Director: Dominic Brunt
Cast: Victoria Smurfit, Joanne Mitchell, Jonathan Slinger, Rula Lenska
Running Time: 82 minutes
Synopsis: Two friends in a northern English town are caught in the grip of a vicious loan-shark. As they struggle to escape, their friendship will be put to the test and their health will definitely suffer.
British horror/thriller Bait was originally released as The Taking. Its new title seems to fit more aptly with the straight-up, no-nonsense violent tone of Dominic Brunt’s direction (yes, that’s Paddy from Emmerdale; he also directed zombie film Before Dawn).
The story follows two best friends, Bex (Smurfit) and Dawn (Mitchell) who are stuck in dead-end jobs in the local market, selling crap and surrounded by leering, groping men. They modestly dream of opening a little tea and cake shop, away from all the leering and groping but, like for many these days, money is an issue. Bait is certainly a topical film. With the banking crisis, PPI, payday loans, and families struggling to make ends meet, the situations presented here should strike a chord with anyone who’s had to worry about where the next pay check is coming from or how to cover that next bill.
There’s a great sense of British life about this film; a series of vignettes show various folk in the town going about their business as the dark arm of the loan shark hangs above them. The air of desperation in the community is almost palpable. Where Brunt’s direction really works is with enhancing this tone of menace and despair, aided by some striking cinematography. Even if this community manages to shake off the bullies, what else is there for them? What hope do they have?
Bex and Dawn work well together and are largely believable; even though Bex is more of a caricature, we all probably know someone that brassy, while Dawn is simply trying to do the best by her autistic son. Both these ladies give a fierce outer demeanour, but really they’re vulnerable—perfect fodder for an aggressor who doesn’t care that they’re women and will throw the punches (among other things) regardless.
Jonathan Slinger as Jeremy is the real pull. He’s an exceptional actor, whether he’s treading the boards with the RSC in Macbeth or appearing in small budget film and TV. He exerts a kind of doddering, bumbling nature which flips into a cruel, psychopathic streak: disarming one minute, bone crunching the next. Viewers should note there are some particularly violent and unpleasant scenes in Bait, more so as they feature the kind of violence you might encounter in the so-called ‘real world’.
However, by the film’s bloody conclusion perhaps the credulity has been stretched just a little too far. There are some dubious decisions by characters too—but hey, does it matter?
Bait is an enjoyably nasty little film which has solid characterisation and engages in topical issues. Be warned—some scenes are brutal to watch, but it’s a decent addition to the British horror/thriller genre.
Bait review, Claire Joanne Huxham, August 2015.
Bait will screen as part of Frightfest’s programme, screening on Saturday 29th August.