The found footage genre of film-making has opened the door for new directors to create marketable low budget films. Made with the use of camcorders and lower cost cameras, these pseudo-documentaries have a strong history within the sometimes more forgiving horror genre and have conditioned audiences not to expect Hollywood special effects. From The Blair Witch Project to Paranormal Activity, the levels of ˜truthfulness’ that are created often add to the tension and the scares. The Bay, released initially in 2012 with full UK release in 2013 and directed by Barry Levinson (Scent of a Woman) combines elements of classic horror with some Jaws style tropes and set it within a context of an eco-friendly thriller.
While covering the local Fourth of July events in the small town in the Chesapeake Bay (the bay in question), journalist Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) finds herself at the centre of a potential national emergency as members of the local town start to show symptoms of a viral infection. In the days after the event, she has gathered together all footage shot on that fateful day in an attempt to piece together what caused the catastrophe and to raise awareness of the pitfalls of big business and their treatment of the environment.
Stretching the found footage idea to its more natural conclusion, The Bay uses not only camera footage from our lead narrator, but also security cameras, mobile phone cameras and anything that can record footage. Framed in a post-event narrative and with reference to a WikiLeaks style website and the use of a real creature, it goes a long way to present a documentary-style account of the shutdown of the small town.
In many ways The Bay is a cautionary tale standing up against big business and Government cover-up of ecological disasters caused by mans overreaching. Like classic horror motifs, the idea that of man playing God sneaks into the tight and well written script. While cynics will sneer at the ˜it could happen’ thinking, there’s no denying that director Barry Levinson has done a great job convincing his audience that it’s not as unbelievable as you might think.
Similar in tone to The Tunnel, the action in The Bay is used sparingly, instead relying on the occasional jump-shock to keep the tension from becoming unbearable. One of these involving a fish and a fisherman may be the scariest single moment in decades of horror films. Barry Levinson’s move into found footage successfully strips it back to its core tenants and it’s difficult to remember a film that so effectively keeps your skin crawling from the initial revelation all the way to the final frame.