The found footage horror genre has had its day. At least that’s the impression I get from many horror fans who are fed up with the same dead horse being flogged time and time again, and who can blame them. There have been many, too many, clones of late that offer nothing new to the genre. However, there is an exception to every rule and for me V/H/S was that exception. A vastly superior found footage film that injected something fresh into the genre. What I wasn’t expecting was to find another exception to the rule so soon in Barry Levinson’s The Bay.
On the surface, The Bay is a simple film about a small town’s water supply that becomes infected and the catastrophic result this has on the town and its inhabitants. There is deeper layer to The Bay though that raises questions and awareness surrounding pollution, ignorance and corporate gain to the detriment of our society.
The film begins with a montage of news reports documenting recent unexplained events where a vast amount of dead fish have surfaced in the Bay of Claridge, Maryland. We soon learn that these reports are part of a media cover up and do not document the whole truth behind the mystery. We are introduced to a young female reporter, speaking into her camera, who saw the events unfold first-hand. She explains how she cannot move on with her life until she reveals to the public the true horror that took place and the events leading up to a disaster. In order to create awareness she releases a documentary that compiles a series of footage taken from various digital recording devices used by many of the people that fell victim to the horrors.
It’s a smart idea for a found footage horror movie as it plays more like a documentary. The digital footage used comes from a variety of sources such as professional equipment and video diaries to the use of a little girl’s iPhone, all of which is narrated by our young reporter. This clever trick means that although we are watching found footage, it feels more like a documentary and therefore reduces the amount of ‘shaky-cam’ we are exposed to. This will come as a relief to many as ‘shaky-cam’ is a major bugbear and one of the fundamental reasons the found footage genre has fallen out of favour.
The Bay is described as an Ecological horror movie because the horror could very well take place in our reality today. It’s a horror film with a message as it encourages the viewer to think about the bigger issues. There are facts discussed within the movie that are based on truths. The cause of the infection sounds like a real possibility. Sea lice Isopods do actually exist. They feed and grow on the gills of fish before eating the fish from the inside out. They eat the fishes tongues for real. They are terrifying.
Yes, this is a movie and it is theatrical in its nature but the science is real. The documentary approach aids realism and gives the film credibility and authenticity. For these reasons The Bay is truely frightening, but it is also a lot of fun. The fun is in watching the disaster unfold all the whilst questioning whether something like this could ever happen, or maybe it has already?
Unique in style and heavy on message, The Bay is a real one off. It’s not a film you will want to revisit in a hurry and it’s unlikely to make anyone’s list of favourite horror films, but it is memorable as it has enough thought provoking material to command your interest.