Two million fish washed ashore. One thousand blackbirds dropped from the sky. On July 4, 2009 a deadly menace swept through the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland, but the harrowing story of what happened that Independence Day has never been told - until now.
Ever since The Blair Witch Project
, it's been getting harder and harder to fool viewers into believing the whole found-footage gimmick. Even though audiences aren't buying into it, they're still buying it; the Paranormal Activity
series is one of the most successful horror franchises in recent history. It's no surprise that The Bay
, the new film from Paranormal Activity
producers Jason Blum and Steven Schneider, is a faux-documentary. What is surprising is how effective it is.
On the Fourth of July in 2009, the town of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland was the site of a series of unexplained events. The Bay
purports to be a collection of news reports and amateur footage put together by a reporter named Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue from Pitch Perfect
) documenting the phenomena. The film shows the townspeople becoming overrun with what appears to be some kind of bacterial infection. As people become more and more sick and begin to die, authorities start to realize that they are up against more than just a simple virus. Before it kills its victims, the infection takes control of their minds, making them act erratically and insanely. The film separately follows the adventures of Thompson while she reports the story, a tourist couple named Stephanie (Kristen Connolly from Cabin in the Woods
) and Sam (Argo
's Christopher Denham) who has sailed home to Chesapeake Bay to see their family, and authorities like Dr. Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
) and Sheriff Lee Roberts (The Mist
's Andy Stahl) as they try to contain and stop the infection. The cause of the trouble ends up being a much bigger problem than anyone was expecting.
is directed by big-time Hollywood director Barry Levinson (Rain Man
) from a script by first time screenwriter Michael Wallach. Although the docu-fiction genre has become commonplace and it's difficult to fool audiences anymore, The Bay
is a film that is more effective if the viewer knows as little as possible about it going in. Found footage films work well within the horror genre, and The Bay
is no exception. The authenticity that is added by Donna Thompson's newscasts combined with the amateur footage that is collected and displayed makes the film scary in a that-could-really-happen kind of way. The narrative works well, too; instead of just throwing the footage on screen a la The Blair Witch Project
or Paranormal Activity
, Thompson narrates the film through a video chat with an unknown interviewer. This approach makes the movie look more like a produced documentary along the lines of Megan is Missing
or Lake Mungo
, which helps the viewer in keeping up with the science behind the attacks. The use of hospital and police footage interspersed between the newscasts and amateur video gives the audience a well rounded view of the incident. Because of all of the thought and planning that was put into the varied points of view, The Bay
is one of the better faux-documentary films that have been produced, and one that is as entertaining as it is frightening.
is more than a movie. As far-fetched and reaching as the threat in the film is (and, without spoiling anything, the implied threat changes a couple of times over the course of the narrative), The Bay
still carries an anti-pollution environmental message. While it may not be completely realistic, it should be convincing enough to frighten people into opening their eyes to the subject of toxicity in the ecosystem.
is scary on several levels. Of course, it has plenty of the jumpy shock scares, but it's also got some frightening makeup and bloody gore stuff. There are also a handful of don't-go-in-the-water suspenseful attack scenes that rival Jaws
in their effectiveness. And, finally, there is the understated, overlying fear that surrounds the whole film - the environmental impact danger that reminds the viewer of films like Prophecy
or The Happening
. The Bay
is a fun ride that is good for creep out, gross out and freak out scares, all in moderation, and still leaves the viewer thinking about tomorrow.