DON’T FEED THE….SHARKS
Movie Review by Daniel I. Russell
(Special Overseas Correspondent)
I have always had a crippling shark phobia. I used to have a toy boat in the bath with a hole in the deck, and for some reason, I imagined sharks inside it, gliding through the dark waters. If you put your eye up to the hole you could… almost…see them…
So yes. Sharks. Terrifying things.
As I grew older, my thoughts matured, and I knew that the odds of being eaten by a shark in England are slim to none. I would never be eaten by a shark. Preposterous! I don’t live anywhere near them!
I sit and write this by the beach in Western Australia, the very same beach where, just this week and the day before Australia Day, great whites were spotted just 30 metres out. On Saturday, the water was thick with boats, surfers, swimmers, pets and children playing. It was my own Amity Island, and I was vigilant.
So what better time to spend the evening watching the latest in a long line of shark movies: BAIT. Plus it’s Australian (well, half-Australian. It’s a joint venture with Singapore).
BAIT puts a spin on a traditional formula. You won’t find survivors on a boat (JAWS, JAWS 2), stranded in the ocean (DEEP WATER, THE REEF) or any other completely ludicrous set up (2011’s SHARK NIGHT). During a robbery at a supermarket, a tsunami hits, flooding the shopping area and underground car park. Most shoppers drown or are pulverised by shelves and the like, leaving a band of merry survivors trapped in cars or perched atop the supermarket shelves.
Oh, and there’s a 12-foot great white shark in there doing its Friday big shop.
Without spoiling much, and this has been mentioned in plenty of other reviews so I’m guilt free here, there are actually two sharks. This isn’t done as a twist or anything, it’s just like, hey, there’s two sharks: one for the supermarket, one for the car park.
How terribly convenient.
So plenty of carnage with twice the shark then, eh?
Let’s sink our teeth into this and say that straight off the bat, you know what you’re in for. The first half an hour introduces the viewer to our soon-to-be survivors. In any survival movie, you must want the survivors to…well, survive. Or is that cliché? Oh, how this might have been achieved with some fleshed out characters and good acting. Despite the numerous signs that this is an Australian movie (Look! The hero eats Milo! The villain drives a Ute! I was expecting a kangaroo in a corked hat riding on the back of a shark to be honest…) accents are mixed, which ruins the set up a little. Dialogue is flat and lazy, as are the stock characters. The haunted hero is boring, his love interest does nothing throughout the movie, as does the stereotypical cop. Out of the dozen or so characters, more than half could have been dropped from the movie with the slightest of impacts. Perhaps this freeing up of screen time might make us care about the few survivors, giving them the room to breathe and be more rounded out. As it stands, I had as much empathy for the characters as I do for Idol contestants.
And let’s get this out there. One of the bad guys is played by Julian McMahon (aka, Dr. Doom in the FANTASTIC FOUR movies). I’ve had people complain that as a villain, he isn’t menacing enough and is as bland as beige wallpaper. After ruining one of Marvel’s greatest super villains (for some), here he is with his brush and paste, beiging it up once more. Plus, isn’t he Australian? An Australian in an Australian movie…that doesn’t sound Australian. Hmm.
But the sharks, yeah! The sharks!
Remember DEEP BLUE SEA? I actually quite like that movie. But that came out in…1999? One of the first uses of CGI for shark effects in a major movie. I can also remember Casper Van Dien appearing in a straight-to-DVD feature called SHARK ATTACK. The cover for the sequel contained a shark that looked like it has been made out of a washing-up bottle on a kids’ TV show.
We’re now in 2013, and from this movie, it appears shark special effects have gone nowhere in the last 15 or so years.
The CGI is horrific, evening cartoonish at times. This was obviously designed with the 3D at the forefront of their designs (I watched it in 2D) but even then, the makers seemed to have this in mind for the first five minutes and then forget about the 3D until the finale. It’s as obvious as rewatching JAWS 3-D (1983).
But none of these issues can compete with the sloppy writing. Bad, bad dialogue. Twists that are so obvious they don’t actually qualify as twists. Shotguns that sit in water for hours and still work. And then can shoot underwater. I’m no gun expert, but this feels a tad off.
(Actually, after writing this I went and did some research. Shotguns can fire underwater—so that’s today’s something new learned out of the way. Thanks BAIT! —but lose momentum almost instantly by the drag of the water. You can shoot a paddling pool through the water and it won’t pop. YouTube it.)
In summary, BAIT is a bad, bad movie, and this is from someone who loves shark movies.
A movie like this isn’t supposed to be an Oscar winner, but if you want some good old fashioned shark-munching fun, there’s better out there. There’s also worse. Let’s separate the great whites from the cookie cutters.
SOME OF THE BEST (AND WORST) SHARK ATTACK MOVIES
My own greatest movie ever made that stands up to repeated viewings. Forever. The shark is out of sight for the most part, jump scenes are textbook and wonders are done with the score. An immortal movie that will never truly go away. Plus, characterisation is second to none with our favourite three men and a boat. That’s some bad hat, Harry.
JAWS 2 (1978)
I also like JAWS 2 very much. Things get straight into it in comparison with the first as the mystery was given away with the first movie. Great performances all round. I can remember watching this one over and over as a kid.
DEEP BLUE SEA (1999)
Was it makos here instead of great whites? I can’t remember. Been that long since I’ve seen this one. Sharks are genetically modified to give them bigger brains so scientists can extract more of the ick that can cure Alzheimer’s. What can go wrong? More action than horror (think DEEP RISING and ALIEN RESURECTION from around the same time), this still has some great moments. And Samuel L. Jackson. How can you forget the woman who is bitten in half and still keeps swimming for a few more seconds? Lovely. I’ll have to watch this again to see how it’s aged.
THE REEF (2010)
A fairly recent Australian movie in the lines of DEEP WATER (2006), based on a true story and an absolute corker. A fella who delivers boats for a living takes a few friends and family out, but the boat hits a reef and starts to sink. The solution? Swim for an island a few kilometres away. The problem? A shark takes a liking to the group of swimmers. Fantastically shot and heart wrenchingly realistic, this has one of the most upsetting scenes (for me) I’ve seen in a horror movie in a good few years. Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t have much in the way of blood and guts. It doesn’t need it.
PETER BENCHLEY’S CREATURE (1998)
Benchley! The master! The brain behind JAWS! The man behind…this piece of crap? What could be worse than a shark eating people? How about a man-shark that looks like something the Power Rangers forgot to fight? A mess.
RED WATER (2003)
Rapper Coolio (remember him?) was nominated for an Academy Award in this big budget thriller about a bull shark terrorising a river community. Actually, he wasn’t. He was poop in this, and everything about the movie is poop. I would go into more constructive feedback, but I already spent 90 minutes watching this that I’m not getting back and don’t want to waste any more.
SHARK ATTACK (1999)
Title needs an exclamation mark, in my opinion. Casper Van Dien was in STARSHIP TROOPERS and nothing good since. Poor bloke. He’d make a great John Sheppard in the MASS EFFECT movie. Anyhoo, here he stars with GHOSTBUSTERS’ Ernie Hudson (why Ernie? Why?). I won’t sum up the plot, or acting, or effects. Just watch the trailer. It basically shows the complete movie in about three minutes.
SHARK ATTACK 2 (2000)
Better? I think this is better than the first one despite the aforementioned atrocious DVD cover. This one scores points for having a very well done non-CGI man bitten in half. I think he waves to some kids on his way down. Nice. Title definitely needs an exclamation mark.
MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS (2009)
The movie that started so many pub-based arguments. Not the discussion over which hideous CGI creature would win (and to be honest, who gives a toss?) but the immortal question: can a shark jump out of the sea high enough to eat a plane? The answer, it appears, is hell yes. Discovery Channel: pull your socks up. I want less ecological studies and more plane-munching.
A film that is so unbelievably bad…it’s worth a watch. Get some friends, get some drinks, and prepare to experience a master class in floating turdology. Ladies and gentlemen, MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS.
© Copyright 2013 by David I. Russell
(For more ruminations by Mr. Russell, you can check out his blog here).