Saturday, October 25, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #25: THE BAY (2012)

The Story: An idyllic coastal town on the eastern seaboard becomes nosh for an invasive parasite.

Expectations: The Netflix synopsis made this sound like an episode of HAVEN.  But directed by Barry Levison?!  And produced by the team that made PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (Jason Blum, Steven Schneider, Oren Peli).  Sign me up.

Reaction: My wife had a good idea the other day.  She said, "Found footage films should come with a warning label."  I agree.  I groaned audibly when I started watching THE BAY and realized that it was a found footage movie.... which begs the question: Can I still look past the gimmick and enjoy the movie?  Or has it become so annoying that it prevents me from getting engaged in the story?  I really want the former to be true, because the found footage gimmick is what allows so many indie horror filmmakers to actually get their movies made.  Found footage is cheaper to make, therefore lower risk.  And, in truth, some of the movies are really good.  So I'm going to stifle my complaining (for the moment), because a filmmaker like Barry Levinson should be able to make me forget I'm watching a found footage movie.  Right?  Right?!

Sort of.  I was pretty amused by the setup of this film, which is straight out of the eco-horror films of the 1970s and cleverly pays homage to classics like THE BIRDS and JAWS.  And the monster is genuinely scary because, like the shark in JAWS, it remains unseen for most of the film.  When it finally appears, however, it too looks like an homage to classic horror (one part ALIEN, one part THE TINGLER)... so actually I'm going to revise my statement: It's the symptoms of the monster's presence that are scary. 

Unfortunately, the big plot twist makes THE BAY feel like a bit more "message movie" than horror movie.  There's an early line of VO about people "doing the American thing," which is to say living a life of ignorant bliss while casually destroying their environment.  This point is driven home ad nauseum, but would have had more impact if at least some of the characters weren't so damn clueless.  The over-explanatory editing style, which keeps rehashing old bits of information as if to say to the audience "get it?!", doesn't help.  Despite those misgivings, however, I enjoyed the ride.  This is a relatively effective update of an old fashioned monster movie.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: Maybe it's because I've got an infant at home, but I spent much of this movie wondering "What's going to happen to the baby?"  The best jump scene in the film came out of that suspense. 

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