4 StarsThe Bay is being marketed as a found footage film, when in reality it is a faux eco documentary. It’s also gripping, harrowing and timely in its plea to focus national attention on the worsening situation in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Combining actual scientific evidence within a fictional story and working with the freedom of independent interference free cinema seems to have been the creative jolt director Barry Levinson needed to awaken him from his recent slide.
Over the course of a single day in July, an entire town’s population is virtually wiped out due to a mysterious and highly infectious skin disease. The local hospitals are over run, and the C.D.C. is at a loss for explanation. The frame-work the story unfolds in is bookended by a Skype interview with the lone survivor from that day, Donna Thompson. A low-level news reporter on scene to cover the annual crab-feed, when the first outbreak patients started roaming the streets howling in agony, it was Thompson who scooped the story. This footage of her unseen news reel is intercut with other manner of recovered video evidence. All manner of visual medium is exploited to useful effect, a police dashboard cam, a Facetime chat, a scientific expedition’s video log and the remaining images from a young families last boating trip on the bay.
Other notable and esteemed filmmakers have toyed with the horror genre. A decade ago Paul Schrader made an Exorcist picture that was deemed (rightly so) as not releasable. More recently Roland Joffé, stumbled with the grisly and woefully inept torture porn flick, Captivity. So the odds were stacked against Levinson, particularly from a helmer noted for his low-key dramas or farcical comedies rather than Paranormal Activity inspired scares. This is the type of horror film I instinctively respond to the most. A good story, rooted in a grain of reality guided by a filmmaker that isn’t out to punish their perspective audience.
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Kether Donohue, Kristen Connolly, Christopher Denham