Shark Movie Review: Shark Bait (2022) – The Daily Jaws

Shark Bait – Five Go Chumming
After the snoozefest that was The Requin, I was wondering if perhaps I’d bitten off more than I can chew with these shark film reviews. There are numerous synonyms for the word bland – flat, boring, insipid, tedious, vapid – but not one seemed to do that film justice. I think I settled with meh in the end. It was the closest I could get to the complete and utter apathy I felt towards that film. What if they were all that meh? What if I got to the point where all the tedious shark films merged into one and I didn’t know where one unexciting feature ended and another begun? How could I possibly say anything interesting, funny or worthwhile?
Then I saw the trailer for Shark Bait and my spirits rose, like the sea rose through the windows of the hotel room in The Requin. Here was a film that was going to follow a basic tried and trusted B movie formula. I’m not even sure B movie is the correct word for these types of films. The phrase B movie comes from the days when a trip to the cinema was a proper day out and two films were shown, the B movie being the lesser publicised of the two rather like a B-side on a vinyl single.
These days, the phrase seems to have a flexible and ambiguous meaning. It can mean a film that is independent and arty but it can also mean a film that exists for moments within it rather than the story, script or characters. With that vague definition, I’d suggest most films are B movies (or at least contain elements of B movies).
However, the lower production values or lack of an intricate plot doesn’t mean that these films are without fans. A lot of my favourite films are B movies, possibly something to do with me favouring horror films, which don’t always get mainstream attention due to their content.
Shark films also invariably fall into this category, the main exceptions being the Jaws franchise and Deep Blue Sea. Even Open Water, the only shark film I have ever watched at the cinema, was a B movie that got picked up and became more widely known than it would ordinarily have been. From memory, I should perhaps call Open Water a wish-I- didn’t-C movie but maybe another watch will change my mind on that.
Loads of the reviews I’ve read for the films I’ve reviewed thus far have criticised these films for budget issues but you have to get the idea with a B movie. It is being made more for mindless entertainment and, whilst some do have subtle – and not so subtle – messages (see George A Romero for examples) plenty are just for fun.
With that in mind, let’s see if Shark Bait is as fun as it looked to me or if it should just be consigned to the bad reviews section of internet film sites.
Plot
We get our opening credits in the standard fashion of subsurface camera shots patrolling the seabed, sometimes going through gaps that no man-eater would dare venture through. We surface and arrive at a beach party. There is drinking, dancing, fire and flashing. One of the characters reminds me of Eyeball Paul from Kevin and Perry Go Large but does not share his drinking habits. They’re a rowdy lot and already I’m thinking that I’ll enjoy seeing them get picked off.
One of them (Holly Earl) is sent to get more booze but she stops to send her family a voice message. Suddenly a man who had been watching from a wheelchair asks her for change in Spanish. She is kind to him so he offers her a cigarette. He speaks to her in Spanish and she replies in English yet they understand each other. She also understands gran tiburon blanco with the accompanying gesture to explain why the man has no legs. He warns her but her friends arrive and remind me why I want to see them get eaten. With a final warning, the man leaves them alone. As a bonus we now know the words for shark in Spanish, French and Vietnamese.
The next morning they are still drinking and cavorting around the bay, lamenting the fact that it is their last spring break. The boys spot a couple of unguarded jet skis and decide to steal them. Holly Earl, whose character is called Nat, isn’t keen but the boys have already broken into the office, complete with shark warnings, to steal the keys. Nat sees Tyler (Malachi Pullar-Latchman) fall off the back of one of the now-pinched jet skis and is worried, given the warnings she received. Tyler takes a minute to surface but he is okay. Greg (Thomas Flynn) persuades Nat to join him and Milly (Catherine Hannay) on the second jet ski and she relents. The group, completed by Tom (Jack Trueman) race out to sea.
Greg, possibly the most irritating character thus far, and Tyler speed around and decide that it would be a good idea to play chicken. The jet skis race at each other, barely missing. They turn around despite Nat’s perfectly reasonable protestations and go again. This time, the jet skis are turned the same way. We get a Matrix style slow mo of Tyler and Tom being thrown in the air and fourteen minutes in we have people in the water. To complete the picture, one of the group has injuries that are bleeding. Perfecto.
Greg is the bleeder and this news makes me believe that my wish to see him go first will come true. One of the jet skis is still afloat so they at least have something to cling on to. Tyler is missing however. We see him unconscious and Tom, who I think is the least fratty boy, rescues him. They get to the jet ski and Greg is pulled out with something stuck in his leg. Three of them are now aboard the jet ski with two dangling from the sides. They can’t get any signal and are stuck out at sea. Additionally, the tide has swept the belongings that they left back on land into the sea.
Nat recognises that they need to get Greg to a hospital but Milly isn’t a fan of being left behind. Tyler persuades her to go and cling to the upturned jet ski with him. They go to leave but the jet ski won’t start. Greg needs to move so they can look at the engine but hurts himself a bit more whilst doing so. However, as none of them have even the faintest idea about engineering, they’re stuck.
Back on land, a road sweeper shifts the debris of the previous night into the path of his machine, declaring that those responsible are animals. He doesn’t see a shimmering out to sea. That shimmering is Nat, trying to catch the light of the sun on the screen of her phone. The tide is taking them out and now Greg is trying to drink seawater, which is pretty much in keeping with the intelligence he has shown so far. If I were in that group I’d probably just leave him to it. It’s the only way he’ll learn.
We have other problems as some pictures of Milly and Tom, who were giving each other the sexy eyes the night before, are on Milly’s phone and now Nat (Tom’s girlfriend) has found them. She wants to read more but Tom knocks the phone out of her hand in the struggle and it sinks. To be fair to Nat, that would be a pretty crappy situation – being stuck on a broken jet ski way out to sea with a friend and partner who are cheating on you. To make matters worse, Tom dives after the phone and a gran tiburon blanco appears behind him. He finds the phone but will he escape?
Back on the surface, Milly is suddenly pulled under. She doesn’t resurface immediately and Tyler wonders where she has gone. It’s cool though. It was just Tom. He successfully retrieved the phone and now Milly and Nat are back to back on the jet ski. Milly tries the engine again but it doesn’t work. She apologises for sleeping with Tom, suggesting that she wasn’t the only one. Tyler is getting restless now and wants to swim for a boat they passed on the way out. Nat doesn’t think it is a good idea but the others seem quite willing to possibly sacrifice their friend if they might get out of trouble. And so, off he goes. As does the overturned jet ski even though the material it is made of means that it would be nigh on impossible to sink it.
Historically, horror films have certain rules. The Scream franchise played on these rules to great effect. Don’t have sex is one (I’d say Milly and Tom are screwed then). Another is don’t be left alone. Tyler has just broken that rule. Horror films also have a history of not having black characters surviving and his chances don’t look good when we see a fin following him. Milly spots the fin and tries to get Tyler’s attention but he is too focussed on swimming. The fin disappears and they wonder where it is. Tyler remains unattacked however. Could a modern dislike to that rule have saved his life? Instead, the shark appears near the jet ski (not sure why it bothered to stalk Tyler in that case) and Tom is understandably terrified. He tries to get onto the jet ski but inadvertently hauls everyone off. Now all five are in the water again.
Whilst I haven’t seen the shark properly what I did see didn’t look too bad. In fact, as it is swimming amongst them it looks pretty damn good. Greg is bleeding into the water and Milly can’t swim (Tom goes to assist). To be fair to Tom, once he has helped Milly to safety he gets straight back into the water to help Greg and Nat. And then my wish comes true. The shark bites Greg and latches on, dragging both he and Nat around. Nat is caught on Greg’s watch and is being dragged under with him. She manages to free herself and she makes it back to the jet ski. Greg however is toast. The three of them are stuck together.
Tyler is still going but the atmosphere onboard the jet ski is solemn. Greg’s death is beginning to hit them. Nat remembers the man in the wheelchair the night before. They should’ve listened although I don’t see a downside to losing Greg personally.
Tyler has spotted the boat and is pleased with himself, understandably. He keeps going. I’ll be amazed if he actually makes it but he is going strong. Nat chooses this moment to ask Tom about how many other girls he slept with. He says two. She begins to talk about how her family took to him and how they adore him and she wonders why he is still with her when he has cheated on her. Tom says it is because he loves her but Nat is having none of it. Tom blames Nat’s good nature for his cheating. If you push him in, I won’t tell anyone, Nat.
On the boat is a man in a hat, eating. Tyler is really close now and begins to shout to try to get his attention. The man goes below deck so Tyler swims on but there is suddenly a fin in his way. He checks below the waves but can’t see the shark. Swimming on we are still unsure what his fate may be until the shark zooms in from the side and takes a chunk out of him. Bleeding heavily and badly injured, he shouts for his life and this time the hat man hears him. He comes above deck but it is too late. Tyler is pulled under in a bloody coup de grace and the hat man, seeing nothing, returns below deck.
Back at the jet ski, Milly wonders how long they’ve been out there. Tom thinks he has found something but doesn’t know what and Nat tries to not be too annoyed with a contrite Milly, offering
advice on avoiding dehydration. Eventually the sun goes down and the group wonder aloud if anyone will notice them missing.
It is now night time and the the cold is setting in. To make matters worse, something is splashing nearby. Nat spots a light nearby though and begins shouting. They shine the light in the phone but it isn’t working. They think it is a boat but it’s difficult to tell. Nat, perhaps with vengeance on her mind, says that one of them is going to have to swim. I think she means Tom. Tom seems to realise his number is up and reluctantly gets in. He makes it a few metres and then swims back to the jet ski, saying he can’t do it.
Nat volunteers herself, slowly entering the water whilst Milly and Tom keep a lookout. Credit where it is due, this scene has built tension excellently. Nat struck me as the final girl but this sort of reckless behaviour at this stage of a film usually means only one thing. She makes it to the light and we get a Ben Gardner style jump scare when she finds the light is attached to a corpse. Now she is frantically splashing around to try and get back to the jet ski. Tom grabs her, having jumped in to help. The pair actually make it back in one piece and one of the best scenes in the film so far is done.
The next morning, the trio are still floating helplessly. Nat washes her face with the seawater despite telling Milly not to do the same thing the day before. She sticks her face under the seawater to see what she can see see see but all that she could see see see was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea. Oh, and a shark. With a start, she awakens from the dream into the living nightmare.
They weigh up their options, namely sit there and become shark bait or sit there and die of dehydration. It’s a tough choice but I think I’d go with the latter. At least if you get delirium you might be less aware of the imminent and ever present danger. A shark attack would in theory be quicker but infinitely more terrifying. Plus, in reality sharks rarely kill people outright with the first bite. They tend to bite and circle, waiting for prey to weaken as any injuries to the shark can prove potentially deadly to a predator that relies on all its senses for hunting. This allows humans to be rescued rather than face being eaten.
They can see el cadaver floating on the surface with driftwood from his boat which Nat successfully retrieves. Using the driftwood as a makeshift oar, they get closer to the corpse to take his life jacket. Tom and Milly are a little squeamish so it is up to Nat to retrieve the life jacket whilst Tom retches. The corpse is missing an arm so I think that we can guess what cause his demise. After putting the life jacket on Milly, who is not as happy about this as she might have been given it’s previous inhabitant, Nat together with Tom uses their new oars to get moving.
They aren’t entirely sure they are going in the right way and Milly apologises again for cheating but Nat still isn’t really having it. They say screw you to each other but the shark interrupts by biting the side of the jet ski. Next it attacks from the other side, biting Tom’s leg. Whilst the shark does look good it is a little too big for my liking. Nat stabs the shark either in the eye or the head and it leaves. Tom is badly injured and Nat suggests that they fix the jet ski which may mean getting into the water. I’d say it was for revenge but we know now that there is a good chance it’ll be her who goes in.
Milly and Nat stand at the same time, almost falling in, and Tom turns around. They successfully open up the storage area for the motor but there is something protecting it that they need to remove. Nat sees the fin sailing past and verbally warns them in the standard way for these types of films.
Nat tells them to stay still as though they’re dealing with the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. However, as the shark’s vision is not based on movement, it keeps circling and getting closer. The three sit back down but the fin submerges before shooting out the water and ramming the jet ski, forcing the three survivors off. The shark then repeats the trick with Tom, taking a bite as it does so.
Tom and Nat get back onto the boat but Tom seems in a bad way, missing chunks of flesh, whilst Milly splashes aimlessly about nearby. The shark grabs her just as she makes it to the jet ski and holds on to her legs, tearing away until all we are left with is a torso, arms and a head.
Nat lets go of Milly and she floats away as Tom’s agonised moans fill the air. The effects for his wounds are pretty good. He and Nat are the final two survivors and we see Milly’s life jacket float to the surface nearby. Milly says she is a Kansas girl and Kansas girls go down fighting. To be fair, there isn’t a part of America that doesn’t think about itself. Nor the UK for that matter. I’ll take it with a pinch of saltwater for now.
By now, Tom is barely conscious and has his arm dangling into the water. Nat has managed to break off some of the motor’s protective cover and now has a sharp object to hand. She asks Tom questions about the Kansas City Chiefs best players. He doesn’t say Patrick Mahomes is their best quarterback but instead says he is thirsty. Nat spots the life jacket and as Tom is otherwise engaged with drifting in and out of consciousness it is down to her once more to get in. By now she is getting quite sunburnt as well. She picks up the sharp metal and gives herself a pep talk.
She makes it to the life jacket but a fin goes past. It makes a beeline for the jet ski, pushing it further away, as though playing a game with the two of them. Tom, pretty helpless by now, watches on as Nat tries to make it back. She actually leaves the life jacket but takes the whistle. The shark is heading back for them and Nat stops. She draws her shank and waits for the attack, drawing her hand back to attack just as the shark rears out of the water. We hear a scream and then the scene cuts to a despondent Tom. There is blood in the water too as the shark is leaving. Tom begins to cry for the woman he cheated on three times but she’s from Kansas, meaning she survived not quite unscathed but still badly injured.
She actually had an ingenious plan all along, namely using the whistle to fix the broken line that was preventing the engine starting. She hauls Tom over the seat and tries the motor. It still isn’t having it. She tries again and miraculously it works. Telling Tom to hang on, they sail forward and can soon see the shore. But the shark is in close pursuit and has other ideas. First it rams the jet ski and then takes a bite. The second attack seems to have mortally wounded the jet ski and it is losing power and taking on water.
Tom sees that the shark is still following them. He asks Nat to tell her parents and brother that he really was a good guy and that he loves her before jettisoning himself to reduce the weight. She tells him he can still get back on board but he refuses and, since he has sacrificed himself for her, she should probably skedaddle. She doesn’t however and she sees the shark grab Tom and pull him under water. After a bit of a cry she gets a move on.
There is a bumpy ride as she gets into the shallower waters and she is thrown off the jet ski eventually by one of the rocks underneath. She swims for shore, turning to check for danger. The shark is right behind her. Safety is so close but the shark is racing at her in shallower and shallower water. Finally it gets near enough to bite but gets stuck in between some rocks. It thrashes away whilst she escapes to shore, presumably meaning that the shark will drown and all those people died
for nothing. Why was it still hungry when it had just eaten bits and pieces of five different people? However, it manages to escape back into the sea and Nat walks to find civilisation and presumably some very annoyed jet ski proprietors.
Ratings
Quality of the shark/s: I was surprised by how good the shark looked in this film. It looked like the shark it was actually supposed to be and was probably the best CGI shark I’ve seen so far. Parts seemed to use a model (or a model fin at least) too. The shark even had chunks missing from it, which is common as they will end up in scraps with other animals when predating.
I thought that the shark looked a little oversized when biting the jet ski. However, that is the only real complaint I can have. Whilst I do prefer manual special effects, this wasn’t bad at all.
8/10
Underwater Photography: The underwater photography we got was fairly standard stuff. The surface level shots were used well to build the tension but we didn’t see much of the ocean bed or the life in it. There was the odd shoal of fish but besides that we just some views of the coral. The darkness within the water did it’s job too although I reckon it wouldn’t quite be that dark in such weather.
5/10
Suspense: The film actually did a really good job building the tension. Tyler’s death in particular was nicely done. I was expecting him to die first but they held out on that and disposed of the most irritating character (Greg) instead, which really does the film a favour. When Tyler does die, we do have an inclination that it is coming but as we’ve been surprised by his survival this long we are still left a bit unsure.
The jump scare from the dead body in the water during the night scene was good too (in fact that whole scene was well done) albeit not particularly original. I did work out fairly quickly who was going to survive so points off for that. On top of that, anyone who knew what blanco meant and could get the gist of what the man in the wheelchair was saying will have had an inclination of what was coming.
7/10
Characters and Story: There wasn’t any real character growth to speak of. From the start we know that most of these people will have improved personalities as shark food. The sacrifice by Tom at the end was a bit of a surprise but at least three of the deaths were ultimately predictable. If you ever find yourself in a horror film, don’t forget the rules.
Also, the friends cheating trope has been done before. I watched Lake Placid the other day for example and it happens in that. Please try something else.
3/10
Watchability: I thought the film had a decent pace, some tense moments and it was a surprise when the shark wasn’t killed at the end. At least I presume it wasn’t. Greg got on my nerves almost instantaneously though.
3/5
Other factors: I thought the music added to the mood at times. I’m not sure if certain shots (typically shots from under the water of swimmers) are Jaws references but they are appearing in plenty of the films I’m reviewing. There was the odd funny moment when the two women were discussing or arguing over the infidelity too. The effects for Tom’s wounds are worth a point.
3/5
Total – 29/50
This film surprised me. It was much better than I was expecting. The shark was better. The suspense was there. And it was fun to watch. Imagine! I liked Holly Earl’s Nat character who seemed more down to earth than her companions and also pretty gutsy. The only time Holly was gutsy was when she was bitten in half.
Most of the reviews and comments that I saw for the film complained about a lack of originality but I do feel like the Jaws comparisons that any shark film gets are unfair. They are almost always B movies and do not have a budget to compete with Jaws and this is no exception. With the budget they did have for this film I think they did a pretty good job. Definitely worth a watch if films aren’t either Citizen Kane or Plan 9 with nothing in between for you.
The League Table So Far
The Reef – 41
The Reef: Stalked – 31
Shark Bait – 29
Mako: The Jaws of Death – 27 The Requin – 21
Cruel Jaws – 16
Bull Shark – 15

Words by Jamie Tingle
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