The found footage format can be a beneficial attribute to a story. Particularly, a horror film. Found footage can lend a believability to a story and for something like The Bay, that can be a good thing. Oscar award winning director Barry Levinson takes the reins on this tale of ecological terror. The found footage aspect of the film is captured by consumer grade cameras and iPhones. With these devices, the footage is compiled along with 911 calls that tell the story of a small town under attack.
On July 4th, 2009 during the small town of Claridge’s Independence Day celebration some of the townsfolk start experiencing a possible viral or bacterial outbreak. The footage presented is accompanied by voiceover from a then rookie news reporter, Donna Thompson, who is essentially putting together the whole story in perspective.Mixed in with footage from the July 4th incident are possible links to the cause of the incident.
While I commend Levinson on being authentic in the presentation of all the footage and not taking the cheap way out by filming The Bay on one camera and taking the footage into After Effects to de-res it, part of me wonders how this film would have turned out as a mixture of a conventional film mixed in with “found footage”. One of the biggest flaws of the film is that it doesn’t give the viewer enough time to focus on one character or a group of characters. Donna Thompson is one of the few characters that seem to develop some sort of relationship with the audience. When you add in the fact that Donna adds lines in that take you out of the film like “Why didn’t anyone tell me my pants were so tight?”, it feels like a amateurish misstep in character development. Films like Paranormal Activity (a film I personally didn’t like) or Blair Witch Project keep the story simplistic so you have time to empathize with the characters. That is absent from The Bay which causes a huge problem in some aspect. The film starts to play off as a episode that you would see off of Monsters Inside Me.
Levinson is mainly telling a story that can be viewed as a cautionary tale. One that tells us to always be aware of our surroundings. While this film has moments of brilliant terror, for the most part it falls flat due to a lack of emotional ties to anyone. Pair this film up with the documentary film Food, Inc for a stronger double feature that warns us of the consequences we might have to pay when science tries to improve trivial things in our society. Sometimes it is best to let nature be.