Barry Levinson is an interesting director. Not many would expect that the Oscar winning director of Rain Man and Bugsy would be next in line to make a found footage horror film, but here it is, in the form of The Bay. While it’s definitely a found footage film, it’s a bit different in style than stuff like [REC] and The Blair Witch Project. The main feature is the wide range of different viewpoints. While there are characters that carry a single camera around, Levinson uses the prevalence of video cameras in modern society to depict an outbreak from all walks of life, from private vacations, to video chat sessions, to security cameras, and even cameras mounted in police cars.
The story takes place in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, where the annual Fourth of July festivities have begun in a small bayside town. This story, which will inevitably be the point of disaster, is intercut with footage from a team of oceanographers who have been investigating the possibly polluted waters of the bay. As the disaster begins to take its toll on the people of the town, we slowly learn what the oceanographers discovered through their video diaries.
A single reporter that was there the day the of the event, Donna (Kether Donohue) narrates the tapes that have been found, to put a single narrative thread to the whole thing. This is another new aspect to most found footage films, which rarely have a retrospective voice to explain what is happening while we watch. Since we know Donna lives, it removes one aspect that creates tension, however, the rest of the film is so unpredictable in nature, there is plenty of tension to go around.
As we follow the lives of many different citizens from the town, we get a lot of points of view on the events of the day, and it makes for an interesting way to put the whole story together. As with many found footage films, the plot is designed to be a governmental cover-up of sorts. This is all encapsulated by a feeling of solidarity among the town and its residents, which also adds a feeling of isolation when all hell breaks loose.
Most found footage films revolve around what exactly is going on, and while I won’t spoil it here (I’m sure it’s revealed on plenty of other sites) the fun is in the gore, and how the disaster itself affects the people on a physical level. There are some creative deaths and some mutilated corpses that will really make your skin crawl. The film is short, and the pace is quick, without too many lulls that will bore the audience. Overall, it’s an effective found footage thriller that is refreshingly different from the Paranormal Activity films’ simplicity, however, it doesn’t break enough ground in the genre to be called a game changer, but it’s entertaining nonetheless, and fairly gory, with enough decent acting to keep it from feeling horribly fake, and the fact that it revolves around an ecological disaster very similar to some real ones also adds realism to the whole thing.