Mimicking the infamous Jaws poster, complete with Megalodon-sized shark about to chomp on an unsuspecting female swimmer, poster artwork for director James Nunn’s Jetski – renamed Shark Bait – offers up exactly as it says in its new title, complete with Noughties-style effects. Fans of shark thrillers will be pleasantly entertained by it, but do not expect anything more innovative to reinvigorate the genre, first born out of Steven Spielberg’s iconic 1976 film.
A bunch of carefree teens – Nat (Holly Earl), Tom (Jack Trueman), Milly (Catherine Hannay), Tyler (Malachi Pullar-Latchman) and Greg (Thomas Flynn) – are on their spring break weekend at a unidentified Spanish-speaking location. After a night of drinking and partying they continue their fun by jumping on two parked jetskis in the early hours, long before opening time and with none of the seaside residents up and around to witness their hedonistic act.
Far out to sea, they decide to play a game of chicken, driving head first towards each other and subsequently, causing a head-on collision and some serious injuries to boot. Stuck miles out from shore with two busted jetskis and no phone reception, the group sobers up fast as it begins to realise the seriousness of the situation. One of the group’s injuries mean blood drops into the water, eventually attracting one relentless predator in particular who toys with the stranded teens. The question is, how long will they last?
Tower Block director Nunn tries his best to ramp up the tension with a plausible situation that come the summer months, some unfortunates may find themselves stranded in. He also delays what we are all waiting for; the first appearance of the shark.
Using a combination of effective water-level above and below surface cinematography that puts the viewer in the uncomfortable position of ‘keeping watch’ for anything lurking then striking the stricken bunch, the story in the meantime gives us an insight into how the different personalities cope, with good, sensible Kansas girl Nat wishing she could click her heels and return home.
With improved special effects over the years, the shark’s movement mirrors real-life ones. However, it is unclear whether the change in size of our killer fish is intentional by Nunn, as to deliberately disorientate and confuse the situation further, or just artistic licensing in overdrive. In the moment of the first ‘snatch’, the predator appears Megalodon-sized underwater, whereas other scenes show a sizeable but more realistic depiction, including how sharks propel themselves out of the water when going in for the kill. What lets ‘realistic-looking’ proceedings down a little and becomes almost farcical is when the frenzied shark goes for its victim in the final scene.
To be frank, it appears that the Shark Bait filmmakers have studied and faithfully recreated parts of the 1976 film narrative, complete with the surprise scene when you think it’s all over. The difference this time is the blood and gore is a fraction more graphic. Still, watching how the characters remedy the situation is also intriguing, if nothing new, in addition to working out who’s bait next.
None of the 90 minutes lags, unless you are too impatient for the deaths to begin. Shark Bait services this gruesomely, but perhaps not enough so for some, and triggers much eye-covering, nail-biting action for the viewer in the process. It is one of the better replicas of Oscar-winning Spielberg movie in the past 46 years.