Review: Barry Levinson is a talented storyteller but BAY comes up short on scares
Veteran filmmaker Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Bugsy, The Natural) partners with the producers behind the Paranormal Activity franchise and the result is The Bay, a found footage horror movie with surprisingly few scares. Levinson and first-time screenwriter Michael Wallach introduce a new sub-genre to the popular found footage canon, an eco-horror story grounded in scientific fact about nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from large poultry operations turning the Chesapeake Bay into a dead zone filled with killer isopods.
Granted, it’s refreshing to watch a found footage horror removed from the common landscapes of haunted houses and teenage exorcisms. It’s also great to see an expert storyteller like Levinson try his hand at low-budget horror. Unfortunately, Levinson and Wallach come up woefully short. The Bay is found footage horror with only a smattering of mild jolts and not a single memorable scare, which makes it more like an avant-garde exercise in diary filmmaking than a horror movie.
A Fourth of July celebration in the bayside resort of Claridge, Maryland (Think Cambridge, Maryland) turns disastrous when mutant parasites in the water attack the fish, swimmers, boaters, just about anyone who comes in contact with the water. Told by a young TV news intern (Kristen Connolly), it’s not long before a biological outbreak turns the resort town into a bloody disaster area with people being eaten alive by deadly parasites.
Kristen Connolly, last seen in The Cabin in the Woods, makes a likable spectator to the bloody chaos who survives to tell the story. Unfortunately, a script focused on scientific accuracy more than spine-chilling scares trips her performance.
Levinson and production designer Lee Bonner make clever use of the film’s low-fi budget emphasizing classic make-up effects over elaborate CGI images. The Bay unleashes some bloody, half-eaten victims equal to the zombies shuffling through the AMC series The Walking Dead but Levinson’s movie comes nowhere close to the fright count of an average Walking Dead episode.
It’s a downright, disappointing shame because the scare potential in The Bay is sky-high and producers Jason Blum, Steven Schneider and Oren Peli are experts on horror. Perhaps, the idea of Levinson and the Paranormal Activity team coming together results in collaborations too clever for their own good. Perhaps, a movie so focused on grounding its story in scientific fact forgets that priority number one is scaring its audience witless even when the story lacks logical sense.
Yes, The Bay breaks new ground in the found footage horror genre. Unfortunately, along the way it forgets to scare us.
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Will Rogers, Kether Donohue, Anthony Robinson
Director: Barry Levinson
Screenwriter: Michael Wallach
Cinematographer: Josh Nussbaum
Editor: Aaron Yanes
Producers: Hydraulx, Automatik Entertainment
Running Time: 84 minutes
Rating: Rated R
Release Date: November 2, 2012