Bait Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Metrodome
Directed by Dominic Brunt
Written by Paul Roundell
2014, 82 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 7th September 2015
Victoria Smurfit as Bex
Joanne Mitchell as Dawn
Adam Fogerty as Si
Rula Lenska as Linda
Jonathan Slinger as Jeremy
Kerry Bennett as Pauline
England's most surprising genre director strikes again as Dominic 'Paddy from Emmerdale' Brunt follows up his well-respected and liked zombie movie with this brutal horror tale for our time. As his Before Dawn did, Bait resonates in its reality – an utterly English horror film set in a worryingly recognisable world. Skint but ambitious, two market traders with dreams of running a coffee shop of their very own are suckered in by a sneaky loan shark offering them the goods.
Savvy Bex and Dawn see through gangster Jeremy's façade well before taking the cash off his hands, but by then it's far too late. Jeremy has his hooks well and truly into the pair and he's not letting go until he gets what he's owed (exorbitant rates of interest, mostly). Behind the cheery smiles and silly jokes lies a man prepared to go to any length in order to receive repayment – be it vicious threats, kidnapping, grievous bodily harm and destruction of property/loved ones' faces.
Evidence of Jeremy's cruelty is provided throughout as early scenes in the film depict a veritable What's On of violence directed towards women, single parents, the elderly and infirm alike (stopping just short of children, but probably a dog too). It's brutal, unsettling and upsetting – and, worst of all, terribly plausible. The level of violence is made all the more effective thanks to the humanity at the heart of it all, every character being well-realised and rounded, with rich lives and relationships outside of the central plot. For Dawn it's her supportive mother (Rula Lenska!) and autistic son; for Bex, her chav boyfriend. Jeremy has his wife and young daughter, and even the muscle is briefly fleshed out with a glimpse at his life outside of work. So watching one tear the others apart really counts for something. It's to the film's credit that it manages to resist making Jeremy just a caricature thug or obviously evil from the get go, allowing us to understand how others might get pulled by his lure in the first place. Jonathan Slinger delivers a magnificent performance as the loan shark, snapping from loveable to loathsome in a matter of seconds.
The smart writing and constantly mounting tension keep Bait a riveting watch from start to finish. Where it falters is in the Wes Craven-era action of the final act, transforming Jeremy into an almost unstoppable force that undermines the gritty realism elsewhere. That's not enough to spoil what has come before though, and there is some satisfaction to be had at watching Jeremy finally get what's owed to him. A stark, vicious and powerful bit of Brit horror (and yet blackly funny too!), Bait is a confident and intelligent feature from one of England's most promising new directors.
With Before Dawn, Dominic Brunt marked himself as a talent worth watching. Here he ensures that not only will we keep on watching, but we'll wait with baited breath (groan) for whatever comes next.