The Bay, 2012
Directed by Barry Levinson
Starring Will Rogers, Kristen Connolly, Kether Donahue and Frank Deal
Presented in the style of a documentary, the film follows the events of a Fourth of July celebration gone wrong in the small fishing town of Claridge, Maryland, as the inhabitants, thanks to contaminated water, find their bodies playing host to a vicious, mutated parasite which threatens the survival of the whole town.
Let me say this early on, I’m not a big fan of the “found footage” sub-genre of horror films. I find the majority of them largely repetitive, boring, lacking in depth and too reliant on lazy jump scares.
Now are all of them bad? Of course not, for every ten shit “found footage” films, you get about one or two good ones.
The subject of today’s review, the gruesome eco-horror The Bay, is one of those good ones, mainly because it tries something a bit different from the usual ghosts and haunted houses, that found footage films find themselves obsessed with.
Now the first thing about this film that I found particular weird is its director, that being Oscar-winner Barry Levinson, who directed the likes of Rain Man (1988), Diner (1982) and Good Morning Vietnam (1987) to name but a few of his works. How many “found footage” films can you name that can boast of having an Oscar-winning director at the helm?
Given Levinson’s considerable talents, this film boasts a slightly bigger scale than most “found footage” works, giving us a whole town of characters to follow and allows for the film to jump between them at a moment’s notice, thus providing us with a much wider picture of the unfolding disaster.
The film presents itself in the style of one of those environmental documentaries that you often skim past on Netflix, as you look for the latest season of Orange is the New Black.
With title cards and news footage discussing the political corruption and backsliding that eventually caused the disaster to strike the town, complete with the kind of things you see on editions of Panorama that read along the lines of, “This footage was sent to the mayor’s office, they did not respond for comment”.
The documentary feel also carries over to the visual style, with multiple cameras covering the film’ actions, ranging from webcams, home movie cameras and CCTV cameras amongst many avenues, all aiding in making the film as believable as possible, almost to the point where it could possibly fool a particularly gullible person, or a Trump supporter if it wanted to.
Also aiding in this approach is a survivor of the film’s events narrating the action, pointing out who was who in the town, what happened to them over the course of the story and what the cause of the disaster was.
The acting from the film’s cast is, for the most part, solid, feeling naturalistic and convincing given the documentary style. Perhaps the best performance coming from the brilliantly named Frank Deal as the town’s Mayor, a perfect recreation of the stereotypical patronising scumbag politician that you often see. A man more concerned with being re-elected than making sure his town’s water supply is safe, even as its residents slowly and violently begin to die.
Now people often say that Jaws made them scared to go in the water, but I reckon that this film will make you scared to even wash your face with it. The monsters of this film are a mutated parasite by the name of Cymothoa exigua, a nasty creature that eats its host’s body from the inside out.
Spreading through the water supply and growing abnormally large, thanks to various pollutants, this monster is arguably more terrifying than any great white shark. Mainly because we don’t see it too much, but we are treated to shots of the truly gruesome damage it can to do a person, with numerous people having their tongues eaten out of their faces and one nasty scene of a bug burrowing out of a man’s throat. I would not recommend this film to those who are squeamish about gore; this film has plenty of it.
And I don’t wish to scare anyone but I feel it is important to mention this little fact, this parasite actually exists, but rest assured it only targets fish, for now at least.
The Bay is easily one of the better “found footage” films out there. With a great premise, a convincing mock documentary style and a genuinely scary, not to mention real world inspired, monster terrorising people, this film is certainly worth a dive into.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★