The Bay (2013) – Directed by Barry Levinson – Starring Will Rogers, Kristen Connolly, Kether Donohue, Frank Deal, Stephen Nunken, Christopher Denham, and Nansi Aluka.
I hate when I’m watching a movie and know I have very little to say about it. Usually when this happens, I’m watching some low budget action movie starring giant fish. Occasionally, as with Oblivion, it happens with a film that I wasn’t expecting to have trouble writing about.
Such is the case with THE BAY.
Let’s start with the obvious: it’s a Barry Levinson movie. Not a Barry “not that Barry” Levinson movie, but a movie from the guy who directed Diner, The Natural, Young Sherlock Holmes, Tin Men, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, Avalon, Bugsy, Toys, Disclosure, Sleepers, and Wag the Dog, all within a 15 year period from 1982-1997. He also helped create and produce the best cop show of all time (Homicide: Life on the Street) and Oz. He’s floated a bit since then, directing a few standouts (like Bandits), a few clunkers (like Envy), a few odd choices (like PoliWood) and a whole lotta stuff that’s rather forgettable.
I’m not a huge fan of horror (I don’t dislike the genre, but I’m not rushing out to see Saw IV just because it was made), and neither am I a huge fan of found footage (I don’t dislike them, either, but it’s the rare found footage film that adds anything unique to the genre), so the primary motivation for me watching THE BAY is Levinson.
Without knowing it’s a Levinson film, there’s only a few things that might tip you off: it’s set in Maryland, it’s camera style and washed out palette are sorta reminiscent of Homicide, and his voice appears in the film as an interviewer.
In other words, not really anything to make the connection unless you know the connection already exists.
When I get past the Levinson angle, THE BAY is a well made found footage film about an eco-disaster-turned-infestation told through several partially-connected stories. It’s impressive for a found footage film in that there are a lot of different pieces of footage assembled together here. There’s the same personal camera footage and security cam footage, but there’s also as wide a variety of looks as I’ve seen in a found footage film: lots of different cameras and locations went into the creation of footage to find.
Unlike most found footage films, THE BAY is less interested in piecing together a mystery as it is in piecing together a story. That is, it plays much more like a real documentary that it does a singular experience. Levinson brings in not only personal footage, but Skype calls to the Centers for Disease Control and 911 calls to illustrate how rapidly this scenario escalates. Found footage films love to show you confusion by having people run around and scream how they don’t know what’s going on, but THE BAY shows us that. Yeah, there are people running around and screaming that they don’t know what’s going on, but that’s dramatically enhanced by having the CDC professionals tell us they don’t know, either. The way the professionals slowly unravel over the course of the day is really well done.
There’s a message to THE BAY, too, that we’re screwing up the environment for the sake of profits but Levinson handles this with much less precision. I think someone blames “chicken shit” (literally, shit from chickens) for causing the problems 932 times. We get it.
For those interested in the gross out, there’s a bunch of really good gross out moments, too, from the look of infected human skin to the rapid growth of the tongue-eating louse (Cymothoa Exigua) that’s the manifestation of the problem.
THE BAY is a solid, if rather forgettable film, though it does have an awesome poster. It’s exciting to see a veteran like Levinson trying out a new genre, and the results are rewarding. We’ve seen so many found footage films by now that it’s hard for THE BAY to get over just because of the style, but if you’ve seen a bunch of these movies I think you can appreciate Levinson’s spin on the format.
For me, there’s not a lot to talk about beyond Levinson in regards to this film, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
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