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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 3: The Bay


Nov 3: The Bay

"Chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs."
Directed by: Barry Levinson, Rated: R, 84 minutes

I have to admit, there are very few films that creep me out. Call it a high tolerance from all the countless horror films and gore fests that I've seen or simply my own reluctance to allow scary things to get to me. With The Bay, a super low-budget found footage film, directed by none-other than Barry Levinson (yes, the man who made Rain Man), I not only was left disturbed, but realized that when in the hands of a master, found footage films can actually work. If anything, that is an admirable takeaway.

Sorry, MICHAEL Bay, no explosions or models turned actors around this film.

The Bay chronicles the tragic events that take place in a Chesapeake Bay seaside tourist trap on the Fourth of July. A reporter, Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) is retelling the story of what unfolded, narrating over all sorts of footage that was gathered afterward. It just so happens that the small little town was infested with a parasite that literally ate itself out of its hosts, first devouring the tongue and then the rest of the head. As the audience, we see everything happen in what seems like real bits of footage edited together. We see the oceanographers and their research into the outbreak and the film ends with a somber, terrifying look at the devastation that the parasite leaves behind. It's graphic, it's gory, and it feels all too real.

Contagion meets Vacation. 

Levinson manages to craft a terrific tale of horror. It builds up slowly, with you knowing from the opening scene that something horrible is going to happen. The Bay sets the stage, introducing you to the town and its inhabitants and letting you see all the faults of the politicians and public workers. The film never loses the focus that the result of the tragedy is ,in fact, human error, and never supernatural happenings. It's a constant reminder that brings the fact home, towards the end, and makes The Bay feel like something based in reality. Levinson utilizes the found footage to great effect, almost to the point where it isn't as noticeable as say, Paranormal Activity. The scene actually has a plot and, as it all unfolds, you see more and more from all different angles and cameras. It comes together in a mosaic of horror and makes you question the water you drink every day.

Levinson makes you miss the days of toothpick counting...

While The Bay is far from a masterpiece, I can see how easy it is to overlook. The found footage genre has left a bad taste in our mouths but Levinson manages to bring a fresh style to it and actually scares you. Levinson has plenty of scenes that creep you out with the whole "what you don't see, is even scarier" and compliments your imagination with scenes that are downright unsettling. One scene that stands out is where a police car speeds through the streets, passing body after body splayed out on the ground. When it's through the lens of a dashboard cam, and all you have is silence to accompany the images, it sticks with you and is very haunting. The Bay has plenty of these moments and deserves to be called one of the better horror films of recent memory. I would highly recommend it.

The Good:
found footage done right, with plenty of scares and even more disturbing images
The Bad:
moments that feel incredibly cheap, including some of the smaller scenes featuring actors you can find at Rent-A-Star
The Ugly:
knowing that a found footage of quality only happens once in awhile and that there is plenty of crap to sort through to find the good stuff


Discussion Question:
Should big time directors like Levinson continue to experiment with found footage films or is that the seal of approval the genre does not need?


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At November 4, 2012 at 4:33 AM , Blogger Ries said...

I was very curious about this film, but hesitant about giving it a look. Now I may have to bite the bullet. Interesting review, Nick.

At November 4, 2012 at 11:00 AM , Blogger Nick said...

It's definitely worth giving a chance. I know as of right now it's very limited in theaters but is on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

At November 4, 2012 at 12:03 PM , Anonymous The Movie Waffler said...

Looking forward to this one just to see what a mainstream director does with the found footage genre.

At November 4, 2012 at 5:28 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Yeah, it's pretty interesting. Levinson definitely knows how to tell a story.


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