BAIT  (REVIEW)
Dir. Dominic Brunt
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Ever wonder what happened to the guy from the Orange Wednesday adverts since its demise? Well, for the curious among you, Dominic Brunt has managed to capture his latest performance as Jeremy, a loan shark in suburban England who earns a tidy living collecting from the vulnerable. We jest, he may share a striking resemblance to the ad star but RSC actor Jonathan Slinger is more familiar with gritty British drama than selling mobile devices and shows no sign of changing career with his latest casting.
When market stall sellers Bex (Victoria Smurfit) and Dawn (Joanne Mitchell) look to expand their business, a shortfall leads them to seek financial assistance from too good to be true investor Jeremy. But when his proposals for an extremely high interest loan fall through on the sensibilities of the girls, he continues to pursue them for a debt of his time and intentions that soon spirals into a living nightmare.
There are echoes of EDEN LAKE in Slingers unnerving performance as he creepily evolves from friendly neighbour next door to full on psychopath. The pacing of his character is played out to perfection as the inevitable climax turns into a familiar battle of forces as the closing scenes go full 80’s slasher with a showdown that is both brutal and disturbing.
Mitchell and Brunt have done well to morph a classic revenge thriller with a realistic tone. Carried by strong performances by its lead cast, BAIT continues to crawl under the skin in a way that many horror films fail. Slingers monster may appear like the stranger next door but his lack of remorse or compassion for his victims makes him as terrifying as any serial killer. The calm notion that he understands the effects he has on the community is chilling.
Yet even with his violent performance, there’s still something believable about Bex and Dawn’s approach to dealing with the menace and their descent at his demands is brilliantly captured by the leading ladies.
With Brunt’s second feature, it’s interesting to see how his love for the horror genre spans with more than convention and while he and Mitchell have already dealt with zombies in BEFORE DAWN, their biggest monster is here. Tense, violent and with impressive special effects, there’s something to make even the most hardened horror fan scream with glory, especially in the closing union between the three central characters.
There’s a gritty notion about BAIT that is reminiscent of Ben Wheatley’s early work (especially DOWN TERRACE) and with Joanne Mitchell, Brunt is part of the new power couple in the movement of British horror.
Here’s hoping that the duo receive budgeting to deliver more northern horror without the need to turn to a loan shark, and if it comes to a worst case scenario, BAIT 2: DEBT RELIEF would make for great late night viewing.