Bex (Victoria Smurfit) and Dawn (Joanne Mitchell) are fed up of owning a stall in a market devoid of customers. Instead, they want to open up their own café. After some failed meetings with the bank, a generous stranger offers a helping hand, but their café dream turns more and more into a nightmare.
Dominic Brunt moved into directing with Before Dawn, a zombie film by the self-confessed zombie-obsessive. Now Dominic Brunt has turned to something all the too real for comfort: loan sharks. After the fast-paced zombies showing the inevitability of death during a dramatic crisis, this shows the inevitability of destruction that debt causes. Bait, also known internationally as The Taking, focuses on the characters in the unenviable position of ambitious business owners with the lack of credit behind them to put their plan into action. That is until they meet a generous stranger with a wallet of gold who is willing to be a silent partner in their café dream. What follows is more of a nightmare.
Bait’s strongest attribute is its use of imagery without context early on. To begin with the climax is a big risk, especially with imagery as powerful as it chooses to open up with. They hint towards an ending that is both frightening and even more devastating as you get to know the characters. After that, images with no frame of reference are still shown but will tie in further down the line. Director Dominic Brunt allows the audience to make its own connection with the images to give a will-they-won’t-they feel to horror.
What is nice to see in this horror film is characters. With many horrors forgetting to create three-dimensional leads or simply choosing to make them rotten to hype the impending violence, Bait chooses to create a dynamic friendship that is both real and has a full arc. Jeremy (played by Jonathan Slinger) chews up his character and spits out venom. If the film was 3D, you’d feel it burn. Paul Roundell created a conversationalist tone that has the duo natter away while revealing their characters and exposition in a painless way. When exposition occurs, it feels natural and in no way forced, allowing the audience enjoyment of being informed. The director even capitalises on this by doing a tracking shot that could come straight out of The West Wing. If The West Wing was set in an English market.
In terms of problems, as there are some, one can mostly relate to budgetary restrictions with cinematography that seems too digital. Perhaps an odd criticism considering film’s current progression, but it is hard not to be aware of its poor colour grading and cinematography that lacks cinematic quality. Among that, there needs to be better use of a brutish character that really achieves nothing other than being violent. Further than that, there needs to be more explanation of why they do not just leave the town because it’s proven, in context of the film, to work. Another is perhaps its lack of freshness. Although there are moments of originality, they seem slightly bogged down with the overt familiarity that is hard to put an exact finger on.
Bait is shocking, violent, tension-filled horror film that could be read slightly as an allegory for a revolt against misogynistic society. Perhaps that’s reading into the film too much, one which looks to shock, appall and cause an intense atmospheric fear around it. Debt can drown you and Bait succeeds in empathising with its main characters. They say drowning is a nice way to go as you have one moment of clarity, a moment of utter peacefulness when you accept the inevitability. Bait is the entire struggle before and never allows you to settle into the calm. Instead, it ends in a spectacular fashion that reeks of New French Extremism inspiration – a huge compliment – which is a great ending to a film that is venomous, violent and vivacious.
Words: Ashley Norris