Shark Bait Is a Blast of Summer Horror Schlock

Image Courtesy of Altitude Films

I’m a huge fan of sharksploitation movies. One of the greatest moments I’ve had at Horror Obsessive was presenting the yuletide aquatic B-movie Santa Jaws during our holiday watch party last year. Sharks are misunderstood creatures that are rarely a threat to humans, and while shark attack percentages are low, they are never zero. Those lesser odds are about to be the fate of a handful of friends who get stranded out to sea in the new film Shark Bait.  

Greg, Milly, Tyler, Tom, and Nat cheers their beers in Shark Bait
Image Courtesy of Altitude Films

Last month, I mentioned the Shark Bait trailer as a film worth looking out for because it provided a fun atmosphere for a bottleneck thriller. Oddly, the vastness of the ocean can be described as a bottleneck location, but being marooned without options while being circled by a great white shark doesn’t get any tighter. And the movie almost entirely takes place on the water.

It begins on the beaches at a night party where spring breakers Nat (Holly Earl), her boyfriend Tom (Jack Trueman), best friend Milly (Catherine Hannay), and friends Tyler (Malachi Pullar-Latchman) and Greg (Thomas Flynn) are pretty intoxicated. If you watched the Shark Bait trailer last month, you saw most of these moments, including a beggar (Manuel Cauchi) warning Nat about the danger in the water in extreme horror trope fashion. Sure, he’s not warning her about a Cabin in the Woods or telling her and her friends, “You’re all gonna die up there!” but he may as well be.  

Shark Bait, like its trailer, makes the leap from the beach to the water extremely quickly, and within the first ten minutes, these young twenty-somethings try to keep the party going by stealing a couple of jet skis and head out of a cove and into the middle of the sea. No lie, I was kind of happy there wasn’t an exhaustive amount of exposition. The characters and scene on the beach recalled Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, and I half expected the same forced confabulation and additional friend acquisition in an attempt to add an extra dimension to at least one of the characters. Instead, Shark Bait was keen to know the audience’s needs: basic characters with zero backstories eager to put themselves in the film’s harrowing situation. I suppose that should have been expected from the producers of other sharksploitation films, 47 Meters Down and Great White.  

Nat sits on the jet ski, her left shoulder is bloody in Shark Bait
Image Courtesy of Altitude Films

After an accident leaves a member of their crew wounded and both jet skis out of commission, the situation becomes even more dire when a shark begins circling. Like any sharksploitation film, this shark has an unrelenting obsession that seems more like a humanistic quality than a shark can even be capable of. Shark Bait doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it even feels heavily influenced by the films Open Water, Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows, and, of course, Jaws. You can probably guess what happens throughout the rest of the film, and I know I’ll probably be going against the grain here—but Shark Bait is still kind of great. 

Okay, obviously, it’s not going to win any Oscars, but Shark Bait has its moments. One, in particular, had me riotously yelling at my tv when the characters all fell laughably far away from their jet ski. It felt like that scene in Tremors where a bunch of those characters get thrown from a collapsing roof and then stumble uncoordinated to find higher ground. Now, Shark Bait is nowhere as good as Tremors, the dialogue in Shark Bait is especially atrocious, and awkward character side plots seemingly come out of nowhere.  

Even taking that into consideration, I still finished James Nunn’s film satisfied on a couple of levels, and it feels like there’s a combination of many little things that teeter just right on the line between greatness and travesty. I mean, the acting is good, but not always. The plot is simple yet also compelling. The script is thoroughly B-grade, though written by an A-grade writer (A Prayer Before Dawn’s Nick Saltrese). The CGI shark looks great, then two-thirds through the movie, it doesn’t. The shark attack makeup effects are fantastic, yet there’s a missed opportunity on the sunburning. And Walter Mair’s score is exhilarating throughout. James Nunn orchestrates this whole affair to vigorous effect by presenting an enlivened B-movie perfect for getting together with friends and having fun. It’s a good choice for those who’ve grown tired of seeing Jaws for the umpteenth time or are simply looking for another film to pair it with for a double feature. People will be able to pick it apart if they choose, but there’s something fantastic about how it all works on both a fun and schlocky level.  

A woman raises a knife to an attacking shark in Shark Bait

Maybe I’m biased because sharksploitation movies are near and dear to me, but I thought Shark Bait was a total blast. It has some predictable moments, some eye-rolling jump scares, and a conclusion that will make you question multiple characters’ arm strength. It won’t be for everyone, and the two-star rating on letterboxd makes that pretty clear. Still, if you’re looking for a fun escape where you can laugh off the silly stuff, take bets on who’s the first to go, and have no real emotional attachment to any of the character drama, Shark Bait may be worth a rental to riff on. And, if you’re into the shark genre like I am, you may also find something to like about the attacks and the excitement.  

Shark Bait is currently available on VOD in the US and will release on DVD and VOD in the UK on 6 June.

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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