Review: The Bay (2012 Found Footage Horror Movie)

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Summary: In The Bay, Barry Levinson tells the story of two horrors - extreme biological infection and government indolence - though neither with aplomb. As a film, it works, but as a story, falls short. Final score: 4/8.

BLOT: (22 Jul 2013 - 10:17:01 PM)

Review: The Bay (2012 Found Footage Horror Movie)

Summary: The 2009 July 4th celebration for the small town of Clayridge, MD is disrupted when a number of people are shown to suffer a sudden, severe, painful rash that quickly leads to extreme [and blood-filled?] vomiting. The hospital is overrun and the town as a whole starts to break down and bodies begin to pile up in the street. Survivors are further faced with by the utter indolence [and borderline maleficence] of the government [or is that, "The Government"?] on both a local and national level. Only now, two years later, as a journalism student that happened to be on the scene pieces together a narrative from hours of found footage, can any light be shed on the whole story.

Review: On the surface, The Bay is a brilliant idea: a found footage film attempting to weave, from disparate sources with many foci and purposes, the chaotic narrative that no single person could possibly have grasped during a day and night of mayhem as hundreds of small-town citizens wind-up dead from an unknown source. It is a fresh spin on the sub-genre, one known primarily for trying to tap into the personal thread at the midst of an ongoing storm, and shows the power of seeing such a bird's eye view. The ultimate-Rashomon is mitigated by having Donna (journalism student, played by Kether Donohue, who was on the scene when it started) act as editor, and some debate could be had as to whether she is presenting footage-as-it-was [a horror movie] or footage-as-she-wanted-it-seen [eco-mockumentary].*

Leaving aside the question of how Donna got so much footage that we are told was seized by "The Government" that wanted to stamp down on this as a story [presumably someone in "The Government" grew a heart], it does have a few other problems. The Bay sets up a few easy-emotional-baits [baby! teenager home alone! old parents! noble doctor!] and common-bogeys [there was some nuclear run-off! the meat industry! The DHS!] and then later falls back on them to make-up for the loss of initial shock. It tries to be the story of a town, but fails to connect with most of the people on camera, coming across as a voyeuristic glance into death and decay. Finally, its largest problem is that it refuses to accept its own premise—a collection of footage attempting to see into chaos—by managing to find a camera absolutely everywhere it needed to have footage and leaving us with not only a number of coincidences to show the full story, but posits a world in which a small town has more street cameras than London and that every government facility has cameras in every dramatic angle needed. When you are watching a father ignore his wife and baby to get footage of dead bodies, you realize the film has fallen back into the sub-genre's clichés. So close, and yet so far.

Score: 4/8. +1 if you particularly like eco-horror. -1 if you are nitpicky about a film that tries to drape such an implausible biological outbreak and response in false-veracity.

Links: {Official Site: | IMDB entry for The Bay | Wiki entry for The Bay}

* Levinson overlooks the power of this, mostly, and so even at the slickest polemical eco-film diversions we are probably meant to take Donna as The Truth.



Written by Doug Bolden

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