Breanna Lucci says Shark Bait is an entertaining thriller with a few fun, dynamic characters, well-timed jump scares, and gore.
You might know what you’re getting into with the Tubi Original, Shark Bait. You're not wrong if you watched the trailer and thought, Jaws 2 (1978) on a jet ski. Director James Nunn and writer Nick Saltrese don’t break the mold of shark creature features with hard-bodied spring breakers stranded at sea. However, they’ve created an entertaining thriller with a few fun, dynamic characters, well-timed jump scares, and gore. Starring Holly Earl, Jack Trueman, Catherine Hannay, Malachi Pullar-Latchman, and Thomas Flynn, its gran tiburón blanco offers audiences several meaty and blood-soaked bites.
The film follows a group of friends partying during spring break off Mexico's coast. Nat (Earl) is our final girl protagonist; she’s sweet, innocent, and cautious. Her boyfriend, Tom (Trueman), is rugged and has much to hide. Nat’s carefree best friend, Milly (Hannay), often pushes Nat out of her comfort zone; and Tyler (Pullar-Latchman) and Greg (Flynn) are the two fun-loving goofballs that every friend group needs. When these drunken risk-takers decide to steal a pair of jet skis, Nat is the only one to protest. Things go from bad to worse as a game of chicken turns disastrous, and the group must overcome more than Greg’s broken leg to survive.
Ben Moulden’s cinematography is reminiscent of other shark features like 47 Meters Down (2017) and The Shallows (2016). A decent amount of the film presents from what would be (and sometimes is) the shark’s perspective, underwater or right at the surface. The timing of these moments works well to build suspense. When it seems nothing is happening, the camera transitions below the surface, effectively reminding us of the invisible threats below. The score by Walter Mair, while not as dramatic as Jaws (1975), pairs nicely with the vibrant images to elevate feelings of isolation, unease, and at times, horror.
Alan Cassar’s special effects and the rest of the visual effects crew provide the great white with a realistic finish, something shark-attack films are known to lack. There are moments, especially towards the final act, where the shark’s animation falls short, but overall, it is believable. The gore is also intense and believable. While not overly disgusting, it does look like what I’d imagine it should. One gruesome death resembles a failed attempt to mirror the first season of The Walking Dead (2010), but most of the time, the special effects work to immerse audiences in the narrative.
While the script is predictable, the performances aren’t wholly insufferable. Earl, Hannay, and Trueman spend the most time on screen, and their dynamic, while a little annoying, is entertaining. For every panicked or angry line delivered, the trio silently, through physicality alone, clue us into who they are. Earl shows us Nat’s insecurities and inner strength, Hannay conveys the breaking of Milly’s carefully constructed façade, and Trueman exposes Tom for the weasel that he is.
Shark Bait follows the mold of shark antagonist creature feature movies, but it finds little ways to establish itself and stand on its own. While it doesn’t effectively build tension and the pacing leaves something to be desired, it’s an entertaining watch.