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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THE BAY: Barry Levinson Told Me Found Footage Ain't Dead, But YOU ARE!!! (REVIEW)


Before watching Barry Levinson’s The Bay I had been bombarded with quite a few negative opinions about it. It’s hard not to listen when the resounding yawp from the internet trounces a movie that had an interesting trailer and a great one sheet. There are two groups of folks I dislike in the movie making world; the marketeers (not the marketers … markeTEERS) and the money men. Both are necessary evils. Both can absolutely screw a film to a wall, editing content and removing vision away from the filmmaker. The marketers can spin the movie any which way they choose further disemboweling it and failing to give it a fair run in front of the fans. That’s a rant right there in the middle of my opening paragraph to a review of a movie I enjoyed despite popular opinion and for once, the marketing seemed to work. Now I’m left to wonder why folks dislike The Bay so much.



Synopsis (grabbed from Dread Central cause I love those guys although this is the official synopsis):

The quaint seaside town of Chesapeake Bay thrives on water it is the lifeblood of the community. When two biological researchers from France find a staggering level of toxicity in the water, they attempt to alert the mayor, but he refuses to create a panic in the docile town. As a result, a deadly plague is unleashed, turning the people of Chesapeake Bay into hosts for a mutant breed of parasites that take control of their minds, and eventually their bodies. A brutal and harrowing creature feature for the 21st century, THE BAY chronicles the descent of a small town into absolute terror.


Levinson goes to found footage town. That’s one way to describe The Bay. This is an attempt by a very successful director to tackle a shooting style that handles the big guns… the big name movies. Movies like Wag the Dog and Sleepers. He runs the gamut when it comes to genres and subject matters he’s willing to tackle. Adventurous and controversial. The Bay fits right in with its scathing critique of the alphabet soup bureaucracy that is spewing out of Washington DC like a Campbell’s soup factory. It’s a look at how interagency communication breaks down and we, the people, suffer. Not so out of line when you look at Levinson’s criticism on countless social issues especially a movie like Wag the Dog that discusses the election system for what it really is, Sleepers that attacks the juvenile correctional system and You Don’t Know Jack that offers an opine on the right to die.  What is somewhat out of character for this director is his use of horror elements and special effects driven storytelling to shock the audience into listening. Yes, Barry Levinson directed Sphere which was a beautiful if not grandiose display of effect driven cinema, but The Bay cries for blood, gets the blood and then slurps it down with a wretching bowl of vomit and bile.


Found footage is dead. How often have you heard that sentiment lately? How often have you yourself uttered a complete disapproval with the continuation to use this shooting style and method of storytelling? I’m not thrilled with all of it, but some of it works exceptionally well. When the director is willing to take on unique camera angle, multiple camera storytelling and create drama and personal characterization all with the cold, expose style of filmmaking then you’ll have a successful found footage picture. This is the case with The Bay. It uses a variety of techniques some that have been seen before others that are used in a refreshing way to convey shock, dread and a social statement that demands the generation of fear take up the flag of personal safety and a more global health conscience. Found footage ain’t dead, and there’s plenty to enjoy about this style. Grave Encounters and it’s off the wall sequel. REC… all of them including the most recent incarnation that actually takes a direction away from the “camera as the actor” approach. How about Atrocious? How about the success of Paranormal Activity that may not necessarily be what horror fans want to see, but it keeps horror in the public eye and allowing other genre movies to be made with its financial success? This does not excuse bad found footage. This is not an apology or a hall pass. The Bay is something different.

For however effective this movie is, it’s also just flat out entertaining. Gore fans will get a little something something. The suspense crowd will hold their breath. The Bay isn’t so heady or artsy that it will attach the casual viewer or prevent a layman from enjoying it. Simply put… The Bay is a monster movie. Sure the monster is a parasitic creature from the ocean, but when you watch it you’ll be feeling a little Cronenberg and can even see influence of movies like The Host behind its eyes. It may not be a true “giant monster” movie and no one will confuse it for Kaiju. It’s a disease film like Contagion with the living, breathing villain that has tactile appeal and can make an audience wretch. Forget tape worms, you have isopods to worry about. If Jaws didn’t scare you out of the ocean, Levinson’s offering will certainly terrify you out of the Chesapeake.


Note: This is Michael Wallach’s first writing effort. Good job.  This kind of storytelling doesn’t lend itself to complexity. It’s more formulaic now then it was in the 50’s when the Martians were the parasites and McCarthy was rearing his ugly head. You’ll find just a hint of Invasion of the Body Snatchers buried in the subtext of The Bay, but really, I was thinking Cronenberg’s Shivers the whole time. Wallach excels at taking the simple and revealing it to us through good characterization and multiple plot threads that cut to the core of the overlaying dilemma.

So you don’t like found footage and think that movement has gone the way of the dildo…I mean Dodo? Then maybe you should stay away from this movie. Nothing is going to allow you to enjoy this if you can’t get beyond the shooting style or method of story telling. Remember how Chronicle felt? It was a true Hollywood production that was shot in the FF style and felt like a MOVIE and not like some misadventure into camera shake. That’s The Bay. High caliber filmmaking and storytelling with gruesome, subtle, icky effects and a premise that will get you thinking, and as we all know… terror is in your own mind. It isn’t something you see on a screen. It’s the idea in the back of your head as you leave the theater that the killer is in your back seat… or in the drinking water …or is you for your own complacency in a failed system.

You can pre-order The Bay on DVD here:





Dr. TERROR


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