I feel like I’ve been searching for a great virus movie for ages! The Bay, released in 2012, is a film about a small Maryland town that falls victim to a fatal virus on the Fourth of July. Told through multiple devices - using found footage - a reporter who survived the incident aims to make this story public years later. Donna, speaking on a Skype video, narrates over footage from the attack. This includes news footage, personal video cameras from victims, cell phone videos and more. It becomes clear throughout the faux-documentary that the virus is a result of extremely polluted Chesapeake Bay water. So polluted, in fact, that abnormally large flesh-eating parasites are populating the water.
From the first few minutes of this film, the audience is hooked. What happened to this small town? Why did 700 people die over the course of one day? As the pieces click together, the story becomes more and more grotesque. A film that begins with kids running through sprinklers, a happy woman in a dunking booth and groups of people swimming in the bay spirals out of control over the course of 90 minutes, leaving the audience with only the irony of all those people enjoying the water and then dying from it. The cinematography is perfect, full of beautifully framed shots. The pacing is exceptional; the film doesn’t rush the information or the story. The viewer starts the film curious and intrigued, but ends it disgusted, traumatized and probably a bit nauseous. This movie makes an impact, it leaves a mark. And on top of all of this, The Bay actually makes a statement about the environment and human treatment of it. Who’s the real villain here? The virus, the parasite or the humans who ignored it? What I really loved about this film were the individual character stories. Each story was interesting, necessary and emotional. The footage of Donna as an intern reporter dropped into a horrific situation was a terrific foil to the present-day footage of her. The story surrounding Alex, Stephanie and their baby was suspenseful and terrifying. Even the smart phone video footage of a young girl alone and scared was an essential component to the film. This is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that used found footage in a realistic and natural way, rather than using it just to use it and follow a trend.
Many will argue this is a simple eco-faux-documentary and not a horror, but I disagree. Sure, there’s a deeper message here, but wouldn’t it be nice if more horror had that? A lot about this movie reminded me of Jaws - Fourth of July, water, some sort of evil in the water - but it stands on its own as an entirely different species. The Bay isn’t scary in the sense The Exorcism is, but I jumped out of my seat a couple of times and I cringed a lot toward the end. The film becomes very graphic and the images are sure to linger with you long after. Plus, since the film is portrayed as a documentary, everything feels real. This idea is realistic, which makes it much scarier than a demon.
The Bay is a pleasant surprise and a worthwhile addition to both horror and the virus population. The best kinds of horror stick with you afterward. The sounds and images run through your mind for days. This is that kind of movie. I know after I watched it, I thought twice about the water I was drinking. Creatures of horror island would be smart to do the same.
If you liked The Bay, you might also like Cabin Fever and 28 Days Later.