Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Bay (2011)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water! The Bay combines shades of movies like Jaws, Godzilla, and even Outbreak, and comparisons to movies such as [Rec] and Cloverfield are not out of place given the found footage nature of this film. But, in spite of at least three of those titles I just mentioned involving a giant monster, one thing The Bay is not is one of those cheap Syfy flicks. What it is is a found footage film about the [need I say fictional?] government cover-up of a tragedy that occurred in a Chesapeake Bay town, where the perfect combination of radiation and steroids in the water led to a brutal attack of engorged water parasites one Fourth of July.

The Bay is a flawed, but still largely effective film. It creates a good atmosphere, although I felt that the ending was a little anticlimactic. Perhaps it's because I was expecting something the film wasn't prepared to deliver (imagine watching Cloverfield, expecting the titular beast, only to reach the end and find that the subway fleas were the extent of the threat). Nevertheless, it's really effective at fear-mongering - pushing your buttons, as an audience member, and exploiting your fears by creating a plausible (if not entirely believable) scenario involving deadly water contamination. It's not exactly the same kind of fear that Jaws inspired, but one that I think is just as frightening: it's not so much what's lurking in the water, but the nature of the water itself, that troubles you.

Now, an interesting thing happened to me while watching this movie. Generally, I'm not a fan of fear-mongering - even more so as a generally fearful and anxious individual. And I was thinking during this movie that hey, this kind of fear-mongering isn't really responsible. I like the water, and I want to have a certain measure of confidence that playing in it (hell, even drinking it) is safe. Obviously, nothing in life is 100% safe, but I don't like to have my unfounded insecurities encouraged (especially as a germophobe). The odd thing is, I never felt that way when watching a movie like, say, Outbreak (nor even during Shark Week's Shark Attack episodes). But maybe this is another case of the "realifying" effect of found footage movies. Obviously, I don't believe the movie's really real - that's just part of its conceit - but the realism of it inspires different kinds of instinctual reactions in my mind.

Anyway, it's true that exploiting the audience's fear in that way is exactly what a good horror movie sets out to do. So, in that case, I'd have to say it's very effective. I just wonder if, personally, it's a good idea for me to be encouraging my own fearfulness by watching these movies. Now, I'm not particularly afraid of watching more movies like The Bay, but certainly I came to the realization while watching The Human Centipede (actually, the second one) that maybe avoiding movies that focus on medical horror would be a wiser and healthier choice than continuing to encourage my unreasonably strong fear of hospitals and the risk of medical procedures. As somebody who watches a lot of horror, it's an interesting thing to think about, because I originally believed that I was drawn to horror due to the high level of fear I experience in life (it felt familiar, and allowed me to explore that fear vicariously, with minimum risk), but now I'm wondering if watching so much horror is actually feeding that fear and anxiety.

There is another theme present in The Bay, and that is the incompetence of government bureaucracy, and the self-serving nature of politics. However, I'm not sure that The Bay's commentary is especially scathing. I certainly don't condone the mayor's actions in this film, and the whole idea that humans are more interested in short-term gains and their own prosperity than the environment and the long-term effects our activities are having on it (and how those can come back to literally bite us on the ass) is poignant and frightening. But I don't know that a little bit of skepticism isn't appropriate, even when potentially weighing people's lives against the added danger a panic could cause (frankly, I'd prefer a little "too much" freedom to a hair-trigger police state). And the fact that a couple of unidentified deaths wasn't immediately followed up on - I just don't think it's realistic to expect nothing to fall through the cracks, given how big the system we're talking about is. Again, that doesn't exactly exonerate the mayor, who should have been more concerned about what was happening around his town, but ultimately I think the government cover-up aspect of the narrative is a little bit dry in the end.

It's nice when a movie can make you think about stuff like this.


  1. I thought it was really quite effective. The apocalyptic scene at the end... with the boaters coming ashore and just finding dead bodies everywhere, that was a nightmare come to life and I just loved it. The only thing that really took points away from it for me was the narrator, she just was not convincing. "lol I can't believe how I wore my hair back in those days" I understand they were trying to have her be all :"I make light of it as a coping mechanism" but it just didn't work with everything else in the film being so good. I do have to admit I too thought they were building up to a giant monster.

  2. Yeah, I mean, the way that one girl was splashing around in the water, it was like something straight outta Jaws. I can't see a bunch of water bugs - even relatively big ones - doing that.

    I also kind of interpreted the word "host" in the synopsis in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers sort of way, and was hoping that the parasites were in the process of transforming the people themselves into some kind of mutant monsters...