Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Cinema File #160: "Bait 3D" Review

Believe it or not, despite my well documented appreciation for schlock, I'm not actually a big fan of killer shark movies. Outside of the first Jaws movie and the fourth one where it got personal, I tend to only enjoy them if there's some scifi twist involved to make it interesting. I've reviewed two killer shark movies on this blog before, the first because I was curious if it would live up to the director's much better giant wasp movie, and the second because of my obsession with the ultra low budget distributor TomCat Films and producer Brett Kelly. Today's film represents the first time I've picked up a somewhat traditional shark movie based solely on the premise, in this case a shark in a flooded grocery store, and I enjoyed myself enough that I'm seriously reconsidering my previous deliberate avoidance of this genre.

Bait 3D follows an ex-lifeguard tortured by the loss of his best friend in a shark attack the year before suddenly facing off against two more of the beasts while trapped with a group of desperate people in a grocery store that's been flooded by a massive wave. All you need to know about the tone of this movie is that there is literally a dramatic "Nooooo!" screamed into the air within the first five minutes. We get every cheesy action thriller cliche and every stock character we could want, from the hero gripped by tragedy, to the criminal redeemed through hardship, to the snooty prima donna with a dog small enough to fit in her purse. If this were any other critical review, you might think I'm taking the film to task for its lack of originality, but for someone who grew up with these tropes, it was refreshing to see them embraced so brazenly and without irony and used so well as dramatic short cuts so the cast never gets in the way of the action we came in to see.

I was genuinely surprised by how engaging the shark attack scenes were and how much tension was mined from this unusual context. You would expect the whole thing to get redundant, with various characters finding themselves in or near the water and either narrowly escaping or not, but even with only two main areas of action, the store and an underground parking garage, I never got sick of seeing the variations on this well worn theme. Maybe there's just something about the idea of this happening in such a common place that kept me interested. I never go to the beach or into places where dangerous predators might lurk for the same reason I don't live in Tornado Alley, because I don't wish to tempt fate, but I go to the grocery store at least a few times a week, and while I obviously don't live on the coast where this could feasibly happen, just seeing this familiar environment taken over by a creature that I can conceive of as real elevated this above the normal nature-based horror movie.

Of course, when I say this could feasibly happen, I might just be showing my ignorance. Are there really waves that big? I guess tsunamis or underwater earthquakes (or are those the same thing?). It's never explicitly stated what causes the wave if its anything specific, or at least if it was I didn't catch it. Even so, anyone questioning the science of the shark in a grocery store movie probably isn't the audience for it anyway. (SPOILERS) I know for a fact you can't fire a pump action shot gun underwater, but that doesn't stop this movie's hero from doing so right in one of the sharks' motherfucking faces, and who the hell am I to question the logic of something that undeniably awesome? The only problem is that this moment doesn't come at the end, but actually happens with a good twenty minutes or so left in the movie, and while I didn't have any problems with the ending necessarily, really, nothing is going to top shooting a shark in the face.

The cast is mostly made up of unknowns, or at least actors mostly unknown to me, save for Julian McMahon from Nip/Tuck who plays the aforementioned redeemed criminal. With the possible exception of the main character's love interest who came off as a bit bland, everyone pretty much does a good job and each of our characters have moments to shine. I imagine most people probably go to these movies for the kills, and while that's another reason this genre isn't typically my cup of tea, I have to admit that the gore was more creatively presented than I was expecting. The first full on shark attack we see is legitimately creepy, and there are at least two more I can remember just off the top of my head that had me pumping my fist in the air. Then again, I can't be sure if my enjoyment of these moments were simply due to my relative inexperience with these kinds of movies and I just like them more than I thought, or if this is above average as killer shark movies go.

In any event, I enjoyed Bait 3D. I tend to think that when a movie is successful with people who typically dislike the genre its in, its a bad sign for diehard fans, and I don't know enough to know if that will be the case here. All I can say is that I had a really good time with this one, and if it sounds like my sensibility when it comes to film is one that you share, you'll most likely find something fun in it as well.

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