Bait, also known in some territories as The Taking (in my opinion the more appropriate title) is the second feature from supremely talented director Dominic Brunt, who most would recognise as Paddy, a staple from the long-running British soap Emmerdale.
Bex and Dawn, two good friends played by Victoria Smurfit and (Brunt’s real life wife) Joanne Mitchell fall afoul of relentlessly cruel and brutal loan shark Jeremy (Jonathan Slinger) after attempting to secure a loan of £10,000 in order to trade their scummy market pitch for the classier cafe of their dreams. The desperation and overwhelming helplessness of unshakable debt is the subject of this very satisfying (and gory) revenge movie, with very strong performances, writing and direction that absolutely elevates Bait above so many other retribution flicks.
After completing zombie film Before Dawn (his directorial debut), Brunt was searching for a new kind of monster to explore. Together with veteran soap writer Paul Roundell, they culled the premise from actual events that happened in this country, across Europe and Indonesia (as well as Brunt’s own experiences).
Bait manages to be completely effective by getting so much mileage out of real life anxieties. The film opens with a harrowing shot from the third act, which sets the viewer up for the inevitable doom that follows, and the constant hanging, sustained dread of impending financial ruin for our two heroines.
It’s very clear that Brunt has a deep love of the horror genre, and understands that for a horrifying concept to really stick, the emphasis has to be on an all pervading sense of dread rather than cheap shocks. Bait often pulls from the very best of modern horror, and in my opinion owes a debt to relatively recent entries in the so-called New French Extremity movement such as Martyrs and Inside. This is especially true in the spectacularly violent final act, with some triumphantly crowd pleasing gore, but with a denouement that feels throughly earned due to the huge effort to really develop the characters beyond the norm for this genre.
The shocks come from Bait’s reality, true horror with sociopathic people acting as monstrously as any iconic horror villain. Loan shark Jeremy begins the movie with a dorky charisma, revealing his true nature quickly and has an almost Michael Myers like resilience toward the end, and continually ups the ante of his sadism throughout the film. Brunt and Roundell really put their protagonists through the wringer, and those who can’t stomach the prospect of violence against woman should steer well clear as Jeremy puts them both through a gauntlet of emotional, physical and shamefully sexual torment.
It was really refreshing to see mature protagonists with real lives and real problems. Paul Roundell’s script really takes its time to set up Bex and Dawn as fully realised people with all the quirks in their relationship that make them believable long term friends. Real life best friends Joanne and Victoria have really great chemistry together, the naturalistic dialogue rings so true it often feels improvised, betraying the reality of Roundell’s very tight script. He writes as people speak.
I truly loved this film. Structurally, I thought it was fantastically paced, disturbing and then ultimately really satisfying. I think it’s both thought provoking and a real crowd pleaser with all the gory fireworks and just desserts that will have audiences cheering through the final credits. Thrillers and horror films are clearly in director Dominic Brunts DNA.
Bait offers real terror and thrills in equal measure, and sticks with you for a long time after seeing it. It’s focus on quality of writing and performance along with its savvy awareness of the best that modern horror has to offer, makes it easy to recommend as one of the great horror films of the last decade and certainly a new bar set for UK scare flicks.I can’t wait to see what Brunt and Roundell cook up next.
BAIT had its big screen UK premiere on Saturday the 29th August at FrightFest 2015, and was released on demand and DVD via Metrodome on the 7th September.