It’s no secret in these parts that I am a big supporter of the ‘found footage’ sub-genre. I really dig the aesthetic of that style of filmmaking, it provides a great sense of ‘you are there’ that you can’t always get from traditional style narrative. Up to this point, pretty much all found footage movies existed in the realm of indie filmmakers or very low budget studio pictures with new directors hoping to gain some notoriety. So when acclaimed director Barry Levinson announced he was going to make his new film low budget and found footage style, audiences were intrigued. The resulting film is The Bay.
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is a nice little cottage town. During the warm months, the town is flooded with people waterskiing, swimming and boating. When a duo of scientific researchers discover a staggering level of toxicity in the town’s water, they try to let the mayor’s office know, but the mayor is much too concerned with keeping the town panic free and the toxicity leads to a plague of sorts being unleashed upon the residents. A mutation of a parasite known as Cymothoa exigua is entering people’s bodies through the water and growing at an accelerated rate, then devouring the host from the inside out. Within hours the casualties are enormous as the medical professionals and CDC try to figure out what is going on.
The bulk of the story in The Bay is told from the perspective of a young reporter that happened to be covering a generic story in the town when the outbreak happened. The film lets us know that all the footage is classified government files that the reporter is trying to get exposed. People going into The Bay expecting a horror film may be quite disappointed as this is much more of a medical thriller/drama than a horror film. A blend of found footage and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. And it works very well. Under the seasoned and steady guidance of Levinson, The Bay unfolds in a terrifying fashion and really makes you wonder how many of these contained outbreaks with massive casualties have really happened but were hushed up and we never heard about them. I am willing to wager it has happened quite a few times. The pace of The Bay is steady and sure, the progression of the town’s terror is palpable and realistic, and the few instances of makeup and gore are very well done and quite unnerving. The parasites themselves are quite disgusting as well, but very well executed. Levinson is smart to not overuse the gore and parasites, instead using them to punch up the pace every once in a while to great effect. I really liked The Bay and would recommend it as a nice companion piece to Contagion, but you might become somewhat of a germaphobe after that double feature.
Available March 5, 2013 on DVD.