Here’s something I haven’t done in a really long time (at least it feels like a really long time). I’m about to write a glowing review for a genre film, THE BAY, that is truly a fantastic movie. From the first frame I was captivated by the characters and the story that unfolded and even though there wasn’t a whole lotta gore, there was enough here to give you the heebie-geebies and some nightmares. To make it even more impressive, THE BAY is also a “found footage” flick that actually makes it feel like we’ve never seen a found footage flick before. I’m telling ya, THE BAY is terrific.
I’ll admit something that reviewers never talk about. Sometimes we just can’t help but have a preconceived idea about the film we’re about to see. Your professional reviewers, like myself, may experience this from time to time, but I always set that aside and watch everything on a clean slate. It’s tough, though, watching multiple films from the same untalented filmmakers; there’s only so many times you can read a novel about the zombie apocalypse which focuses on the survivors crossing the country; and there’s certain directors who you just can’t imagine making a horror film. As I sat down to watch THE BAY, I admit that I fell into this last category. When I think of fast-paced, intelligent horror films the name “Barry Levinson” isn’t the first name that pops into my head. Don’t get me wrong; Levinson is a fantastic director whose films I’ve enjoyed since I was younger. DINER, THE NATURAL, TIN MEN, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, RAIN MAN, BUGSY, and HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS (one of the best TV series ever) are all incredible films. But when you look at Levinson’s foray into the horror/sci-fi genres he kind of stumbles (remember SPHERE?). So when I first read about THE BAY I was looking forward to it (it sounded pretty damn good) but was also hesitant.
It always pays, my friends, to be open-minded. From the opening, pre-credit sequence all the way through the end credits, I was mesmerized by this story. It’s not just another “deadly outbreak” flick or a “nature gone amok” flick. Well … not entirely. The film opens with a haggard looking woman making a video documenting the events that happened three years ago during a July 4th celebration in 2009. The woman, Donna (Kether Donohue), is detailing her attempts to expose the truth about what happened in the small Maryland town of Claridge, Back in 2009 Donna was a communications major and was in Claridge cutting her chops and covering the July 4th weekend festivals. Her and her cameraman (Robert Curtis Lambert) took some extremely raw footage documenting the disaster from it’s beginning stages all the way through to the bloody end. We learn early on that there was a huge cover-up of what really happened in Claridge. The truth as to the real cause of the “infection” and it’s ecological origins was suppressed with the “greater good” mentality in effect (the ‘greater good’ being the rest of the country).
If you still don’t know what THE BAY is really about, don’t worry. I’m not gonna spoil anything here. You need to watch this one and see how it all unfolds. This is Levinson at his best and he has such a firm grasp on the material here it’s impressive. In the hands of a less skilled director, THE BAY would’ve been a hodgepodge of clips loosely assembled. The footage we’re watching comes from Donna’s footage, surveillance camera footage, police cameras, people Skyping, and other kinds of tech sources. This is a ‘found footage’ that works 100% and you never doubt for a second where the footage comes from. What’s generally the main problem with found footage flicks? When it comes time for the climax of the film and the protagonist is in danger, you can’t help but think that there’s no way the camera would still be rolling. It comes down to our basic “fight or flight” survival instinct. In THE BAY Levinson avoids this problem by using legitimate sources of where the footage is coming from. It’s brilliant. And I can’t forget to give props to the film’s editor, Aaron Yanes. THE BAY is the kind of film that is made or ruined in the editing room, and Yanes does a spectacular job.
The decision to use a mostly unrecognizable cast was a great touch and added to the real, documentary feel of the film. Since there were no big names here, you didn’t know who was gonna live or die at any given moment. The cast also does a great job here and everyone puts in believable and intense performances. When you look at the cast and the names of the characters, we get “Infected Resident #2,” “Infected Teenage Girl,” “Deceased Person,” etc. Writing this review up makes me wanna sit down and watch it all over again. I rented THE BAY through iTunes (it’s also available on vudu.com), but I’ll be buying this DVD for my collection this week.
If you don’t know the true cause of the disaster then you’re really in for a treat. It’s gruesome and horrifying and made even more so by the fact that it’s something that could actually happen. There’s a few different causes that acerbate the actual “infection,” but the real cause is just, like I wrote above, horrifying. THE BAY isn’t a blood bath but there’s enough imagery to satisfy genre-hounds and really disturb mainstream audiences.
I’m not saying anymore. Trust me on this one and just go out and buy THE BAY. This is a great addition to everyone’s collection and it’s one you’ll watch over and over again. From the acting to the story to the editing to the ending, THE BAY is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen in 2012. Don’t miss this one,
Director: Barry Levinson
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer