Like Jaws did back in the 70s, The Bay will definitely have people feeling a little hesitant to go into the water any time soon.
The found footage subgenre of horror films, now appearing to be completely exhausted, has some new life injected into it thanks to Barry Levinson. The Bay is Levinson’s first real leap into horror (if you don’t consider Sphere to be a horror film) which makes his presence as an outsider work in the film’s favour. The Bay indulges in a few set-ups and cheap scares, but the movie generates most of its fear by showing a horrifying and seemingly plausible scenario.
The story behind The Bay’s footage is that the US government covered up an outbreak that wiped out the town of Claridge, MD in 2009. All cameras and footage related to what happened were confiscated by the government, but now someone has compiled everything together in order to reveal the truth about what happened in Claridge. Narrated by a local news reporter who survived the outbreak we come to learn how the town’s dumping of fertilizer into the local bay helped create a deadly parasite.
As the different sources of video (security footage, home movies, Skype chats, news broadcasts, etc.) are shown throughout, it becomes clear that Levinson is doing a leaner and meaner version of a disaster film. In a conventional disaster film more focus would be put on the characters, but here they’re only used as puzzle pieces that help explain the mystery behind what happened to Claridge.
Levinson, who also shares a story credit here, bases most of the background information in The Bay on real-life scenarios. The mutant isopods that terrorize the town are real (and thankfully not a threat for humans), while the issues of pollution and government incompetence have a basis in reality. While the storyline here is just playing on people’s worst fears, the presentation and background’s familiarity fill The Bay with a dread-inducing “this could happen” feeling. Other found footage films like Paranormal Activity are using the genre to put the extraordinary in a realistic context, but The Bay more effectively takes advantage of the format to heighten the terror behind a plausible-looking scenario.
Viewers expecting shocks and big scares in The Bay will come away disappointed, but its carnivorous parasites will leave some feeling seriously unsettled. Like Jaws did back in the 70s, The Bay will definitely have people feeling a little hesitant to go into the water any time soon.