On the seventh day of Halloween, the Chesapeake Bay gave to me: The Bay (Barry Levinson, 2012)
Another found footage film, made near me, about Maryland? What have I done to deserve such gift? It’s such a specific niche- found footage movies set in Maryland- and I’m basking in it. Here’s a quick overview:
In an after-the-fact documentary, former news reporter Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) reveals the truth behind the horror that befell Claridge, Maryland, during the town’s July 4th festivities in 2009. Piecing together a multitude of sources, Thompson recounts how nearly the entire town of Claridge is suddenly struck by a mysterious illness. This sickness tears through the all-American town, leaving a trail of gore and bodies in its wake. A cautionary tale against the potential effects of pollution, The Bay is horrifying speculative foray into the future of unrestricted agricultural development.
Another food simile
The Bay is like skillfully-made terror-baklava. For those who have never had baklava, it’s a pastry made of layers on layers of phyllo dough, filled with honey and pistachios. It’s crispy and sweet and delicious.
And just like good baklava, The Bay has layers of horror, all of which leave you with that delightful/awful pit in your stomach. You’ve got your layers of basic scares (Sickening gore! Dead bodies!) to the heart-wrenching stuff (listening to a mother’s last phone call!) to the complex, sinking horror (wow this setup is kind of plausible!). These layers are all carefully interwoven to create a disgusting, tragic, terror-baklava. If you’re a horror fan give this movie a watch, because it’ll fuck you up in all the right ways.
This is some next level shit
The Bay takes the concept of a found footage film, and cranks it to 11. It isn’t an entirely typical found footage film, as it has explicitly been edited after the fact. Normally what we see in found footage films is purported to be “as is,” with no post-production meddling. But The Bay is a faux documentary, so it openly uses documentary conventions, including editing, subtitles, voice over, etc.
But The Bay is still found footage: it uses video not intended for entertainment purposes that has been “discovered.” It’s truly a found footage film for the modern day: almost everyone has access to a device can that record video, and The Bay exploits that. This movie uses everything to tell its story: personal FaceTime videos, skype calls, medical video, home video, CCTV, vlogs, radio broadcasts, TV reports, etc. This is the most far-reaching found footage film I’ve seen, one that makes full use of modern visual media available to piece together an event. I also think that the action becomes far more personal this way: while we can always watch people through CCTVs, we can now hear last phone calls, read people’s last text messages, and so on.
The Bay breaks away from the traditional “singular POV” mode of found footage films to cover the community of Claridge as a whole, and impress upon the viewer the breadth of the horror befalling this town. It’s as brilliant as it is gut-wrenching, and I can’t applaud The Bay enough.
also this movie is GROSS AF
This has also go to be one of the nastiest diseases in horror. This fucker is a parasite, and eats people from the inside out. You wanna talk about the devil inside? This is it, folks. And of course, this beastie is in the water. I mean, stop and think about how many times you interact with water on a daily basis: washing your hands, drinking, bathing, cleaning, recreation, and on, and on. This “bad guy” is almost inescapable, in a way that monsters or ghosts are not.
Of course, The gore that comes with being internally devoured is particularly nasty, so if you’re into skin lesions and large wounds, this film is definitely right up your alley. Think Cabin Fever-esque.
But this is also a Movie with a Message
But beyond the grody bits, the commentary being made in The Bay is scathing. The blame for this disaster is laid at the feet of the politicians and regulatory agencies who ignored the warnings, who refused to consider the impact of their “economic growth” on the environment they live in. The nuclear leak, the unchecked chemical-ridden chicken waste, the poor filtration systems: all were ignored and declared “safe” by the people supposed to be monitoring them.
But as someone from Maryland, this movie hits reaaaaaally close to home. Crab feasts, swimming in the Chesapeake: these are all things I’ve done or still do. To be honest, the first time I saw The Bay, I chortled at the “town hall” scene where the citizens of Claridge discussed the pollution in the bay. Like, the bay has been notoriously polluted for as long as I can remember. I remember going up to North Beach with my summer camp :my agenda for the day was to play in the water, build me some sandcastles, and catch some crabs, in that order. I distinctly remember getting into the water to look for some “friends”, and being unable to find a single living crab. It was just crab carcass on crab carcass.
So The Bay isn’t drawing from fantasy. And that’s horrifying.
While The Bay is the “perfect storm” of scenarios, it’s vaguely plausible. Our environment is already beginning to manifest the consequences of humanity’s rapid expansion and exploitation, with deadly results. While the hot topic is climate change (which is objectively horrifying), the environmental impact on disease is just as real. If you’re ever into never sleeping again, check out Sonia Shah’s new book, Pandemic. It also mentions the Chesapeake Bay, only this time with regards to Cholera. Because who needs peace of mind.
Eat the baklava
I really love The Bay, and think it delivers big time with regards to scares. Some of the scares make your stomach turn, while other linger and creep up on you late at night, when you’re thinking about the reality of the environmental situation we’re dealing with. It has a clear message without being didactic, and is entertaining as well as thought-provoking.
I just wouldn’t eat any seafood while I was watching it.
Just in case.
Featured image source: http://www.impawards.com/2012/posters/bay.jpg