Saturday, 3 November 2012

Review : The Bay (2012)


Barry Levinson


Kristen Connolly, Jane McNeill and Christopher Denham
Those among you looking for an antidote to the tired and tiresome onslaught of inept. ambition-free found footage horror totally squanders the sub-genres inherent ability to disquiet; need look no further. THE BAY is by far the most disturbing, unpleasant, gripping and downright horrific found footage film in many a moon, perhaps ever.

Playing out as a documentary, created and compiled from a huge number of video sources, THE BAY takes the faux-documentary sub-genre and combines it with large scale outbreak movies such as last years brilliant CONTAGION, to create an almost unbearably convincing slice of ecological horror. This is the sort of film that will turn many off. Its repulsive in its unflinching depiction of a viral outbreak spreading throughout an idyllic community, and is relentless in its desire to terrorise the viewer. Yet this is what true horror is aiming for. Its all too realistic, and it may destroy your appetite for the foreseeable future, but its an endurance test worth taking, to witness just how effective found footage horror can be when done right.

THE BAY opens, somewhat disconcertingly, with real-life media footage from a few years back. Some of you may remember a couple of years ago, there was an unexplainable phenomena occurred in the US, as thousands of birds simply dropped from the skies dead. The government handed out some ludicrous explanations, and the public, or at least those who were less well-informed, bought the bullshit. To this day, there has never been a solid, or believable explanation for the avian deaths, at least not from the 'authorities'.

To use this disturbing event as the jumping point for the horrors to come is a masterstroke. As we remain to this day unaware of the real cause, its very easy to make the jump to regarding THE BAY as being non-fiction. The causes, as detailed in the film, feel like they most certainly could happen. Its a realistic theory, and the movie is all the more authentic and terrifying for it.

From here, we're introduced to the small, seaside town of Claridge. We meet its people, and we get an immediate feel for its quiet, gentle ambiance. The town is the main character here, and its population are our guides into its all too terrible death. Through police-camera's, high street CCTV, home video, news footage and interviews, we follow Claridge and her people through one unholy 4th of July, when her much-abused waters unleash what appears to be a virus on the townsfolk. Years of greed-fuelled pollution are about to rise to the surface, and nature is about to bite back. We stand as witness to the carnage.

There are many characters here, yet we only get to know them incrementally, what matters, as in CONTAGION, is the ease with which humanity as a whole can be decimated. Among those we follow through this hell are an amateur news reporter, the town mayor, some marine biologists and, a young couple who are headed to Claridge to visit family. We care for these people despite never knowing them, because they are us. Whats more, in a very astute move, the family-filmed footage of the happy young couple and their newborn child, is inter-cut with the horror taking place in Claridge, as they make their way there by boat. They remain horrifyingly unaware of what their sailing into, and as the virus spreads, the stomach churning images are inter-cut with the carefree family, as they inexorably head towards hell. Its a fantastic way of keeping the tension at a constant high. Not least, because they have a beautiful child with them. Its never far from the viewers mind just what could happen to that baby should they enter the bay.

Theres a real sense of truth to the spread of the virus, and the way its handled, or mishandled, as the story progresses. This is fiction, yes, but it has a truthfulness to it that is hard to shake. It kicks off fast and it never lets up for a second. a warning though, if body horror is something that you'd rather avoid, its best to steer clear of this one. Things get very sickening very fast. I won't give away the effects of the virus, but rest assured, its skin-crawlingly nightmarish. You may never want to enter the ocean again after seeing THE BAY.

If theres any downside, its that some may find the use of a few recognisable actors breaks the spell a little, and there are a few jump scares which, while very effective, can feel a tad forced given the serious tone of the film. At some points it feels a little too cinematic, and its clear nods to JAWS may detract from the realism, yet these are very minor quibbles. For most, THE BAY will be among this years most unpleasant, horrifying and scary movies.

Director Levinson and writer Wallach have tapped into some truly primal horrors here, not to mention some very pertinent social worries regarding our money-blinded, immoral governments, and THE BAY should see audiences squirming in horror at its potent eco-terrors, if and when it gets a fully deserved wide release.

Kiss your love of the ocean goodbye....again.

9 Isopods out of 10

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