"“It just doesn't feel like anything particularly new nor innovative, regardless of how well it's been presented...”"

The found footage sub-genre is surely coming towards the end of what has been a mostly unproductive, and unimaginative stint. Popularised by The Blair Witch Project, this variety of cinema has gone steadily down hill ever since, yet thankfully has remained mostly consigned to the horror genre and low-budget filmmakers. Therefore it comes as somewhat of a surprise to see Barry Levinson – the man behind Rain Man and Sleepers – decide to take it on, yet in his defence, what he achieves in ecological horror The Bay, is surprisingly well crafted.

The Bay is presented as a mockumentary, and takes place in the small coastal town of Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland, USA – where disaster strikes during the annual Independence Day celebrations. In short, the water surrounding this town has been infected and as residents jump off the harbour for a swim, or eat crabs for their dinner, they soon face the repercussions as boils and warts spread across their bodies. Flocking to the local hospital, panic spreads across the town, as people start acting rather peculiarly, and eventually, they start dying...

The film that we are seeing is supposedly footage previously confiscated by the government to cover up this awful, fateful day in Chesapeake Bay. What we see is a collation of various different peoples footage from the day, ranging from news reports to police cameras to handheld devices from citizens, and as such does wonders for the authenticity and plausibility of the piece.

So often with found footage productions, we find ourselves desperately attempting to justify how or why one person would continue to film as much as they have been under such strenuous circumstances – yet as this is spread out across various people, many of which are justifiably filming, we lose that contrived aspect altogether. However given the style taken by Levinson, the editing is somewhat choppy and messy as we consistently move between different sources of footage. However Levinson is happy to interject the narrative with text to help explain exactly what is happening. Many filmmakers shy away from such a technique in found footage, and as a result force video material onto us to keep the story flowing – despite being in places where it simply wouldn't be used. Fortunately, Levinson has no qualms in such a regard.

The story itself is interesting also, taking a somewhat satirical look at the current issues surrounding global warming, not to mention the journalistic powers of the common man thanks to the accessibility of technology. Within The Bay there are no lead roles as such, not one character we follow in particular. Instead we just have those somehow involved in the story, from the local news reporter to the mayor, to the doctor – while the main antagonist is effectively that of the sea; a terrifying prospect given its immensity and indefiniteness. Meanwhile, by setting this title on July 4th it allows the viewer a conflict of emotions, as prior to the outbreak of the disease, people are joyous and partaking in festivities, which simply enhances the terror of the forthcoming pandemic.

Having said that, The Bay is certainly not a scary film, and is hard-pressed to be labelled as a horror movie as such. Also despite the compelling first half, the story does tail off somewhat, not truly progressing enough from the middle point onwards. There are various positives within The Bay, and it's certainly found-footage done relatively well, yet all the same it just doesn't feel like anything particularly new nor innovative, regardless of how well it's been presented.