Second Opinion: The Bay

Barry Levinson originally wanted to make an eco-documentary. His trouble, he says, was making it dramatic enough to retain the audience interest level. Fair point, if you assume that the audience he was trying to reach was an undemanding group of found footage fans that were also really, really into woodlice. I’ve heard they’re a brilliant, if somewhat limited, group of notebook-carrying, bespectacled loners.

No, but seriously. Levinson wanted to make a documentary, so why dress up what is a potentially serious socio-economic comment about the frankly horrible state of things in an admittedly often creepy and skin crawling story of one July 4th celebration?

Well, because it works. Found footage movies may not have much life left in them by this point, but Levinson proves there is still something original in this most unimaginative of genres.  Treating the ‘found’ footage here as a recovered collection of previously confiscated material, pinched by the military after the outbreak of something very nasty as it scuttles menacingly out of the water around Maryland, its central gaze is focused upon a young television reporter, barely out of high school on the day that Maryland’s biggest ever story breaks. She is left holding the microphone, bewildered by the events taking place around her. Thus is The Bay.

the-bay2

It’s not groundbreaking film-making by any means, yet Levinson does what few have managed to achieve since Blair Witch started this whole debacle, providing characters that are both rounded yet throwaway, creating a believable scenario where you may well end up scratching your head as to the outplaying of events, but yet you are still keen to see the results.

The town of Chesapeake Bay, we are told by the recently and adeptly profiled Mayor of the town has some of the safest drinking water anywhere. To prove it, he will even swallow a mouthful of it. However, he knows what the rest of the town are completely ignorant of. There’s way too much chicken shit in the bay.

bay3

At times, Levinson does stray away from his original ecological message, delving into visceral and even gratuitous biological consequences that may be better left to the imagination in some cases, and we can only assume these are the portions of the film that didn’t really fit into the documentary he was trying to make. An odd choice, given that the same footage, delivered with suitable gravitas would probably have had more resonance than it did here, what with the audience being dulled by entertainment as opposed to information.

Nevertheless, the film does stand up to close scrutiny, as a piece of found footage entertainment, and is as good an example of the genre as anything else you’ll see and actually better than most. With a smattering of relative unknowns in the acting department, that do a sometimes excellent yet other times average job, it’s never dull and often gripping enough to miss real life passing you by.

The script isn’t what you would label challenging, but the plot is amiable, paced well and unlikely to offend too much, even if the more graphic elements of the epidemic/virus/outbreak (delete as applicable) might make you  wince a little from time to time. With a couple of genuine jumps sparsely decorating it, The Bay is an intriguing little monster of a movie, outshining many of its contemporaries and deserving of a greater audience than it can likely expect to find.

Overall: 6/10

YouTube Preview Image

Check out Nick’s Review Here

Written By Nick

Nick is a man obsessed with all things related to film. From the most obscure to the very popular, he’s seen it all and hopes to one day turn his obsession into a career that makes a lot of money so he can buy a monkey, a bulldog, and a full size Batman suit.

the author

Nick is a man obsessed with all things related to film. From the most obscure to the very popular, he's seen it all and hopes to one day turn his obsession into a career that makes a lot of money so he can buy a monkey, a bulldog, and a full size Batman suit.

  • http://riesmurphy@gmail.com Ries

    An excellent review of a frustrating film, Steve. I watched “The Bay” one night out of sheer curiosity, and was startled by how disturbing I found it. It was an inch or so away from being something really special, but settled for being something very ambiguous and uncomfortable to watch. I had trouble sleeping/eating/functioning after watching this film. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Aaron

    I must say Steve it is a nice review but I think you are way over on your rating. I would have given this a -1000/10. This was single handedly the worst movie, and yes this is saying a lot considering I walked out of 28 Days Later, that I have ever watched. The premise was fantastic but the movie was in my mind poorly done. I just didn’t find it at all believable, in a movie that is built on the fear of the things in it actually happening.

  • http://riesmurphy@gmail.com Ries

    Aaron – nothin’ but love for you, but the fact that you walked out of 28 Days Later destroyed any credibility you had coming into your debate with Steve… :P

  • Aaron

    Heh, that’s what most people say…. I think we saw the wrong movie. I swear it had to be or me and the wife are the only sane people left….. dun,dun,dun lol!!

  • http://eriksebok@yahoo.co.uk Erik

    Good Review. It is not the greatest horror ever made but it is fun to watch plus I really liked the story.

  • http://chocraisins.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Thanks all for the comments. @Aaron, I’m not exactly mad keen on 28 Days Later either, so don’t feel so bad. This was interesting and impressed me more for what it should have been, a second (or even third) rate found footage horror movie. It was much more than that, I was happy to say. I’ll stick to my guns by saying that I could have been watching REC3 or Paranormal Activity 4 instead, but I’m so very glad I wasn’t. Decent story, mostly average acting and a real sense of doom pervaded the piece. The Doctor scenes were just darkly comic but very satisfying to see especially. The way they just stared blankly at each other, like “what the f*ck do we do now then?” Much better than I was expecting which may (only may, mind you) account for an extra star, but on the whole, I was excited, entertained and grossed out by it. ;) As far as being impressed goes, only as much as when comparing it to other attempts at the genre. Anybody seen Tape 407? Go look at that, come back to me and tell me this is not head and shoulders above it.

  • http://filmhipster@hotmail.com filmhipster

    I saw Area 407 and was completely nautious afterwords. Not to mention disgusted with the ridiculous ending to a ridiculous beginning.

    The Bay was a very good film, I truly enjoyed it and like you said a found footage that’s well done.

  • http://www.videovortex.wordpress.com TheVern

    Nice review. I have heard some bits about this movie but have not checked it out. I’m glad to know that it does have well rounded characters that I am at least interested in watching. I will check this out soon.

  • Eric Isaacs

    I liked this movie – i’m glad there was a second opinion : )