores of Australia, and the bright, vibrant color palette leaps off the screen. Sunlit beaches look inviting and warm, while the tranquil (for the moment) waters of the deep ocean are piercing blue and cool. Even once our group finds itself trapped underground, there’s no diminishing this stellar image. Razor sharp detail and window-glass clarity are just as prevalent under the low lighting conditions of the supermarket and parking garage. Skin tones have a warm, natural appearance to them. If I had any complaint, it would be that some of the CGI work is a little incongruous with the live-action footage, but it honestly isn’t all that terrible. It’s typical of a low-budget feature, but we’re not talking SyFy levels of bad here. The presentation here is tight, clean, and sharp as a shark’s tooth.

Audio

“Bait” features a powerful English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit that makes use of the entire sound field available to it. The tsunami that sets all of these events in motion was a little less impactful than I was expecting. The real strength of this track is in its discrete effects that subtly envelope the viewer within the film. After the initial impact that strands our survivors in the market, there is a constant dripping of water all around. You’ll hear little drops plopping about from all corners of the room. There were a couple of times it threw me off and I had to pause to see if my faucet was on. But they don’t stop with simple water effects. Footsteps seamlessly cross between speakers, while the sound of people navigating the watery aisles of the store sounds like they’re paddling right behind you. There was a scene later in the film where one character yells out to another, and I swore it was someone right outside my door. The LFE produces some decent low end in the mix, but nothing terribly bombastic. Once the shock of the tsunami wears off, the focus is squarely placed on putting viewers in that water with our survivors. And in that respect, this track has certainly succeeded. There are included subtitles in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

All the good stuff must’ve been swallowed up during a feeding frenzy; there’s only one extra feature.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

Includes both versions of the film, one in 2D and the other in 3D.

Storyboard gallery (1080p) contains 69 images. It’s practically the entire film in storyboard, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The disc also includes bonus trailers (1080p) for the following:

- "Jersey Shore Shark Attack” runs for 1 minute and 47 seconds.
- “High School” runs for 2 minutes and 32 seconds.
- “Demoted” runs for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a DVD copy of the feature film, containing the exact same bonus content as the Blu-ray.

Packaging

The 2-disc set comes housed in an eco-case with each disc housed on a hub opposite the other. The cover art is, unfortunately, kinda lame.

Overall

This is simple: do you like shark movies? If yes, see this.

The Film: C+ Video: A- Audio: B Extras: D Overall: C+

 


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