The Bay (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/03/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Don't give up on found footage movies just yet – Barry Levinson's The Bay is an engagingly icky eco-horror-slash-outbreak thriller that's genuinely chilling.

What's it all about?
Directed by Barry Levinson, The Bay is a found-footage eco-horror set in the fictional town of Claridge on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. Framed as a 2012 investigation by TV reporter Donna (Kether Donohoe) into an incident on Independence Day 2009, the film assembles a wide variety of media sources to help tell the story, such as mobile phone footage, text messages, CCTV, news reports, Skype conferences, video diaries, emergency services recordings and so on. What emerges is that a mutated fish parasite, fired up by pollution in the bay, has jumped species to humans and is causing widespread, bloody death by feeding on their host's intestines.

Over the course of the film a number of different characters emerge, including a pair of oceanographers (Christopher Denham and Nansi Aluka), whose early warnings are ignored; Mayor Stockman (Frank Deal), who, in Jaws-like fashion, tries to hush up early deaths so that the Independence Day celebrations can go ahead; panicked Doctor Abrams (Stephen Kunken), whose rapidly overflowing hospital prompts him to contact government agencies; and oblivious holidaying couple Alex and Stephanie (Will Rogers and Kristen Connolly), who sail into Claridge expecting to find Independence Day celebrations in full swing and discover a ghost town.

The Good
Levinson's direction is impeccable throughout, aided by Aaron Yanes' skilful editing, which juggles a variety of different sources without disrupting the pace and flow of the film. Similarly, the decision to hire mostly unknowns for the cast pays off (the only familiar face is Christopher Denham, whose previous movie just won Best Picture), since it gives the film an added layer of authenticity on top of the uncertainty as to whether any of the characters will make it to the final reel.

While the film is aiming for realism, Levinson is nonetheless careful to include the required horror elements, so there are plenty of horrible-looking deaths involving boils, vomiting, blood and so on. There are also several effective jump moments, particularly when we first get a look at the parasite itself.

The Great
The film is all the more chilling because it feels like it could actually happen; indeed, the project emerged from Levinson's own fears about the pollution of Chesapeake Bay and the fact that bacteria levels have caused both multiple fish death and mysterious rashes on swimmers in recent years. In addition, the film also passes intriguing comment on the impact of technology on the spread of information and misinformation; there's a dark streak of humour in the film that sees the parasite-related deaths being variously wrongly attributed to a shark attack, a serial killer, a satanic ritual, a terrorist attack and so on.

Worth seeing?
The Bay is a well made, genuinely chilling and terrifyingly plausible eco-horror that proves there's still life in the found-footage genre yet. Recommended.

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The Bay (15)
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Content updated: 18/10/2017 17:26

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