Barry Levinson may seem like the most unlikely of directors to tackle a found footage horror movie with The Bay. The man behind Diner and Wag the Dog has tackled a uniquely timed mother-nature-as-bad-guy story that has its roots in facts. In 2009 birds suddenly fell from the sky, D.O.A. Meanwhile, scores of fish floated to the top of the Chesapeake Bay -- stomach up. Levinson and screenwriter Michael Wallach fictionally delve deeper into what might have happened that July 4.
Through the eyes of a college reporter, the story is recounted from its innocent beginnings of a community marking our nation’s independence and the horror that would envelop a small Maryland seaside town and kill most of those who reside there.
She has compiled footage from her coverage of the day’s festivities and her subsequent chasing of the truth. The audience gets their visuals mostly through that footage, but also security cameras, police car videos and portable gadgets left behind by the dead that the young reporter has gathered. It has been years since the event and its subsequent cover-up, and now she is on a Skype-type video interview with an unidentifiable person finally telling the terror tale.
Levinson goes deep into the water to unearth a mystery that has the viewer wondering what on earth is happening to these people. He incorporates the real life happenings mentioned above in a manner that bookends the entire film.
As is the case with most effective found footage films, the cast is completely comprised of unknowns to further add a realism to the shaky and often mouth-dropping footage. They all rise to the occasion, yet the real fear that is emitted from The Bay is how the audience knows the horrible end these people will meet and still has to witness the painstaking seconds and minutes as they move terrifyingly towards their fate.
In the end, our The Bay review has to point out that although it may seem a funny genre for Levinson to dive in to, far less of a filmmaker would have produced a piece of work that excelled in schlock and shock. Instead, the movie is rooted in a realism that much of the found footage genre has lacked lately. We know our waters can be polluted. What is fictionally drawn out from what really happened could happen.
That is by far, the scariest aspect of jumping into The Bay. The film may not be of the upper echelons of the horror movie world, but it is still one heck of a ride.