Found footage is getting so common as a technique that it is getting ridiculous to refer to films using it like there is a single genre since there is so much variation in style, quality and subject matter. Veteran producer/director Barry Levinson has used the technique to create an environmental horror film in a documentary style. Various clips and footage are assembled to create a story that has been done many times before but this way of shooting it attempts to make it feel more authentic and while it does a good job it does also have some of the problems of found footage films, Thankfully shaky cam is not one of them.
A young woman Marsha Rosenblatt (Lauren Cohn) is telling the story to a camera and she has edited the footage together to warn the world about something that the authorities have covered up but she’s got footage from a website that leaks secrets held in government computers. It is obviously referring to Wikileaks and the fact that she does not say that name gives away the fictional nature of this story though maybe the site she named is real. The footage that she assembles comes from many sources each telling small part of events but Marsha has assembled them to illustrate the story as she tells it. There’s some real news footage of various strange animal deaths which this film is going to explain.
The scene of this disaster is a small town in Maryland on Chesapeake Bay which is celebrating Independence Day with a fair and the town’s traditional crab eating competition. Marsha was there herself as a student reporter covering the festivities for a local TV station and her reports form the main part of the footage of the onset of the disaster. There is also footage from two oceanographers Sam (Christopher Denham) and Jacqueline (Nansi Aluka) who were the first to discover what was going on and die from it but this footage is fed to us throughout the film as the events in the town unfold. There’s also footage of a video from an animal rights campaigner who broke into the local chicken factory farm which Marsha blames for the whole disaster as well as a brand new water desalination plant that provides the drinking water for the town and of course the chicken farm. Marsha also blames the town’s mayor John Stockman (Frank Deal) but he never really gets a chance to justify himself apart from footage of his speech at the opening of the desalination plant.
The outbreak begins as the crab eating contest ends in an impromptu projectile vomiting display and some very distressed people start breaking out in angry red rashes with large blisters. Now we get footage from the local hospital which has rapidly been overwhelmed by a large number of people complaining of rashes. The doctor on duty Dr Jack Abrams films a couple of his patients for evidence then contacts the CDC using Skype. This footage in addition the oceanographers’ video gives the main exposition of what is happening. It doesn’t respond to treatments for bacteria or fungal infection and appears to attack the flesh from inside and out. This gives us many scenes of extreme body horror and even more when they find out what the cause is and I’m only going to say isopods and let you look up Google for yourself with that one.
Footage included is from the local police which shows the chaos that has hit the town as result of the outbreak. There’s also footage of a wealthy young couple Stephanie (Kristen Connolly) and Jim (Brandon Hanson) who are travelling to the town by boat with their baby to join her parents for the Independence Day celebrations and who arrive to find the place nearly empty and bodies lying in the street.
This was an interesting film and it is pretty successful at maintaining the illusion of a being an eco-activist documentary created from found footage. There were things like establishing shots using security camera footage that seemed a bit too artificial to be included in a film trying to maintain the found footage illusion. There was also the way the oceanographers’ video was cut up and inserted into the film that didn’t seem natural. There really wasn’t much character depth in the film though that wasn’t too much of an issue except with mayor who was identified as the main person responsible for the outbreak but we don’t really get know him. This film does deliver in showing ghastly things that make the flesh creep and regretfully cannot be unseen. It is a good example of a found footage film but a fairly typical ecological horror film
- Rotten Tomatoes
- The Screaming Minis: The Bay (peanutbutterandgialli.wordpress.com)
- The Bay review (musingsofamildmanneredman.com)