Yet another addition to the found-footage genre, The Bay had the potential to be a tiresome and predictable affair because of how overused the style has become in recent years. However, it’s actually a relatively well made and surprisingly enjoyable, icky little creature feature.
Starting off with a news reporter speaking into a webcam, the film recounts the terrible events that took place in the small fictional bay side community of Claridge, Maryland. During July 4th celebrations people start to break out in boils and suffer from violent sickness which, as we soon find out, is the result of some sort of fast-spreading infection.
The main problem with a lot of found footage movies is you’re constantly wondering why in the world the person holding the camera is still filming the events. Smart takes on the style get around that fact and The Bay is one of those. Instead of it following one set of camera footage throughout which has inexplicably been edited together for our enjoyment and understanding, we see events from a variety of different sources including news footage and even CCTV at points. This not only brings a certain believability to the film but also means there’s almost always something interesting to look at, your eyes darting around the screening soaking in the information and looking for signs of just what the hell is going on.
Rather surprisingly the film is directed by none other than Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) and it’s an odd film indeed for him to have done. The controlled madness of the film is a testament to him as a director, taking a now tired style of filmmaking and doing something interesting and worthy with it. He achieves an increasing sense of dread and blind panic throughout, really dropping you into these events which are scarily plausible. It has a sense of relevance about it; this isn’t a huge creature attacking these helpless people (ala Cloverfield) or ghosts making strange noises in the woods (ala The Blair Witch Project) but an eco-themed threat that rings true.
It’s certainly not perfect; some of the acting is a little wooden at times, it could have done with a little more scares and a little less waiting around and it does lose its way a bit when it tires to introduce a more narrative-like story involving a couple and their baby visiting the town not knowing what’s happened there. But for what it is The Bay is a solidly skin crawler that proves that it’s still possible to breathe new life into the found footage genre.
This review was also published in The Journal.