Decent eco-horror from Barry Levinson has enough about it to be a worthy distraction.
Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson turns his hand to (sort of) found footage horror with The Bay, and achieves sporadic results despite a few crippling artistic choices.
The film should perhaps be more accurately billed as a fake documentary, and certainly a disaster film, although horror elements remain. The story is framed by a spunky young reporter (is there any other kind?) looking back at the events which led to the demise of idyllic coastal town of Claridge, Maryland. Some kind of infestation in the water supply apparently caused all manner of trouble, which we are presented with via home videos, phone messages and even FaceTime.
Presenting the events in this way, with a doom-laden feel to the retelling, does conjure a mild sense of dread early on, and in not really featuring a single protagonist we are encouraged to sympathise with the sheer scale of the crisis. Perhaps the most arresting sections are the video conference calls between the local hospital and the bemused CDC on the other side of the country, but a brief snippet of a webMD upload is also unsettling. Cutting between the various mini-sections is an effective way of keeping things moving at a decent pace, and stops proceedings from getting dull. There is a dash of realism to the presentation, but this comes at a cost – even by found footage standards, which this will be judged by – The Bay is an ugly film. The low resolution formats and messy cutting makes this an unattractive exercise, and as ominous as the soundtrack is, it does take the edge off of the conceit that this is a piece of guerrilla filmmaking designed as a lid-lifting exercise.
When the horror imagery kicks in in the form of aggressive parasites, some of the gore is as strong as anything we’ve seen recently. Some gruesome scenes really capture the attention, and one or two effective little jumps to keep the audience on their toes. This side of things helps to keep the attention, needed especially here since the audience have been presented with the conclusion to the story at the beginning.
All in all, The Bay is a decent take on the found footage set-up, and feels oddly fresh for an entry in such a stagnant genre. The hideously ugly photography is a shame, but there is enough about the film to make this worth a watch, with a palpable creeping fear and quickly moving concept that provide a worthy distraction for the sub-90 minute runtime.