During the annual 4th of July Crab Festival, townspeople of Claridge, Maryland, become sick, exhibiting a variety of symptoms, which leads local news reporters to suspect something has infected the water there. No one is sure what it is or how it's transmitted, but as people start to behave strangely, and others turning up dead, fear spawns into panic. The town is shut down as government authorities confiscate video footage from every media or personal source they find, in an effort to cover-up the incident. But one local reporter who witnessed the epidemic, was able to document, assemble, and hide this film in hopes that one day, the horrible truth would be revealed...
Directed by: Barry Levinson
. Starring: Nansi Aluka
, Christopher Denham
, Stephen Kunken
, Frank Deal
, Kether Donohue
, Kristen Connolly
, Will Rogers
, Kimberly Campbell
, Beckett Clayton-Luce
, Dave Hager
, Tara Polhemus
, Sean Johnson
, Murat Erdan
. Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Barry Levinson's 2012 "Found Footage" horror film "The Bay" should have been a surefire hit. Levinson, a very capable filmmaker and arguably a living master of cinema with many high-quality films to his name, really should have been able to pull through in the very simplistic pseudo- documentary style that the "found footage" sub-genre thrives on. But in a very tragic twist, Levinson instead completely misfires, delivering a film that is so fundamentally unfocused, so over-written and confused, and so poorly thought out, it is arguably the worst major-release entry in the "found footage" sub-genre of the past decade.
The film is centered around a highly classified catastrophe that allegedly occurred in a small Chesapeake Bay town a few years ago, which was suppressed by the FBI and CDC to prevent widespread panic in the US. During the Fourth of July, an outbreak of what appears to be a virus or fungal infection begins to infect hundreds of citizens in the town over the course of a single day, causing their lives to come apart in horrible, violent ways.
The film itself is promising. It doesn't follow any specific modern horror clichés- there are no zombies, ghosts or other boogeymen to watch out for, the horror comes from the fact that something is killing everyone on increasingly epidemic proportions, and nobody is sure if anyone is safe, nor the cause.
Unfortunately, the promising set-up quickly reveals one of the most fundamentally flawed horror films I've seen recently, and the movie implodes almost instantly due to some blaring fundamental mistakes and mis-judgments on the part of the direction by Levinson, as well as the gag-worthy production and writing.
The main issue with the film is that it has no guidance, and feels very unfocused and confused. The only way to describe it is to say that it felt like Levinson shot about 6 different found-footage movies, then haphazardly cobbled and condensed them together into a single 84 minute release the weekend before this film's premier. Nothing in this movie organically works or leads into anything else. The lack of a narrative focus leaves us following a seemingly random array of characters (including an intern who is acting as an on-camera reporter for the first time, a corrupt mayor, a little girl infected with whatever the epidemic is, two scientists, a vacationing family and a number of others) who all receive little-to-no establishment or development. And because none of these characters actually are associated with each other, the film constantly has to cut between their stories in a jarring manor, relying on very lazy on-screen graphics and some hilariously poor voice-over narration to try and bridge the gaps. There's no real pacing to be had, and to make matters worse, the overall "loose storyline" is constantly interrupted by small vignettes focusing on various townspeople, which takes away crucial time that could have otherwise been spent developing the story and characters. It feels childish and aggravating to sit through. As though the story was written by a group of five-year-olds going through a sugar-rush after drinking a case of soda.
And to make matters worse, the film really does feel like it was plagued with production problems and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lot of re-shoots. Particularly for the climax, which without spoiling anything, focuses on an almost random ancillary character and has very little drama or tension.
I think Levinson misunderstood what makes "found footage" work as a sub- genre. The best "found footage" films (films like "Cannibal Holocaust", "The Blair Witch Project" and the original "Paranormal Activity") work because they tell simple, concise stories, and focus almost exclusively on a small group of characters and their reactions to the story. Levinson instead takes all focus off of the characters, and instead tries to deliver a complex storyline encompassing many characters. And it just conflicts with the found footage style, turning it all into a convoluted mess.
Asides from the abysmal storytelling, the production has too many flaws to ignore. The acting is uniformly poor, particularly from Kether Donohue, who is our sort of "narrator." She comes off poorly and is far too monotone to really convey the emotions intended. Other actors range from forgettably bad to just plain foul.
The music (which like the storytelling is jarring due to this being a "found footage" movie, a sub-genre which typically doesn't include orchestral scores) is forgettable. The editing will give you whiplash. The effects are laughable at times, featuring a mixture of decent gross- out gore prosthetics with amateurish CGI. And the sound mixing is just... plain... awful. The background sound effects (screaming, gunshots, etc.) are all stock sounds we've heard hundreds of times before, and they cheapen the entire film. I used to take a video- production class in High School, and I am telling the truth that many of the sound effects they used in this film were taken from royalty-free music libraries that my school had. It was painful hearing them in a film by someone as notable as Barry Levinson.
I really just can't describe how much of a disappointment this film was for me. Sure, I could objectively argue that there are other found- footage movies that are probably worse- but this one felt so awful to watch from the confusion and lack of a clear focus, especially given the behind-the-scenes talent.
Review by MaximumMadness from the Internet Movie Database.