The Bay – Film Review
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Kether Donohue, Kristen Connolly, Anthony Reynolds
Cert : 18
Even if I enjoy a Found Footage Horror film, I still feel as though I’ve just engaged in a dirty one night stand. So I went into Barry Levinson’s found footage Eco Horror with little enthusiasm for the genre, though I did feel intrigued to discover how the director of Rain Man would handle his first journey into horror. The direction that Levinson takes I quickly found was a very interesting one, he approaches his material as though it is not horror but straight hard truth, which is actually the best way to showcase an event that is supposed to be real.
The story centres on a mysterious plague that befell a peaceful Chesapeake Bay town during their 4th of July celebrations and resulted in the death of hundreds. The higher authorities tried to cover up the horrific events that seemed linked to the town’s water supply but now the footage from that day has been complied to show exactly what happened. Unlike most Found Footage films that tend to begin In medias res, dropping us unguided into the middle of the characters lives, The Bay gives us a narrator. That narrator is Donna Thompson a newbie reporter who had been sent out on her first assignment to the quiet coastal town to cover their 4th of July festivities. Donna stumbled upon more then she bargained for, and now via a Skype call she guides us through her footage. The action that was captured by Donna and her camera man is interspersed with footage shot from several other points of view, including camera phones, police car video, camcorders and the video logs of two scientists who were exploring the waters surrounding the town.
The Bay delivers fantastic moments of suspense and unexpected bloody gore, the found footage device works well to create a sense of safety and then helpless horror as we watch a peaceful town descend into bloody madness. Perhaps it had something to do with having Oren Peli (The Paranormal Activity godfather) on his side as producer or being fresh to the horror genre, whatever the magic element was, Levinson manages to rise above the usual found footage cliché’s and pitfalls creating an at often times terrifying film that feels grounded in reality.
The only way in which The Bay does falter is in trying to include a few too many view points. As we spun dizzily between several different cuts of shakily shot footage, I found myself wanting to spend longer with one point of view, as it is during the periods of continuously following one character’s viewpoint that the film really finds it’s strength and masterfully builds suspense, always rewarding viewers with shocking payoffs.
The Bay is a very interesting addition to an overly crowded genre that needed a film like this to come and give it a fresh spin. Though it clearly wants to portray a message about the dangers of pollution and toxic spills, The Bay really excels as a fun horror film, so watch it with the lights off, be prepared to be scared and enjoy it’s jumpy thrills.