Movies can get moved in and subsequently moved out of the theatre at such a fast rate that it is honestly a little bit of a crime when something comes across my desk that never really got a theatrical release to begin with. From Director Barry Levinson, The Bay is a fresh and effective twist on the found footage horror model.
On July 4, 2009 a deadly menace swept through the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland, but the harrowing story of what happened that Independence Day has never been told… until now. The authorities believed they had buried the truth about the tragedy that claimed over 700 human lives but now, three years later, a reporter has emerged with footage revealing the cover-up and an unimaginable killer — a mysterious parasitic outbreak. Told from the perspective of those who were there and saw what happened, it all unfolds over the course of 24 hours through cellphone video, 911 calls, webcams, and whatever else could be used to document the nightmare in Claridge.
Never getting a proper theatrical run here in Canada, The Bay is a genuinely creepy little film that sinks right into the audience’s psyche and sends a chill right up the spin. While the found footage genre has moments that are admittedly played out, director Barry Levinson in his first excursion into the deep waters of horror brings it all a new vibrancy and immediacy as we get multiple stories from this fateful day in Claridge, Maryland. The narrative is setup like a documentary and it works very well as we jump through all the different elements of the story as it all unfolds. With the film inspired by the actual ecological problems going on in the Chesapeake Bay it of course maintains it’s overall message about the horrible dead zones in the water and the amount of seaborne life that it kills every year due to pollution and any kind of toxic runoff, but it is always a movie first. The tension and the scary moments are never sacrificed in favor of pounding home a message and it all works incredibly well.
Levinson had some help making this all come together as well as it did with micro-budget gurus Jason Blum and Oren Peli, as well as effect gurus Colin and Greg Strause, serving as executive producers. It all looked neat and tight with very good effects and everyone from top to bottom should be incredibly proud of all the effective work that was put into this film as they borrowed facts from actual science about the Chesapeake Bay and just amped it all up into an effective and legitimately scary movie.
Costs were obviously kept to a minimum so there aren’t a lot of familiar faces standing out in this film. Since it was never designed to be that kind of film anyway it isn’t any kind of an issue. Kirsten Connolly from the new House of Cards series and Christopher Denham, best known for smaller roles in Argo and The Sound of My Voice, are easily the most recognizable members of the cast, but everyone involved was effective in selling this story. It’s a credit to not only the ensemble cast but to director Barry Levinson on how legitimately creepy this all actually was.
What The Bay ultimately proves is that in the right hands, even a cinematic genre that has been beaten into the ground in recent years can still come across as moody, creepy, serious and fun all at the same time. And it’s easily the best film Barry Levinson has done in years.
Special features on the DVD include audio commentary with director Barry Levinson and a brief behind the scenes look at the making-of the film.
Cast: Kirsten Connolly, Christopher Denham
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Top image: A scene from The Bay. Courtesy Alliance Films.