For several years now, the found footage sub-genre has been testing its viability in a wide variety of storytelling capacities - be it the monster movie or even the superhero origin story - finding moderate to tremendous success along the way. Its prevalence around this time of year might be wearing thin among moviegoers, but its strength at the box office indicates there's still a demand.
Enter The Bay, the newest entry on the list of this year's found footage films, but one that will catch a lot of interest because of its director, Barry Levinson.
Levinson, who won an Oscar for his work on 1988's Rain Man, is probably best known for cerebral or off-kilter comedies, making The Bay a huge departure for him. If Levinson was going to tackle the found footage genre, though, he couldn't have picked better producers than the Paranormal Activity team of Oren Peli, Jason Blum, and Steve Schneider.
Last we had heard, The Bay (along with a sequel to Skyline) was up for sale at the Toronto International Film Festival, but that was over two years ago. Now the film is back at TIFF, but this time it's part of the festival's slate of in-contention films.
Levinson's screen credit that most resembles The Bay is probably his adaptation of Michael Crichton's Sphere, which starred Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson. While The Bay appears to be more focused on jump-scares than Sphere - which was more about the examination of fear - the concept of water as a source of confinement and danger appear to be major through lines.
The Bay's story, however, is focused on a viral infection contained within a small town's water supply, which inconveniently is the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Apparently, the infection is actually tiny parasites, which grow larger once consumed, eventually controlling their host's body and mind. This clever little detail allows the film not just to fulfill its mystery and creature quotient, but to play with the zombie genre a little, as well.
Many found footage films like Paranormal Activity or [REC] stick to a specific type of horror and try to maximize scares through clever camera tricks and misdirection, whereas The Bay has the added bonus of a constantly evolving threat. By the time the film's trailer is over, it's unclear what type of film audiences are in for - zombie, creature-of-the-week, or mysterious viral infection.
The Bay's cast is comprised of relative unknowns, but features a few faces seasoned moviegoers might recognize, namely Kristen Connolly (Cabin in the Woods) and Christopher Denham (Sound of My Voice). Both have had their fair share of being frightened this year, but certainly not under the direction of an Oscar winner. We'll see if that makes for a winning combination later this year.
The Bay will be out in theaters on November 2nd, 2012.