Roadside Attractions will release Barry Levinson‘s eco-horror film The Bay in theaters, Video On Demand and iTunes on November 2nd. This is the Academy Award (Rain Man) winner’s first foray into horror.
I recently hopped on the phone with Levinson and we discussed his approach to the found-footage format, his use of gore and the very real environmental calamities that shaped his narrative.
Starring Will Rogers, Steven Kunken, Kether Donohue, Frank Deal, Christopher Denham and Kristin Connelly, “Two million fish washed ashore. One thousand blackbirds dropped from the sky. On July 4, 2009 a deadly menace swept through the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland, but the harrowing story of what happened that Independence Day has never been told–until now. From Oscar(R)-winning director Barry Levinson and the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious comes this nerve-shredding tale of a small town plunged into absolute terror. The authorities believed they had buried the truth about the tragedy that claimed over 700 human lives. Now, three years later, a reporter has emerged with footage revealing the cover-up and an unimaginable killer: a mysterious parasitic outbreak. Told from the perspective of those who were there and saw what happened, The Bay unfolds over 24 hours though people’s iPhones, Androids, 911 calls, webcams, and whatever else could be used to document the nightmare in Claridge.”
This is definitely a break aesthetically for you in several regards. It’s a horror film and also a found footage film. What’s it like switching gears into that?
You know, it’s funny. I didn’t set out to do a horror film and I didn’t set out to do a found footage film. Neither of those things were really on my radar. I was just simply trying to tell a story, I wanted to take something that was 85% factual information and put it into a fictitious story.
So the question was, “what if this catastrophic thing happened in this one town and no one knew because there was no media?” And I thought, “well this is the first generation that basically documents all of their little moments.” They text, email, Skype – they do all of those things. So you get an intimacy that you could have never gotten before. And that’s how it built upwards.
You’re using all of these cameras with varying degrees of quality. Like you said, you’re using FaceTime, Skype, a News Camera, digital cameras, cell-phone cameras. What was the most challenging part of that for you?
The most challenging thing is that we had to honor the form. So if you have, as an example, the scene with the young teenagers down by the water. He has one camera and he’s filming her. How do we cover the scene? There’s only one camera so there’s not going to be an over-the-shoulder or a two-shot or anything, so you have to choreograph it. He hands it to her, she’s videotaping him, he takes the camera back, she goes onto the dock and jumps in the water, something terrible happens and he jumps into the water after her. And that’s all one shot, so you have to figure out how to give the audience enough information without cheating. I can’t go to another angle out of the blue.
The concept of isopods, it’s interesting to see it used as part of this environmental cataclysm. I’ve always worried about environmental catastrophes in general. How realistic would you say this scenario is?
Well isopods have now migrated from the Pacific to the Atlantic and we make the point that in this case they’ve moved into brackish water. Which seems unexpected, but that’s our fiction right? But everything we show about these parasitic creatures is real and credible. They’re a credible villain.
I mean, if we fool around enough with everything… God knows what’s in the water supply?
What would you say to more apathetic members of the audience who might be watching this movie? The ones who say, “well, we’ve already done the damage. Everything’s been destroyed, why bother trying to fix it?” What would your response be?
Well the fact is, we can fix it! I think that’s the point of it all! These are all fixable things. What’s happening in the Chesapeake Bay is fixable. There are ideas and solutions out there. Can it be made to go away tomorrow? No. But it can get turned around if we make a real effort to turn it around. Everyone always says, “well, you know, that’s putting people out of work!” We understand the economics of it. There are positive steps that can be taken environmentally that are not taken for reasons we all know. That’s the real crime of it all.
You have an impressive cast here. I’ve seen Kristen Connolly from The Cabin In The Woods but you’ve got a vast ensemble, and I haven’t seen a lot of them before.
It’s fun. We wanted to put together more or less of an invisible cast because you can’t have people who really jump out too much! But that’s what you have to do to make it all fit together you know?
It’s a pretty graphic film. Was there anything you felt was too difficult to stomach, or did you have enough detachment on the day?
I think I had enough detachment. You want things to look credible and real but you’re not just trying to shock for the sake of shocking. So you shoot [the gore] and you move on.