The Bay film review

Barry Levinson’s found footage horror movie The Bay is in cinemas from 1 March 2013

If you struggle to drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, watching The Bay isn’t going to help.

Barry Levinson’s horror mockumentary features a horrifying disease, government incompetence, and monstrous bugs – and it’s creepy enough to make you deeply suspicious about what’s coming out of your taps.

On 4 July 2009, Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) was an intern at a local TV station. But what should have been an easy assignment covering the crab-eating competition and fireworks quickly turns nasty. People are falling ill after coming into contact with the water, and as a plague of gruesome boils spreads through the community, Donna’s broadcast is shut down.

The authorities want to hush things up, but in the era of YouTube, CCTV, and WebMD, it’s hard to keep anything  a secret. This film, then, purports to be Donna’s attempt to let the world know the truth, by turning the snippets of surviving footage from the day into a documentary.

It’s a clever conceit that neatly sidesteps many of the problems with found footage movies (for one thing, it doesn’t ask you to believe that someone running in terror for their life would keep their camera on). It also means we get several different perspectives on what happened, and the film manages to wring both scares and real pathos out of the way people’s cutesy holiday videos turn violent and gory.

From a horror perspective, then, it’s pretty effective. But The Bay wants to be more than that.

Apparently, Levinson was planning to make a straight documentary about the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay area, before deciding a horror movie  would attract more attention to the issue. And on that front, the film fails. It’s so clearly a distortion of the truth that it’s impossible to know which bits should be taken seriously, and the tone is so heavy-handed that it verges on the preachy.

Taken as a work of fiction, it’ll get under your skin; for real eco-horror, you’re better off watching the news.