director Barry Levinson
The increasingly tired “faux found footage” style of filmmaking, most popular so it seems in the horror genre, is only even possibly interesting when in the hands of a more established director. Case in point: Barry Levinson (of Diner (1982), Rain Man (1988), Wag the Dog (1997) among many others). He’s made some good films, some pretty mediocre films, he’s won a Best Director Oscar (for Rain Man). Hasn’t done much recently of major note. But when he helms a biological disaster horror film (which had decent reviews), it seemed worth the while.
Problem is, the film is produced by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity (2007), ad nauseum) and the film bears a lot more of Peli than of Levinson. In fact, as an Oren Peli production, the surprises wouldn’t really be surprises.
As far as “faux found footage” films go, this one doesn’t try too hard to craft believability. Footage has been compiled years after the incident that was hushed up and is comprised of various cameras’ found footage, plus security videos, produced videos, news reports, police car videos, tons of sources. And the story is told in retrospect via Skype by a survivor.
The story is the one infamous Fourth of July, a biological crisis started hitting Chesapeake Bay. There’s a bit of mystery, but the story is a little choppy, but you get pretty early on that as a result of steroids in chicken poop flowing into the water, a little-known parasitic crustacean, Cymothoa exigua or the “tongue-eating louse” (this is a real thing), winds up growing huge, entering people and eating them from the inside out, planting eggs, lots of gross stuff ensues.
It’s pretty creepy. It’s pretty gross.
As I find myself thinking, often, about films shot in this style, I have to wonder if the director could not have made a more effective film in a more traditional style with the general storyline he was given. It’s a cheap effect, faking the found footage, and it’s as tired as tired can be. Even in the hands of a more seasoned director, it still often falls short of worthwhile. And that’s sort of the case with The Bay. It would have been a lot better, made in about 1981, and produced instead by Roger Corman.