Bait

Author: Russell Mulcahey
Genre: Disaster/Action
Storyline: 8
Dialogue: 7
Characterization: 6
Writer’s Potential: 7

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Logline:

A disparate group of people find themselves trapped in a flooded grocery store after a tsunami, and they’re forced to work together to survive against sharks and a deranged killer.

Synopsis:

Early one morning, on an idyllic Australian beach, a man is suddenly yanked underwater, replaced by a pool of blood and chunks of flesh, which seagulls dip down to eat. Underwater, a shark net running along the beach is revealed to have a gaping hole in it. Three months later, a high-tech, hole-free shark net is nearing completion. TRACY (30s) stands on the beach, waiting impatiently for her son, JIM (15), to finish having fun on the beach. Tracy’s impatience irritates Jim. JOSH (30s), the lifeguard, flirts with Tracy. Then he notices the screws on the lookout’s stilts are falling out, so he decides to go to a nearby supermarket. Tracy and Jim walk to their car. She tries to connect by pointing out that her husband, Jim’s father, left both of them, and they need to stick together. Jim angrily walks away, toward the grocery store. She notices a sweaty, anxious man, SAM, on the street, but doesn’t have time to pay full attention. As she rushes to pursue Jim, Tracy runs into BOBBY, a wheelchair-bound man, knocking him over. He cheerfully jokes as she apologizes and rights him. Meanwhile, JOHN (40s) brings his teenage daughters SARAH and KATIE to the grocery store. The girls are acting obnoxious, taunting each other as the car enters the underground parking garage, passing a sign marking the store’s grand opening.

The MAYOR proudly tours the store. He’s introduced to SUSAN, the young store manager. NAOMI (25), a deaf-mute, tries to sign a question at Susan. ALEX, a stockboy, signs the answer. Susan thanks him. John’s daughters refuse to enter the store with him. Annoyed, John goes in by himself. Inside the pharmacy, Sam waits for something, shifty-eyed. Tracy bursts into the store and finds Jim hanging around with MARTIN (16), a street thug. Tracy yells at Jim and accuses Martin of shoplifting. Just as she’s about to drag him off, they hear a scream. It’s Susan. Sam’s taken her hostage. Tracy suddenly pulls out a radio and calls in the crime — she’s a cop! Sam threatens the shoppers, but he’s disoriented. Susan uses his confusion to kick him in the groin and run away. Sam shoots her in the back. Josh performs rudimentary first aid on Susan while Tracy calls for an ambulance. But the cops will never get there…

A tsunami pounds the beach, flooding the entire town with water. Ocean water and debris floods the underground parking structure and the supermarket. Sarah and Katie hop into the car as it’s lifted around by the torrent of water. Katie gets a head injury, which knocks her out. Inside the supermarket, the customers and employees are forced to make do sitting on top of the shelves, which have created islands among the water. Tracy and Josh try to tend to Susan. Metal gates rumble down, locking them inside the store. It’s an emergency system. John, realizing his kids are out there, suddenly dives into the water. He just barely gets past the gates and into the parking lot. Tracy tries to keep everyone calm. She tells Josh to find painkillers. Martin recommends hydrocodone. John swims to his car and finds Sarah and Katie. Sarah’s panicking because Katie’s unconscious. John tells her he’s going to swim to the exit to see what’s going on, when suddenly he’s ripped away by a creature and killed in front of Sarah.

Tracy asks Alex if there’s another way out of the store. Alex says there’s a service entrance, but it would have closed, too. He suggests that there’s a trip for the gates in the store room. He goes to swim for it when there’s another scream. Sam stands on a shelf with another hostage. Alex finds the trip, but he needs a crow bar to get at it. Inconveniently, Sam’s on the hardware shelf. Tracy begs for a crow bar. Suddenly a liquor bottle smashes Sam in the head — Jim threw it. Josh gets the crow bar. They leave Sam unconscious on the hardware shelf. Jim swims over to a bus that blocks the supermarket’s entrance. Inside, he finds three dead prisoners chained to a rail. He’s stunned and about to leave when TAYLOR and STEVEN, two prisoners who are cuffed but alive, demand that Jim grab the handcuff keys from the dead guard, then they beat him up. Alex and some others swim to the store room and try to pry open the trip device. It’s pretty stuck, so it’ll take time. Josh shouts for everyone to get out of the water. Tracy wonders why. Josh points out something large, moving through the water quickly. Taylor and Steven tie Jim up. He screams for his mother. She shouts for him to not get into the water when she notices he’s in a prison bus. Alex and his helpers get the trip open, just in time to get attacked by the creature in the water. They’re killed.

Everyone cheers at the opening gates, but the bus is completely blocking the exit and unable to move. It slips underwater, trapping Jim with Steven and Taylor. JEFF reaches into the water to grab some flashlights so they can see into the water. Josh warns Jeff about “sea wasps,” the deadliest jellyfish known to man. Martin, taping the claw hammer he intended to steal to the end of a broomstick, reaches down and grabs flashlights. The complicated packaging keeps them watertight, so they work when the survivors turn them on. In the car, Katie wakes up. Sarah tells her they have to stay put. They see JANE (30s) trapped in a nearby car with son TOMMY (7). Outside the car, Jane watches a man get killed by what is clearly a tiger shark. Swimmers trying to make their way through the garage start yelling. Josh, Tracy, and everyone else in the store hears them screaming about sharks. They think they know what they’re up against, until they aim flashlights into the water — there are tons of sharks, babies, but still big enough to kill them.

Realizing nobody will come for them until the morning, Tracy suggests finding dry blankets and food for people. Jim manages to get a small window opened above the water. They toss some food inside. Steven thanks Jim. He admits that he lost his job and his brother, Taylor, convinced him to sell weed, which is why they’re now both in prison. One of the survivors asks why the sharks won’t eat dead bodies. Josh explains that tiger sharks are smart and nasty — unlike other sharks, they don’t eat dead flesh, and they savor their kills. Nobody wants to hear this. Tied up, Sam awakens, laughing. He says he has an idea. The Mayor wants to hear him out, but Tracy refuses. Josh notices a ventilation shaft that they could use to get out. Unfortunately, it’s positioned right over the water. Tracy and Josh tie two beach chairs together with skipping ropes, creating a bridge under the shaft. They knock the shaft open with a broomstick. Martin volunteers to go out the shaft. Everyone admires his bravery, including Tracy. As he crawls into the shaft, he discovers one end is blocked by debris — and the other by a nest of venomous snakes. Martin suddenly falls, crashing into the water. He leaps up again, hanging onto the shaft door. Josh yells for everyone to splash and make noise in the water to distract the sharks from Martin’s area. It doesn’t work — a massive, clearly adult shark leaps up and pulls Martin down under the water. Disappointed, the group tries to sleep.

At dawn, Naomi opens her eyes and realizes the water has risen quite a bit. In the car park, Katie notices the same thing — it’s high enough that it’s coming through the small crack in the window they’ve left for air. Overhead, everyone hears a chopper. They start cheering and yelling at it in relief, but it flies away. Tracy realizes Sam has disappeared from his spot. A shark attacks the car holding Sarah and Katie, drawn by the blood coming from Katie’s head. Josh notices a burst power cable that’s sparking just over the water. Josh thinks they have less than an hour to figure out how to shut the power off before the water rises up to the cable. Susan, semi-conscious, whispers that there’s a service room, inside of which the power can be shut off. Josh manufactures a rudimentary scuba-diving helmet with a long breathing tube and a rope, then covers himself in wire mesh and canned goods so he doesn’t look like a person. Meanwhile, Sarah realizes she and Katie have no choice: they have to get out of the car. Katie panics, but they have no other options. Sarah drags her out of the car and they barely get to the dry roof before a shark attacks. Sarah realizes the sharks are breaking windows now. Jane and Tommy are in danger. Sarah climbs up to a conduit pipe on the ceiling and shimmies over to the car. Katie tosses Sarah an emergency fire axe, which she uses to rip open the roof of Jane’s car. Jane and Tommy crawl out. She thanks them.

Underwater, sharks ignore Josh. He gets to the service room, but his breathing hose is too short. He breaks free of it, pulls the kill switch, then drops the hose. Struggling to find it, he comes free of the rope. Then the sharks find him. Tracy and the others realizes he’s done for when they pull back a loose rope. The store is pitch-black for a moment, then the emergency lights come on, accompanied by strange opera music. Sam has created a disturbing raft from all the dead bodies floating in the water. He announces that his master plan was to explode a bomb, which he’ll now, finally, do. Tracy tries to stop him, but she can’t get to him. She’s also distracted by Jim, who’s trying to get Steven and Taylor out of the bus before himself, to escape the rising water. As Jim climbs along the rope out of the bus, it snaps. Tracy sees the large shark’s fin. She dives underwater and rescues the terrified Jim. She narrowly avoids the shark as she pulls Jim to safety, then shoots Sam in the head just before he can detonate the bomb. The tiger shark jumps up, and Tracy empties her clip into it. The babies are attracted to the fresh blood from Sam. Their motion and violence causes Sam’s body to detonate the bomb. It explodes, but the water moved the bomb, so nobody’s injured, and the explosion moves the bus to create a bridge leading right out of the store. Tracy emerges and looks at the town, which is an epic disaster area. A tiger shark suddenly bursts out of the water, snatching a gull.

Comments:

Bait follows a classic but effective disaster-movie formula, introducing a wide variety of characters, giving them each problems, and using the heightened emotion of the disaster to solve them. It has a few weak spots, but they’re balanced by unending suspense and action. As written, the script merits a recommend.

In addition to setting up all the characters and their interpersonal problems, the first act contains a bravura action sequence with the tsunami. It’s unexpected and well-executed, which will help draw in audiences’ attention. The second act forces the characters to work together, finding common ground in the need to survive, as the writer layers new obstacles and complications constantly. The writer also finds clever uses for common household items. As the second act shifts into the third, the story remains satisfying until the ridiculous, over-the-top return of Sam and his bomb. It’s resolved tidily, but it mars an otherwise well-written, entertaining script.

The writer does a nice job with each character. Although the characters are not the primary focus, each has enough definition to make them empathetic and slightly interesting, even if they’re not particularly complex. The notable exception to this is Sam, who’s a ridiculous distraction even before the tsunami. This script would be near-perfect if Sam didn’t exist at all. He’s a nuisance, but he’s barely in the script, so he doesn’t have the opportunity to completely ruin it.

This script has more than enough action and entertainment value to succeed on its own, but expert direction will help keep the action sequences coherent and the suspense palpable. Convincing special effects will help sell the tsunami and shark attacks. As a minor side-note, Tracy is occasionally referred to in the script as “Todd,” suggesting her gender and name were late changes.

Posted by D. B. Bates on May 1, 2009 7:54 AM