Bait opens with images from it’s denouement and that is one of the single biggest risks a film can take.If the moviegoer already knows where the journey terminates then the ride better be worth it. Fortunately for Brunt’s combative dissection of the will to survive there is plenty to catch the eye, stimulate debate and turn the stomach along the way.
Bex and Dawn are a pair of hope fueled entrepreneurs just one £10,000 bank loan away from trading in the arse freezing market pitch they loathe for the dream cafe they believe they deserve.Jeremy is a barbaric loan-shark capable of sniffing out a solitary drop of desperation in a vast ocean of human misery.
When fate see’s fit to broker a meeting between the three an unstoppable onslaught of mental anguish and bestial bloodshed is set in motion.
Bait marks the sophomore feature of talented actor turned fearless director Dominic Brunt.Coming after the low budget excellence of Zombie flick Before Dawn ,not to mention his crazed performance as a chainsaw wielding nutter in Alex Chandon’s savagely humorous Inbred, you could be forgiven for expecting another venture into time worn horror territory.
What we actually get however is a modern urban revenge picture that makes inroads into the arena of the macabre by way of subterfuge.It assumes the outward appearance of a thriller tapping into the timely themes of austerity and financial abuse but deep inside it is the examination of mankind’s penchant for survival at any cost.
Whilst not manifestly set up as a horror film Bait is fashioned from so many component parts of the genre that the final result can only really be perceived as such.Paranoia, brutal intimidation, relentless stalking and explosive violence flood the screen.Add to this the unmistakable redolence of Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol and you have all the ingredients of high grade horror cinema in it’s purest form.
By transporting these familiar tropes into every day situations and dousing them in kitchen sink pathos Brunt manages to provoke and maintain an intense audience reaction.This formula is enhanced further by the authentic story arc and believable character development.
There is no doubt that the foundation for this credibility is the strikingly witty and acerbic script from prolific Emmerdale scribe Paul Roundell.With hundreds of episodes of domestic soap opera under his belt it feels like the writer is reveling in the freedom afforded to him by this project.The profanity laced trash talk is genuinely droll but when things get more serious the parlance becomes accordingly menacing and repellent.
Above all Roundell keeps the central relationship between the two companions realistically grounded instead of swamping it in sentimentality.Arguments explode amidst the debris of despondency and yet the desire the women have to protect each other is both touching and tangible.The frustration of not wanting to let family and friends down whilst at the same time staring hopelessness in the face is conveyed expertly with intelligent, penetrative writing.
The acting from the lead performers is faultless through out with only the odd wooden moment from the supporting cast that doesn’t harm the picture to any significant degree.
Brunt’s wife Joanne Mitchell(White Settlers) convinces as Dawn the more serious of the two protagonists racked with guilt that her loneliness and naivety has compromised the safety of her autistic son.Victoria Smurfit(The Beach) is great value as the foul mouthed sexual harassment magnet Bex.
Watching how these two different personalities deal with the unrelenting campaign of misogynistic sadism provides much of the films conflict and tension.
Jonathan Slinger puts in a remarkable shift as money lending sociopath Jeremy.Part awkward and dorky control freak part lady bashing psychopath his passive aggressive approach to manipulating the lives of others is chillingly unhinged.
He believes he is a roguish ladies man with boyish charm yet truthfully he is no more than a schoolyard bully.A deluded coward who uses muscle with no moral compass Si, played with admirable gusto by Adam Fogerty(Snatch),to collect his ill gotten gains and fight his male orientated battles for him.
The workmanlike cinematography from Geoff Boyle(Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) is un-fussy and direct but that’s not to say the movie doesn’t look good.Plenty of arresting images abound without the camera becoming obsessed with flashy embellishments.
Every now and then however a sumptuous wide angle establishing shot fractures the bleak realism in a tactic similar to that employed by Lars von Trier in Breaking the Waves.
Be warned there is a hefty wedge of violence against women in this nasty thriller and it will rack up a fair few disconcerted winces.This of course in turn gives the film makers a blank cheque to take to the blood bank and as such Bait does not scrimp when it comes to graphic slaughter.
There is only so far you can push someone who’s already backed into a corner before the baser human instincts will engage and blind fury becomes the only option.This has been a fundamental constituent of the revenge film since it’s inception and Bait is a gruesomely well executed new touchstone in the field of cinematic retribution.
Make sure you watch right till the finish of the credits for a typically inspired surprise bonus ending courtesy of a legend in his chosen field.
Thriller,Revenge,Horror |UK, 18| Metrodome | DVD Release Date: 7th Sept. 2015(U.K.) , 31st Aug. 2015(U.K. On Demand) Dir : Dominic Brunt | Victoria Smurfit, Rula Lenska, Adam Fogerty, Jonathan Slinger, Joanne Mitchell