Friday, August 30, 2013

The Bay (2012)


**This review contains spoilers**


On July 4, 2009, a college student named Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) travels to the small bay town of Claridge, Maryland to document and cover the town’s annual Fourth Of July festivities. But things take a drastic turn for the worst, when contestants in a crab eating contest start vomiting non stop. Mayor Stockman (Frank Deal) tries to dismiss and ignore the epidemic, but throughout the day and into the night, more town residents and visitors contract a mysterious and fatal flesh eating illness. Research reveals signs leading up to the outbreak, including chicken feces contaminating the local water supply, the mutilated dead bodies of two divers, and piles and piles of dead fish and birds. Eventually, mutated parasites are revealed as the source of the illness.

During the chaos, Donna struggles to find answers and help, because the FBI and the government step in and cut off all communications to the outside world. The death toll rises beyond the seven hundred mark, and the remaining survivors of Claridge struggle to find help and avoid contact with the infected. Meanwhile, unaware of the death and devastation, Stephanie (Kristen Connolly), her husband, and infant son arrive at the Claridge docks at night to visit Stephanie’s grandparents…..

The Bay did a good job of tugging on my “this could actually happen in real life” thought process. The news clips of dead fish and birds helped, and the bits of information piecing together the mystery provided a necessary feeling of authenticity. But the little cover up about the chicken feces contaminating the water supply is the clincher. When you actually see the footage of the chickens, and you see them feeding, it makes you believe a similar epidemic could happen in real life, especially in a small, homely town.

And The Bay is my type of found-footage film. It’s no secret I usually despise this sub-genre, but The Bay gets it right. Attention to details is a BIG reason for The Bay’s strong sense of realism. They make sure to thoroughly identify all the medics, doctors, scientists, and marine biologists by explaining their job titles, backgrounds, and the tasks they’re performing.

Barry Levinson (the director) has a crafty touch of weaving in the real life news footage, the found footage from the citizens of Claridge, and Donna’s recorded footage, because Levinson gives you the impression you’re watching a real documentary with the real life footage. A teenage couple’s video camera was damaged by water during an attack, and they use this as a reason for the glitches in the video. And certain videos received audio enhancements, because everything was too unclear to understand the first time around. You also get the POV from citizens of Claridge, as they use their video cameras and cell phones (not just videos or pictures, text messages also) to document the hysteria. Good stuff.

The Bay has a few jump scares here and there, but nothing to really brag about. A sense of realism enhances the terror in this film, and on top of that, Levinson provides the perfect spooky atmosphere. Towards the end, Claridge looks like a ghost town, because you’ll see dead and dismembered bodies all throughout the streets and on front lawns, and there’s this eerie silence at night, as Stephanie and her husband search for help in a seemingly deserted town. Plus, there’s the video footage of two cops going to check out a house full of infected people. They don’t actually show what’s going on inside the house. You just hear the screams of the infected, gunshots, and people begging for their lives. It’s a good example of less is more, because you’re wondering what’s going on in the house. It must be pretty terrible and frightening, if people are screaming to the top of their lungs, and literally begging for a mercy killing, right?

If blood, gore, and other nasty stuff bothers you, you should probably avoid The Bay. You’ll see a lot of blood, vomit, and mangled bodies, as the parasites crawl in and out of their victims. No real complaints about the quality of acting from the cast, but I rolled my eyes at Frank Deal’s character, because he’s your typical and clich├ęd dirty politician, who’ll do anything to snag some votes.

The Bay is one of the better found-footage horror films I’ve seen. You can really feel the panic, fear, and hopelessness from everyone in Claridge. Although, The Bay has some boring periods, as they try to explain the situation, and the doctor’s video chats with the CVC almost put me to sleep. Still, it’s nice to see a found-footage horror film break away from the mold of a bunch of idiots running around in the dark, screaming, and shaking the fucking camera every two minutes.

Rating: 8/10

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