The Bay (2012)
Director: Barry Levinson
Frank Deal/Mayor John Stockman
The fourth of July festivities in a small coastal Maryland town are gruesomely interrupted by something "really f-ing wrong" that's in the water. And no it's not a shark!
Any twat with an IPhone, a DV camera or a digital camera can make a found-footage movie (or home made porns, but that's for another article). In terms of the ones that have been released, some hit, most miss, because they're either done by amateurs or folks wanting to make a quick buck at a dirt cheap price. So yeah I was jazzed when I heard that a freaking Oscar winner, director Barry Levinson that is (who’s made three films that I love: Diner (1982), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and Sleepers in 1996), would throw everything he knew about film-making out the window to tackle this cruder way of storytelling. In his first horror movie at that, if you don't count Sphere in 1998. It took me a while to catch The Bay, I don't do VOD yet (I'm still holding on to the old ways, I know, I know...) and it came out limited last year i.e. not in my corner of hell. But now that I dove into its murky waters (all I got man, go with it), I am glad I took the plunge!
The first thing I did after watching The Bay was hit the web to see if the flick's happenings were based on true life events. Although the picture didn’t pull the now sinfully overused “based on a true story” spiel, it felt as I was clocking it that Levinson didn’t pull his story out of his ass. After some research, I found out that nope he didn’t, which made what had transpired even scarier to me in insight. It winds up that Levinson used the real life Chesapeake Bay mishap as his inspiration. The water in that bay was so toxic that it killed the fish and gave swimmers nasty rashes. How did that happen? The chemically laced chicken excrement the farms were dumping in the water was to blame. So Levinson used that as his springboard, even going on record to say that 85% percent of what you see in The Bay was based on facts. What came out of it was a biting cautionary tale.
If Jaws was a found footage movie with no shark in it; it would called The Bay. The story structure here so reminded me of Spielberg's classic! That's a good thing! Levinson told his story via pretty much every kind of recording device that is present in our overly technological society (note to self, when 60 years old, move in the woods with dog. a well stocked bar and a shotgun, all I need, end of note). Am talking Skype video, security cameras, hand-held camera, IPhone camera, video off a digital still camera, mounted/static police car cameras; the works! Of course telling a story in that manner comes with limitations in terms of what you can cover while remaining true to your visual medium. But Levinson made the most of it, using what we “didn’t” see or/and what we heard to his advantage. Am not talking shaky cam madness and shots of people's feet ploys like: a static wide shot locked onto something - the audio and our imagination gap what we're not seeing. The result was a involving ride with a handful of visceral and scary scenes that got under my skin and laid eggs there. Levinson did cheat in one instance when it comes to the “found footage” motif though, he added a musical score to the proceedings. But you know what? I loved the music here (by Marcelo Zarvos). It was gloomy and it backed up the morbid imagery ideally without being intrusive. So I still bought it!
The credible performances kicked in hard to up the credibility factor of the piece too. Kristen Connolly, Christopher Denham and Frank Deal all aced their roles while lead chickadee (played by cutie Kether Donohue) held her own and acted as our guide throughout this nightmare. The slew of unknowns also came through. I was actually very impressed by the 15 year old girl in the film (I think her real name is Jennifer Burch), who communicated with a friend on her IPhone using face time during her moments of need. I was even more impressed when I found out afterward that she basically had little acting experience under her belt. She was very natural and gave a moving showcase. Good job girl! Add to that some random moments of tension, Levinson’s sly knack of using what we know against us (every time somebody would jump in the water, I would cringe, knowing they were "fubared") and the occasional left field scare bit that worked on my sorry ass and you get an efficient horror flick that hit close to home!
Any complaints? Some. I didn't dig the movie’s habit of repeating the same information while using the same footage to convey it. I got it the first time man; I don't need you to hammer it into my skull to MAKE SURE I got it. I'm an a-hole not a moron. Moreover, there were a handle of dumb moves by the characters to serve the plot that I called out loud when they occurred. They kind of took me out a bit, cause they reeked of classic inane horror movie decisions. Finally, I expected the horror in the story to go further and craved for more bloodshed. I was kind of misled by the grisly stills that I saw online. Alas the red grub was either showed too quickly, not often enough or not at all.
Overall though, kudos to Levinson! He noticed a real life event as to one of the ways we are killing our planet and in turn hurting ourselves. And being that nobody gave a shit about it, he slapped said event in a horror movie hoping that the message would come across to more peeps. And hey it worked on this jerk! And the fact that he managed to put out an back-handing horror movie at the same time meant that he got his infected cake and ate it too.! So you gonna jump in The Bay or what! Come on in! The water is motherf*cking COLD!
We get some glimpses of mangled up bodies, a severed leg, yucky rashes, blood splats and some creepy crawlies induced damage. It gets icky!
T & A
We get a chick in her bra and undies (or was it a bikini, who cares, you get the picture), that is all.
It's The Nature of Things on acid! I had a dread filled fun time with Barry Levinson's THE BAY! Suspenseful, well acted, thought provoking and engaging from beginning to end, the flick had my by the raisonettes! On his end, Levinson wisely took the limitations that come with the found footage format and turned them into advantages! And the fact that he used a true life story to launch his twisted tale, made the thing even scarier after the fact. Message received loud and clear hombre! Yeah there were dumb moves to serve the plot and I wish the horror was pushed further, but when all was said and done I had a groovy sit down with it and I hope you do too.
Personally, as the end credits rolled, this quote from The Matrix popped in my head: “Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.” Nough said!
Levinson was asked to do a documentary on the Chesapeake Bay. He started to do his research and then saw the Frontline PBS documentary about the Chesapeake Bay which he loved. Knowing he couldn't top it and noticing that the doco didn't get the attention it deserved, he took the same story and used it as the basis for The Bay.
Kristen Connolly was also in Cabin in the Woods (2011).
The flick was shot in North and South Carolina, USA.