The Bay, a late entry into this year’s horror offerings is On Demand and in theaters soon, and it’s gotten quite the praise so far. The first foray into to the horror genre by director Barry Levinson, this found footage flick chronicles some creepy happenings in a quaint New England city. But how does it stack up? Is it a worthy entry into a now overused genre, or should it have been left at the bottom of the bay?
I’m really getting sick of found footage flicks. Its a boring formula, and it relies way to heavy on cheap scare tactics. There’s the occasional stand out, but for the most part it’s a genre that’s overused and stale. But in rare cases, some films stick out. This is one of them, and it sticks out by a mile. Directed by Barry Levinson, the guy behind Rain Man and Sphere, in his horror debut. Maybe its the fact that the film has such an experienced hand behind it, or maybe its the fact that it doesn’t really rely on most of the lame devices forced on the genre, but Barry really knocked it out of the park with this one.
The film centers around the testimony of rookie news reporter Donna, as she’s reporting on the fictional town of Claridge and their July 4th celebrations. She’s one of the only constants as the town starts to go down the tubes, and in a hurry. While it’s a found footage film, the film is actually cut and looks a lot more like a traditional film. With tons of different cameras usually filming the same area, its a neat cut between handheld cameras, security cameras, and cameras on the streets of Claridge. So it’s never one big long blurry shot, but it still retains some of the creepiness that comes along with only a fixed amount of cameras to work with. It’s done well, and genre directors could learn a few tricks here. There’s other minor characters that come and go throughout the film, but Donna is the one that ties everything together. The story is unfolded slowly throughout the first two thirds of the flick, as the mystery of what is happening comes to light. It’s honestly a neat and engaging story, using relatively unused inspiration. It will keep you interested all the way through, even though everything is pretty much revealed by the film’s marketing.
So it has an interesting premise and some interesting camera work, but how’s the scares? This is supposed to be a horror flick, after all. That’s another thing that stands out about this flick. While most newer horror films rely on tons of gore and jump out scares, this one doesn’t. There’s hardly any gore, and there’s only a couple cheap scares, though they are good ones. The real tension builds from what you don’t see though. Barry did a really great job of making it a very tense film. The whole town is under siege by this unknown problem and the tension is almost palpable, making the scares that do come along have that much more of an effect. But it’s what you don’t really get good glimpses of until the end that really makes you uneasy early in the film. Using smart editing and not giving to much away, there’s some very effective scenes that will make you feel just all around uncomfortable.
All in all, its a great, smart horror flick that really shows the potential of the found footage genre. It’s a big change, but I for one welcome it. If you’re looking for a horror flick that isn’t splattered with gore, tits, and cheap scares, you’ve found a good one. It’s one that will make you think, and it will keep you engaged until the credits start to roll. It’s just a shame this isn’t getting the wide release it deserves.
5 out of 5.