BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
RUNNING TIME 85 minutes
– Commentary with director Barry Levinson
– “Into the Unknown: Barry Levinson on The Bay” Featurette
A documentary style eco-horror flick.
Kristen Connolly, Kether Donohue, Will Rogers
The Bay portrays the untold story of the citizens of Claridge, Maryland and the parasitic outbreak that claimed 700 lives over the course of 24 hours.
The fact that The Bay has a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes boggles my mind. Critical acclaim led me to this flick when it was originally released on VOD, and I couldn’t believe how many people ended up enjoying it. The film is a lazy attempt at applying modern technology to the found footage genre. Director Barry Levinson needs to check out the finale of Chronicle, where this was done to much greater effect.
The premise of The Bay is actually solid. The parasite featured, Cymothoa exigua, actually exists, and is quite a nasty creature. Unleashing this thing on an unsuspecting town should lead to plenty of great horror imagery and enough chaos to fill a 90 minute film. There are brief beacons of hope throughout The Bay, mostly during scenes showing the aftermath of utter chaos in a local hospital, but for the most part the film squanders any potential it has. Surprisingly, it’s not the script or the actors that ruin this one (although they aren’t exactly top-notch). No, this one falls apart due to choices made behind the camera.
Found footage doesn’t have to look great to be entertaining, as the originator of the genre, The Blair Witch Project, proved back in 1999. It does, however, have to use it’s gimmick properly in order to keep the audience on board. Throwing various types of media together simply because it’s never been done before isn’t particularly engaging. The film switches between regular cameras, Skype videos, cell phone footage and various other recording devils at a frenetic pace, leaving the viewer disoriented and uninterested in any one scenario. We’re given characters that we may actually relate to, but style gets in the way of the substance and destroys these chances. When you take into account that some of these forms of communication weren’t even around when this film supposedly takes place, the whole thing really starts to fall apart.
The film focuses on journalist Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue). She wanders around town aimlessly trying to figure out the cause of the outbreak, digging deeper when she should really be getting the hell out of town. This is a problem that found footage often struggles with, but most films like this give the characters some reason to stick around. Donna has none besides the fact that this is her “big break”. I found myself getting more and more frustrated as the film went on, waiting for the moment when she would finally give up and be content knowing she would survive. Other characters, such as Kristen Connolly’s Stephanie, pop in and out of the film in at random. We aren’t given enough time with any of them to care. Sure, we want the mother and her child to make it out alive, but that’s only because a baby is involved, not because we have any real investment in them.
Horror fans simply looking for gore and gross-out effects may walk away a little happier than I did. Some of the make-up work in the film is fantastic, and all of the sores and other gross deformities caused by the parasite look appropriately icky. It’s unfortunate we don’t see more of this effects work, as the film focuses on the scientific side of the outbreak far more than it does the chaos in the town. For every scene centered around the townsfolk and their plight, we get another set in a drab rooms with government officials doing next to nothing to solve the problem. Whenever the film picks up steam, it promptly loses it seconds later.
Ultimately, The Bay is great concept ruined by a lack of knowledge behind the camera. Technology and social media are thrown around without any understanding of their functions or limitations. Sure, it makes the film look smart, but that’s like saying glasses make your stupid cousin “look” smart. The Bay is constantly trying to show you how hip it can be by disregarding things such as pacing and replacing them with a barrage of different styles that never come together. Brief horror moments that manage to unnerve the viewer aren’t enough to save the flick, which is a shame as some of the make-up effects are quite good. If you want to see this kind of thing done right, go check out the recent Korean thriller, “Deranged”. Otherwise, just steer clear of The Bay.
Given that the film uses so many different forms of visual storytelling, it’s difficult to simply rate the transfer. It looks about as good as it’s going to look, and I’d definitely recommend the DVD version over the blu-ray, as there isn’t really much to improve here. The audio mix is decent, but the music in the film is so boring I doubt you’ll want to give it much attention.
The special features included will only be interesting to those who are new to the medium. Everyone else will be bored as Barry Levinson explains to you what night vision is and why he decided to use it during his night time scenes. Yes, I’m serious.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars