Overlooked Film of the Week- #14
I always know that I have watched a good horror movie when I can't stop thinking about it for days, even weeks. I have watched "The Bay" twice now, and both times it got itself under my skin. I watched it for the first time on a cold, November, Saturday last year. I was alone most of the day, and after I watched it, I was so shaken that I took my dog, got in my car and just drove around the city. I wanted to be around thriving civilization, not by myself. Last night, I watched it again. Even though I knew which scary moments where coming, I was still caught up in the movie. And last night I had a very tough time sleeping, yet this morning I was awake and alert to go to work. Strange? I think so.
"The Bay" is referred to as a "found footage" movie and even though the film is screened on a footage camera, I would really call this a mockumentary. Someone specific is trying to get certain information out there. So to me, it seems like something our main character made this tape with purpose, and not like a tape somebody randomly found. Just when I think this sub-genre is running out of steam, something comes along and completely blindsides me.
The film opens with newsreel footage of mass amounts of birds and fish dying all over the world. Then a title card tells us that the stories revolving around dead birds and fish made national media, but the story which is about to unfold did not. We then meet Donna Thompson (Kether Donahue) she has agreed to talk about an incident which occurred in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. She talks about how she wanted to come out with her story sooner, but was still very upset over it. Whatever is bothering her, it has been haunting her for years.
We learn that Donna was a News 33 intern during the city's 4th of July celebration, and she was covering the annual party. We see people smiling, drinking, men getting ready for a crableg eating contest, its all very peaceful. What is eerie though is that in Donna's voice-overs, she is telling us who survived this incident and who did not. Then as we are really starting to get to know our characters, children scream, a women covered in boils yells for her husband, and the men partaking in the eating contest all begin to vomit. What is happening to these people and what is making them sick?
The movie weaves through several stories, using IPhones, Skype, FaceTime and other recording messages to tell the story. We meet the doctor of the town in contact with the CDC, trying to find out what is making these people sick, we learn of two oceanographers from a month before the incident finding high toxic levels in the Chesapeake Bay, two cops on duty of the incident, a little girl talking to a friend about the incident, and a couple with an infant on root to the city. All of the stories give us new clues and disturbing scares as we learn more about this horrific day.
And when I say disturbing scares, I mean disturbing scares. This is by far the most effective found footage movie to be released in awhile. When we learn that the "monsters" of the movie are Isopoda, which is an actual species, its incredibly scary. What gives the movie its power is how realistic the movie plays. This is not some made up monster or zombies or ghosts. The "monster" of the movie is a real species, which has been modified in scary ways. How modified is not something I want to get into, because I do not want to spoil anything. But the reality involved in this movie is nearly overbearing. The movie feels disturbing rather than relying on boo-scares and blood. Although there are a couple of great boo scares sprinkled into the run time and there are quite a few bloody moments. Overall, the film strikes a realistic tone, and it is truly frightening.
The acting is great all around, I've been pretty happy with most found footage casting overall because they sure do find nobody's who can act well. I also love that the limited special effects used in the movie never look fake or computer generated, its all played very real and I love that. This film was directed by Barry Levinson. And if you read Levinson's resume; which includes "Rain Man," "Diner," "Good Morning, Vietnam." "Man of the Year," "The Natural," "Wag the Dog," and "Toys," its really hard to imagine Levinson being capable of this. But Levinson also directed "Sphere" in 1998, a movie which blew my mind. Its a movie that was highly panned by many, I'm pretty sure I am the only person on the planet who likes it. "Sphere" featured some tense, spooky moments, moments that made me cringe. But those moments never compare to the shocking terror of "The Bay." For that, I give Levinson some mad props.
Horror fans, if you stumble upon this on Netflix, be prepared for some goosebumps and sleepless nights.