Friday, 29 November 2013



Yet another found footage horror movie in which, unsurprisingly, the gimmick yet again refuses to work. As with all the other found footage horror movies (without exception) it looks cheap and ugly, with horrible camerawork, and yet again it makes no sense in terms of who filmed it, why, and how the footage has come to be available. If you are going to make the making of the film part of the film's own narrative, it has to hold up logically - so where did the film's music score come from? Where did recordings of Skype conference calls between hospitals and government organisations, police car video, closed circuit security tapes or mobile phone footage from private citizens come from?

The film can't really answer that: it frames all this material with an introduction and narration from a former TV news reporter remembering the events of three years ago, when a combination of nuclear pollution and steroid-infected chicken excrement from the local poultry farms has contaminated The Bay, and the town's water supply, with a mutated parasitic organism that eats its victims' flesh from the inside. The local hospital is inundated with dozens of citizens covered in boils and sores, spreading through the bodies as fast as the surgeons can amputate it away; others die in the streets....

Barry Levinson - who, remember, is a "proper" film director trying, successfully, to make a film that looks like it was shot by twelve-year-olds - has marshalled all this unverite footage into some kind of traditional narrative, intercutting the horror of the day with the video diaries of a couple of ecologists studying the catastrophic effects of pollution on the bay a few weeks previously. But there is nothing here that demanded a found-footage treatment, there is nothing that's more persuasive because of the undirected style. Hey, one of the producers is Oren Peli of the tiresome Paranormal Activity series: what do you expect? Instead, you're less convinced because you're constantly wondering how the material has been obtained. I don't buy the film's "claim" that the government confiscated everyone's cameras and then three years later someone Assanged it all to a subversive website, and it's all been downloaded from there and assembled into a "documentary".

If you've seen George Romero's original The Crazies, you know this kind of story can be done brilliantly without having to go through this laborious pretence of it being genuine footage. Even the inferior remake is way better than The Bay, and that's not counting cheery popcorn films like Outbreak, which is the full Hollywood studio treatment of essentially the same idea. They're all better films than this, because they are films and this isn't. There are a couple of nice jump moments, and the physical FX of the parasites and bugs are fine, but it's a chore plodding through it all.



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