Shark Bait (2022) Fails to Fish Up Any Suspense in Tired Sharksploitation
Title: Shark Bait
First Non-Festival Release: April 15, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: James Nunn
Writer: Nick Saltrese
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Starring: Holly Earl, Jack Trueman, Catherine Hannay
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
College seniors Nat (Holly Earl), Tom (Jack Trueman), Milly (Catherine Hannay), Tyler (Malachi Pullar-Latchman), and Greg (Thomas Flynn) are living it up on their final spring break vacation. After a night of drunken escapades, the crew decide to steal two jetskis from the marina and race out to sea. An accident leaves them stranded far from shore and with no way to communicate with the outside world where they are. Their situation gets worse when a hungry great white shark discovers them and decides to make them its next meal.
Shark Bait is a ridiculous and over-the-top sharksploitation film that is bogged down by flat, irritating characters and nonsensical action.
The decision to kickstart the film with a group of entitled college students stealing a pair of jetskis makes it difficult to sympathize with the partiers when they inevitably fall prey to their own idiocy. For a film set out in the open ocean, the characters are given such little depth. Aside from a few surprising character moments that cut against the grain, the film’s ensemble is full of paper-thin stereotypes that fail to come across as genuine humans. People make mistakes, but these people continue to make them even when every logical cell in their body must be screaming at them to stop. Every step of the way the audience is subject to their trite melodrama and lack of critical thinking skills.
In fact, too many moments in this film leave the viewer scratching their heads, as they struggle to make meaning of just how dumb the film manages to get. The entirety of Shark Bait straddles the line between serious and camp and it does not work. For instance, one of the main characters, at one point, says the following, “Kansas girls go down fighting.” Why and how did that make the cut? It’s neither endearing, as the character struggles to do much beyond complain and begrudgingly take actions to save her own life, nor triumphant as, again, it doesn’t feel earned. It seems like an ill-fitting way to get some chuckles out of the audience while ignoring lifeless acting.
While its characterization and plot absorb the brunt of the film’s failures, its pacing problem rounds them out. As the cast are picked off one by one thanks to the illogically interested great white, the characters must come to terms with their situation. Structurally, the film takes little effort to make use of its ninety minutes in a manner that would generate suspense, dread, or fear. For the most part, the crew resigns themselves to doing nothing on the jetski while their friend hopelessly swims to shore. Their tinkering with the jetski itself is a horribly conceived plot device that pokes enough holes into the story to sink it to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite being a massive disappointment, Shark Bait isn’t entirely without some merits. Shark Bait is shot well, with only a few moments that take the audience out of immersion. The ocean is as picturesque as ever and the audience is treated to plenty of sweeping shots of the great blue sea, if only to show how isolated the crew has become. The special effects work is largely decent for this affair. It still doesn’t venture into true believability, but it does what it needs to do for a film of this caliber.
By the time Shark Bait reaches its conclusion, the film loses considerable steam. Uneven pacing, unearned character development, and baffling plot decisions make the film less fun and more drab. Unbelievable shark action sequences lead to more laughs than frights which leads to its ultimate problem. Unrealistic shark behavior aside, the film fails to capture suspense in any meaningful manner, oftentimes yanking iconic imagery from other, better shark films to shake the feeling that something is wrong. Shark horror fans are always thirsty for the next great one, but Shark Bait will be added to the large pile of mediocre fin flicks that fall far below surface level to warrant renting.
Overall Score? 4.5/10