|release date||November 2 2012|
|starring||Will Rogers, Steven Kunken, Kether Donohue, Frank Deal, Christopher Denham, Kristin Connelly|
|trailer 1||Trailer #1|
The Bay is completely unconventional in the way it tells its tale of an ecological disaster. Through iPhone footage, webcams, surveillance video – you name it – the movie tells the story of Claridge, Maryland and the tainted water that brings on a plague of sorts. Ultimately, it’s just not very scary.
The Bay tries. Directed by Academy Award winner Barry Levinson, who won for Rain Man back in 1988, the film has been compared to the likes of Cloverfield in its style. I personally didn’t like Cloverfield, but it was far more thrilling than The Bay. What holds together this conundrum of footage is the parasitic culprit that is causing boils and death amongst the residents of a Claridge. It’s vile. The effects are there, gross and disturbing – but they aren’t scary. Unsettling, maybe, but not terrifying.
What troubles The Bay from being a superior film is there are just too many styles of footage sewn together like a bad Frankenstein’s monster. Too many jumps from surveillance to phone footage to video cameras that are awkwardly and weakly held together by the supposed narrator, a journalist played by Kether Donohue. Donohue, from the start, seems either like a convincing reluctant storyteller or a badly written one. Her pauses and mannerisms in the way she tells the supposed government cover-up about Claridge is just not the sturdiest glue for the story.
The story itself, be it weakly pieced by the abundance of angles it is told, seems a wee bit under thought. If such an incident were to occur, one would hope the CDC wouldn’t sit around questioning the doctors involved and actually take action. And even still, if the script were any way more solid, the storytelling method would still be a distraction.
The DVD is nothing very exciting. With the multitude of mediums used, the picture quality is all over the place. That being said, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio remains consistent throughout. The special features, too, are nothing exciting. There is an audio commentary with Barry Levinson where he only speaks every so often with a few comments – very much unlike most DVDs- plus a featurette Into the Unknown: Barry Levinson on The Bay. The same exact comments, more or less, are stated again in the featurette – the fact that making a film out of different types of footage is a challenge, etc, etc – more or less facts that one could gather on their own watching the movie.
In the end, the DVD is not really worth the purchase unless you’re a diehard fan of the film. The Bay is a nice experiment in the found footage genre, however with a lack of thrills, it is not a memorable one.
At the moment, the found-footage sub-genre is all the rage. No surprise there, considering audiences are still running in droves to see the Paranormal Activity films and most recently, The Devil Inside (much to our dismay). I have no issue with any novelty if it’s used effectively and creatively. The Paranormal Activity franchise, the REC series and V/H/S are great examples of when it works. Unlikely candidate, Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) is the latest to jump on the bandwagon with the eco-thriller, The Bay.
The film revolves around a small seaside town that becomes terrorized by a nasty mutant breed of parasites. What makes the film stand apart from the crowd is its mock documentary-style approach. The story is told via multiple video sources including Skype, surveillance video, news footage, smart phones and police cams. Audio sources such as 911 calls and recorded phone conversations are also utilized. The sheer density of the film’s construction is my favourite aspect of The Bay. It’s been cleverly thought out and conceived. The biggest challenge facing filmmakers venturing in the found footage realm is how to convincingly justify why the characters are still holding onto their cameras. For the most part, The Bay is pretty convincing in this department. I never found myself distracted by a glaringly obvious logic gap.
Despite being presented in realistic manner, deep at its core, The Bay owes a great deal to 1950’s era sci-fi/horror pictures such as Them! There’s definitely an old-fashioned B-movie quality to the creatures. Issues begin to arise whenever the film tries its hand at scares. This is where Levinson’s inexperience in genre filmmaking is glaringly obvious. Every attempt at a scare is highlighted by a music cue and sound effect being amped up to eleven. The score is annoyingly present at almost every turn. It’s overbearing and cheaply manipulative especially during the “suspenseful” moments. These techniques ring false at every time. Mostly though, I never found myself invested in The Bay all that much. Dryness is one of the issues that can arise when presenting the material in such a documentary-like fashion and it plagues this movie all throughout. Characters aren’t particularly interesting and the story never really goes in any fresh or surprising direction.
One has to applaud Levinson for stepping out of his comfort zone. The Bay never comes across as a half-baked effort. His use of technology to tell the story, as well as themes dealing with our deteriorating environment will likely strike a chord with many. There seems to be a genuine attempt to breathe new life in the gimmicky world of found footage cinema. Unfortunately what brings the movie down is his novice approach at horror tactics such as jump scares and tension-building. While it may work on the average folk who have never seen a horror film in their life, it won’t fool a hardcore fan by a long shot. The Bay is an admirable but ultimately dull thriller.
P.S. Considering its uncinematic aesthetic, I think this film may actually play more effectively on the small screen. Might be an experiment worth revisiting.