Thursday 31 October 2013

Review: The Bay

Year: 2012
Director: Barry Levinson
Screenplay: Michael Wallach
Starring: Will Rogers, Kristen Connolly, Kether Donohue, Frank Deal, Stephen Nunken, Christopher Denham, Nansi Aluka

Synopsis is here

Look around hard enough and you’ll find critics who greatly admired The Bay. The Guardian’s David Cox wisely considered the feature a horror film for grown-ups. Behind the film’s found footage gimmick is a multifaceted piece which holds an honest focus on characters that more popular counterparts would use awkwardly against a typical, more cumbersome plot. Yet despite this; I found that thoughtful ideas aside, nothing in the film lingers. I appreciate the films intent, but nothing truly tantalises.

One of The Bay’s main problems is that Levinson (a veteran director who’s new to horror) strangely doesn't get to grips with the meat of the piece. An early scene which highlights a river attack (with the footage edited to look like it’s been damaged by water), is cut with such excellent timing that it raised my expectations for any further set pieces.  However such moments are place few and far between, much like the captured fleeting moments we see of a scared 15 year old on face time. The heavily saturated, mass footage slammed together with such a queasy rhythm it creates a beautifully pitched chaotic mosaic. Troubled gazes stare weakly into our own before being contrasted with a pretty mother with baby in tow, beaming broadly into a HD camera. The American flag blows proudly in the background as she and her family have no clue of the carnage that awaits.

But these moments just do not last. What does hang around is the slack jawed lead narration from Kether Donohue who seems uneasy with the large amount of the film she has to carry. Wallach’s script does little to help matters. The narration and dialogue feels forced and stilted and the weaker performers do little to elevate matters. The Bay has the same problem that flustered George A Romero’s Diary of the Dead (2005), with a script that stutters, starts, splutters and spoon feeds it’s more appealing ideas within aesthetic that is often more trouble than it’s worth. Visually The Bay could have benefited from using less of the found footage. The moments I mentioned above get lost inside a flatly captured world that really hurt the atmosphere.        

But of course that’s one of the biggest issues with found footage. It’s already tough to have a crew skilled enough to make something compelling out of footage meant to look like a compiled artefact. The Bay only hits those peaks once or twice. However as we see the found footage style seep into cinema more, the more it’s starting to feel like a crutch.The Bay; unlike more accomplished films of its ilk, has the found footage style feel like more of a distraction than anything. As the film goes on it feels less like a movie and more like a goof. Fear was the last thing on my mind. I found myself wondering if I've seen anyone do something similar with fewer gimmicks and more emphasis on adult terror. The name was Steven Soderbergh, the film was Contagion (2011).