Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Bay: Rain Man Director Barry Levinson Works The Found Footage Frontier

Iwant to start by confessing that in general, I am not a fan of found footage films. That being said, I have found a few that I find somewhat exceptional, and "The Bay" is one of them. Since "The Blair Witch Project," found footage has been a staple of the Horror genre. Director Barry Levinson ("Sphere," "Rain Man") assembles a film that gives the impression of a well-made documentary with no shock endings where the camera suddenly breaks, or just goes black. The camera work, while documentary-style, is not shaky nor does it make one nauseous, nor is too distracting. Levinson and co-writer Michael Wallach presents us with a story that, with just a little imagination, may not be too far off in the future. In many ways, I find "The Bay" superior to "The Europa Report," "Apollo 18," and more or less on the same level of "The Last Exorcism." In many ways, I like this movie over the all four "Paranormal Activity" films. The horror that infests "The Bay" is interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged for all of the film's 84 minutes. There is enough gore shown to give the film an R rating. 

What makes "The Bay" stand out has more to do with the advancements in technology and the fact that everybody now can be their own journalist. The fact is, in this day and age, we are constantly under surveillance, either by our friends with their cell phones, by the government tapping into security camera feeds, or by the need that many of us possess to share with the world our thoughts via the internet. Levinson does this by building a story, with a few main characters in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay. In some ways, one can compare "The Bay" with Steven Spielberg's “Jaws.” Like the 1975 film, bad things start happening in the fictional small town. In this case, it is the town of Claridge Maryland. The film is a retrospective of the events of July 4, 2009. Levinson frames the events as part of a documentary done a few years later and told by a local news intern by the name of Donna (Kether Donohue) and two marine biologists, Jaquline and Sam, played by Nansi Aluka and Christopher Denham. Also like the Mayor in “Jaws,” Mayor Stockman (Frank Deal), not wanting to start a panic, plays down the evidence of mounting doom as something not to get alarmed about. Unlike "Jaws," director Barry Levinson tells the story chronologically out of order using Skype, cell phones, digital video, and security feeds.

Amateur newscaster Donna tells us immediately that the U.S. government for the last few years has been working to keep this incident a secret. The Marine Biologist found fish in the bay with a parasite that is eating them from the inside out. We see scenes of police officers Jimson and Paul (played by Michael Beasley and Jody Thompson) responding to calls throughout the day as the epidemic spreads. Dr. Abrams() from the local hospital in Claridge gives the view as the mounting deaths in the hospital as the infestation spirals out of control.  Shots of the carnage at the hospital as he emerges from his hiding place, with the only hope of stopping a future event of this sort. We see footage of doctors at Atlanta's CDC pondering and ultimately just passing on the information obtained by Sam and Jaquline after their demise. What the two scientists found in the many fish that they were examining was an enormous amount of giant isopods. Although there are no definite conclusions, about what has caused this bio-terror is the runoff from the town's chicken farms into the water. As we are all probably aware, or not, that the chickens we eat are injected with hormones to help them mature faster so they can get to the market sooner. The hormones affect the isopods, causing them to grow larger than they normally would. Once they enter the human body by eating fish or drinking water with the isopods, humans too become infected.

Levinson presents a series of images that gives an unlyrical, realistic, and complete picture of an epidemic's rise, the battle for survival, and the government's crackdown on the survivors. The downside of presenting material this way, is the lack of character development, and therefore no real protagonist to cheer for. The enemy is also handled in a somewhat sanitized way, making the horror not the enlarged sea creature, but the actual suppression in the media of the event itself. Along with Levinson, producer Jason Blum ("Insidious" "Paranormal Activity") and Oren Pelli ("Chernobyl Diaries") work together to bring out the subtleties of this type of horror. Remember, this is a Science Fiction film, and what Levinson offers up is a possibility of a future of an ecologically unbalanced world. Whether or not you are into ecological terror films, found footage films, or documentaries, Levinson's "The Bay" is worth 84 minutes of your time.

Movie Data

Genre: Horror,Sci-Fi,Thriller
Year:  2012
Staring: Nansi Aluka, Christopher Denham, Kether Donohue, Stephen Kunken, Frank Deal
Director: Barry Levinson
Producer(s): Jason Blum, Barry Levinson, Oren Peli,Steven Schneider
Writer: Michael Wallach, Barry Levinson
Rating: R
Release Date: 11/21/2012
Running Time: 84 minutes

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