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elcome back to Movie Monthly where we dedicate a whole month to just one kind of movie. This month to coincide with both Shark Week and the 40th anniversary of Jaws it’s Terror from the Deep, dedicating all of July to ocean horror films. Last week we looked at the enjoyable sleaze and cheese B-movie Shark Night 3D, this week we go nearly clear across the globe for much of the same thing only from Australia with Bait 3D. This month will probably be more inclined towards B-movies overall as I’ve always founds attempts at serious shark horror films to be taxing in the extreme.
Most of the time the movie will only amount to “What Jaws did but less” and rarely transcends the limitations of a horror story where the central antagonist can’t survive outside of the water. No I maintain that sharks, much like zombies, work far better in that often misunderstood subset of horror that is the B-Movie. These are flicks that wear the trappings of a horror film in character and design as well as co-opting horror antagonists to drive the action but are focused more on cheesy thrills and sleazy action rather than scares to drive the story. Bait 3D is, in many ways, a perfect example of this and makes a greater sister film to Shark Night 3D.
The plot of Bait 3D seems to have been cooked up as a cinematic dare about making an entire movie based solely off of a joke premise. The set-up is that a major tsunami hits somewhere along the Australian coast and a group of people ended up trapped with a 12-inch great white shark inside of a flooded supermarket. What I really love about this is how it’s not even like the filmmakers had a complete thought in mind went they went with this approach. The idea is cut from a similar cloth to Edgar Wright’s The World’s End the difference is that there was a complete cinematic idea there. In The World’s End the narrative hyperbole and “joke” of the story is about how the changing march of globalization and moderation is like a secret alien invasion. In Bait 3D the central joke is “humans get food from a supermarket so what if they WERE the food in a supermarket,” which I grant is certainly more of an idea than a lot of other shark films I’ve slogged through for this month.
Aside from the very jokey nature of the premise there’s really not much that’s too humorous or even over the top about Bait 3D. In many ways that serves as one of the film’s biggest flaws and I have to wonder if it does lie with the static nature of the story’s location and antagonists. I’ll be using Shark Night 3D as a sort of sounding board for how to create a truly bonkers shark movie here and what really pushes it over the edge is the emphasis on crazy killer motivations and having a varied array of sharks on hand. In Bait 3D there’s just the one shark in just the one supermarket with no real human antagonists. This doesn’t mean the film is bad or even without its funnier dopey moments like crafting a wearable shark cage out of grocery goods; it’s just a different kind of movie. The closest point of comparison I have for it is like a more serious version of the monster comedy Tremors.
Most of the action is designed around maneuvering around the handful of safe spaces above the water and seeing the various characters interact as they try to MacGyver their way out of the supermarket. The characters themselves are a diverse band none of which ever really rises above passingly interesting. There’s some drama with our main character as an ex-life guard haunted by the one person he couldn’t save from sharks but it’s not enough to make you remember his name after the film’s over. It does however add an interesting dimension to the film in terms of focus. Even though the US statistically suffers from the most shark attacks per year our actual fear of sharks is pretty slim, hence why so many US shark movies end up reflection of Jaws. However, in Australia where they have the 2nd most shark attacks, sharks end up a major boogeyman. In a lot of ways this probably reflects a difference in how our two countries relate to the natural world and animals in particular. That’s the nature of horror films however, to act as a repository for cultural anxieties and guilt like how Canadian horror features a major fear of technology or how Guillermo Del Toro’s more horror infused work tends to touch on the nature of living within a tyrannical reign.
Bait 3D is by no means a superb film but it’s a fun one and certain one of the better shark movies out there. The straight-faced sincerity that the film executes itself with is engaging enough to keep things from dragging and there’s enough imagination to fill up the 90-minute running time. What’s more it’s a solid entry point into the broader world of Australian horror films and the unique sensibilities that inform them. Next week: something other than sharks.