The Bay, now playing in limited release and on Video on Demand via iTunes, is director Barry Levinson’s uneven eco-horror tale which focuses on a deadly viral outbreak in a small Maryland town.
Told from the perspective of one of the survivors of an ecological disaster, it blended elements from other more recent and better-made films like ‘Contagion’ and ‘The Crazies.’ The film was constructed in the found footage style with most of the action recorded on cell phones, police dashboard cameras, and city surveillance tapes.
During the Fourth of July holiday in Chesapeake Bay 2009, the entire populace of Claridge was stricken with a violent illness resulting in the deaths of nearly all of its residents.
The film recalled the experiences of a few selected townspeople, including: a television reporter, the town’s Mayor, members of the local police force, and a young family intent on visiting Claridge for the Fourth of July festivities.
Whereas ‘Contagion’ was coolly efficient and frighteningly realistic and ‘The Crazies’ aimed for straight scares, ‘The Bay’ misses completely at portraying chaos and terror in the heartland.
Instead, ‘The Bay’ lacked a clear narrative direction as ecological horror became obfuscated by amateurish acting performances, confusing juxtaposed timelines, and ham-fisted attempts at political pontification.
‘The Bay’ didn’t skimp on the blood and squirm-inducing special effects. However, without any genuine empathy generated successfully for any of the characters, the intended scares fell flat.
Where the writing (by Michael Wallach and Barry Levinson) disappointed, the cinematography by Josh Nussbaum painted a warm Americana feeling and the score by Marcelo Zarvos was atmospheric and moody.
Barry Levinson, when he has helmed classic films like ‘The Natural’, ‘Rain Man’, and ‘Diner’ displayed a genuine gift for directing actors, creating a sense of inclusion and intimacy for his audience with his characters, and incorporating smart and even iconic dialog into his films.
‘The Bay’ will most likely be included as an interesting, if unnecessary foray for him into the horror genre.