Published Sep 18, 2012Unlike most found-footage horror, the terrifying thing about Barry Levinson's take on the indie, mostly puerile subgenre is how plausible the story is and how effectively the filmmaking style aids the narrative.
With The Bay, Levinson uses the established aesthetic, wherein various digital cameras, cellphone videos and surveillance footage are merged together to tell the story of an ecological disaster of sorts where an unnamed (at first) bacteria eats the flesh of hundreds of small-town inhabitants from the inside out.
Framed mostly by a Skype chat with the inexperienced reporter in town when the crisis emerged, unreleased interviews and home video footage show the small bay side town of Claridge celebrating the Fourth of July with pie-eating contests and dunk tank shenanigans. Before long, the police have discovered a mutilated body on the side of the road and multiple citizens are showing up at the local hospital covered in boils and lesions.
Flipping between video diaries of the infected and panicked conversations between the doctor on duty and the CDC, Levinson creates a palpable sense of chaos, depicting people resigned to their eventual decay as aptly as those prone to panic. There's also necessary exposition depicted with a hint of comedy when the footage is interspersed with the findings of two bickering environmental researchers just a few weeks before the tragedy. Discovering mutilated fish riddled with parasites, they note the over-abundance of hormone-heavy chicken shit poured into the water from the local plant as an instigator of ecological imbalance.
Understandably gory, this surprisingly believable mock-doc manages to integrate creature visual effects with low-grade footage in an organic way that heightens the occasional scare. Levinson's pacing and careful balancing of theme with footage of imperilled townsfolk makes for purely engrossing viewing that's as disgusting as it is legitimately urgent, hammering home the dangers of being complacent with environmental warning signs looming.
While not exactly reinventing the wheel, this smartly assembled and carefully balanced horror does a good job of presenting the audience with a reason not to order a KFC variety bucket for dinner. (Alliance)