Friday, July 19, 2013

The Bay

NetFlix 3.5/5
IMDB 5.5/10
My Rating: 7.5 /10

A Wikileaks-style found footage assembly tells the story of a small bayside town that experiences a rash of horrific infections which eventually are revealed to be something much more terrifying.

Watched this last night. Holy SHIT. Terrifying and creepy and deeply disturbing. It is, IMO, even worse than Contagion for making you never want to touch anything or leave the house ever again. It is also apparently a movie that people have wildly different reactions to, because its IMDB comments all devolved into either 1 star reviews that hated it or high ratings that loved it. It only has a 5.5 on IMDB but IMO it's a 7.5/10, easily. It was just recently added to Netflix streaming.

It's a found footage movie, so I was prepared to hate it. We started watching it basically just to see if it was tolerable, and planned to de-queue it and watch Spiral instead if it was another shakeycam barf-athon. 30 minutes later, we were totally hooked. It's directed by the fellow who did Rain Man and a bunch of other big budget films, but he did this as a personal project for $2 million with unknown actors. The fact that he is a professional director with decades of experience shows, because the found footage format is a lot more stable and better arranged than the usual jiggly-crazy camcorder movies. In fact, at times he shrugs and blows off the whole idea of it being found footage by including background soundtrack, but by the times that happens you're so immersed in the story that it's more funny than distracting. And at least there's a good reason for the footage assembly because it's been assembled and ordered by professional editors into the form that we see.

A lot of the low reviews came from horror fans who thought it was boring because there weren't enough "stalk and jump" scares. It is NOT that kind of movie, though. The fear here is more like in Contagion - not individual people being chased around by slashers, but in the overall look of the looming epidemic and the vast repercussions it's going to have as the scale of it becomes clear. It's eco-horror at its best. The whole thing is presented in a Wikileaks-style format, as a series of video clips and footage that's been obtained by whistleblower types to inform the world about what happened. So, you don't get a movie with a few characters and a story, you get a movie that is presented documentary-style and which is a sequence of events that get more horrifying as they progress.

The whole thing is narrated by this young intern reporter and we follow her through it in much the same way as the young woman in [REC]. She's assigned to cover the town's July 4th festival as a puff piece when things start going wrong. As folks begin piling up in the hospital with blistering rashes, the movie moves between footage of her, a family recording their vacation visit, some police footage, and a pair of experts studying mass fish die-offs. The whole found footage angle is utilized really well here, as there are logical reasons for most of the footage (Expert exposition for the record, police car cameras, TV news footage of events, etc). Ergo, you don't get a lot of the, "Why are they still filming this monster as it attacks them?" effect of some other found footage films. It gradually becomes obvious that there's something in the water as polluted run-off from chicken farms has bred steroid-enhanced isopods. I don't want to tell any more of the plot as half the fun is in the dawning realization of the sheer horribleness of the situation and how hideous things are going to get.

See it. It will stick with you long after viewing. In fact, I'm still thinking about it a day later. It's a "1 tick from reality" sort of film, where the horror is not in evil slashers or vampires but in the daily news. It becomes more horror-film-like by the end but it still retains this very real feeling. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Cloverfield - Not in the giant monster sense, but in the style of how it looked at the widescale impact of this sort of environmental disaster from a very human, very limited viewpoint.

My final comment -  I was going to post the trailer but naturally, it spoilers a couple of the best shock scares of the film, so I would advise against watching the trailers online. They completely blow one of the best moments of the movie - My wife jumped so much she fired the cat off her lap.  Some things are definitely best left to jump at you from out of the dark.