Directed by indie-horror favourite Dominic Brunt, Bait’s protagonists, Bex (Victoria Smurfit) and Dawn (Joanne Mitchell), run a small baking stand in a sordid marketplace. They spend their days attempting to repel lascivious advances from men and hold onto the hope that one day they might have enough money to start a real business. The two women meet the kind and generous Jeremy, played by Jonathan Slinger, who offers to make a business investment in the form of a $20,000 loan. As the terms of their agreement become blurred and convoluted, Jeremy’s chillingly violent and predatory nature is revealed.
Interestingly for a film of this particular genre, Bait is an ambitious conglomeration of social and political dialogue, and what could better suit the world’s ugliness than the context of horror? Though the commentary is sometimes subtle, it is difficult to overlook the unforgettable parallels between sexism, income inequality, unnecessary financial suffering and the sadistic male figure who will stop at nothing to deceive and exploit the weak and the desperate. As strong women in their own right, Bex and Dawn somehow remain in good humour about the hand they’ve been dealt. What’s most admirable about these characters is that they will stop at nothing to protect their right to a fair and decent life.
Unfortunately, the film itself is slightly overwrought with feminist overtones that feel contrived and poorly conceptualised by the time it concludes. Neither protagonist is introduced to the audience in a way that seems stereotypically naive or demure – both are instead capable, even confrontational. Nor is there a rapid metamorphosis that designates them as a match for Jeremy and his brutal psychopathy. Despite the premise, they seem to become less psychologically and strategically equipped.
Regardless of the failings in its gender-driven narrative, Bait is a deeply disturbing film that makes an intriguing socio-economic statement on survival in a lawless world.
Bait is released nationwide on 7th September 2015.