Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Bay

It's been a while since I've been in the Coolidge's screening room; I generally go for film when I can, and I've had some bad experience there, when it wasn't yet using full HD and I literally would be better off waiting for the movie to come out on Blu-ray and watching it in my living room. Sunday night's screening looked better than I remembered from before, but it's still sort of a last resort: The screen is barely wider than the center aisle, so the room really doesn't have a sweet spot. Better than watching at home, but...

Anyway, it's interesting to see Barry Levinson doing this. Brian De Palma did a movie in this sort of style a few years ago, and I'm curious about how much of it is "want to" and "need to". As storied as these guys' careers have been, that doesn't necessarily count for a lot in the present day - it's kind of fascinating how household names like Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson can have their movies go direct to video or VOD, and directors who haven't had a hit in a while are even more in that boat. Levinson, arguably, hasn't had a real hit since Sleepers fifteen years ago, so folks probably aren't lining up to finance big movies with his name on it. You take the gig you can get, although this does seem to be something he believes in (he's got a story credit), and it is worth noting that The Bay seems to have a more substantive story than many horror movies of its ilk. Maybe a veteran has to have something to say to do a movie like this, where a rookie just likes the hook.

The Bay

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 4 November 2012 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre Video Screening Room (first-run, digital)

First-person horror is generally a young filmmaker's game, a way to produce a movie with little in the way of resources where the cast being unknowns is a plus, maybe sneak into a genre film festival, get seen, and start working one's way up the ladder. That makes it a bit of a surprise to see seasoned veteran Barry Levinson dipping his toes into these waters, and he does it well enough that audiences might think twice about doing so literally after the movie.

The Bay doesn't label itself "A Barry Levinson Film" at the start, though; it presents itself as the work of Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue), a former communications student piecing together what happened in Claridge, Maryland on July 4th, 2009 from footage found on a WikiLeaks-inspired website and her own memories. She was an intern at a local TV station, doing video blogs for the website and puff pieces like interviewing Mayor Stockman (Frank Deal) about the Independence Day activities. It's not going to be a slow news day for long - soon enough people are developing strange blisters that ER doctor Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken) is calling the CDC and the small sheriff's department is being overloaded with strange calls.

"Found footage horror" is the name often given to these sorts of movies, but Levinson and screenwriter Michael Wallach make their movie stand out in part by not trying to build a mystery around the source of the material: Donna lives through this, and The Bay looks and feels like her movie. Although mostly fairly linear, it jumps forward to her narration in 2012 and back to an earlier connected incident; the music is sometimes a little too much and Donna drops "he'll die later" in enough to make it a little less effective as ominous foreshadowing. But those apparent flaws are part of what makes it feel genuine, like the work of a talented but inexperienced young woman who is still extremely close to the material.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

Joa McClain said...

Barry really has given everything a go hasn't he! I have this on the list for the next Horror night ... If you have given it 3.5/4 it might just get a viewing!