The authorities close the only road out of town and block phone signals, and as the lone hospital overflows with patients, panic sets in. Through the lenses of a variety of cameras -- from Donna's news camera to local security cams to police dash cams to iPhones and Skype -- the chaos plays out. Dr. Jack Abrams (Stephen Kunken), the head physician in the hospital, juggles fighting on the front lines of the outbreak with communicating with the Center for Disease Control to figure out what exactly the infection is. Officers Jimson (Michael Beasley) and Paul (Jody Thompson) make gruesome discoveries on 911 calls throughout town. Young parents Alex (Will Rogers) and Stephanie (Kristen Connolly) Talbot take a boat from Delaware to visit relatives in Claridge, unaware of the pandemonium that awaits them.
Interspersed with these videos are shots from weeks prior of two oceanographers who uncovered the source of the catastrophe but whose warnings fell on deaf ears. At that time, big business won over concerns about environmental impact, but now, on July 4, Mother Nature is having the last word with a deadly invasion from the depths of the sea.
The End Result
Switching between characters so often is a necessity, however, because they're pretty much one-dimensional with dry, occasionally irritating dialogue (including an ill-conceived running gag about one scientist's thick foreign accent) that makes it hard to muster interest in their fates. The acting furthermore lacks the emotion needed to take full advantage of the dramatic, life-or-death scenario. The largely unknown (save perhaps for Kristen Connolly of The Cabin in the Woods fame) cast doesn't convey the naturalness that's essential to making found footage fare feel real.
Thankfully, the material itself is compelling enough in concept to make up for the shortcomings of the actors and the script. The nature of the "infection," once revealed, is truly terrifying, and the scenes of its devastation on the human body are grisly and unnerving. They're so effective, in fact, that you wish there were more of them. The mayhem in the film builds at too slow a pace, and by the time it consistently gets to squirm-in-your-seat territory, the movie ends. It feels as if Levinson and company held back, perhaps not wanting to fully exploit the real-life ecological threat upon which the story is based. Regardless, in the end, it's that fact behind the fiction of The Bay that's the scariest part of all.
- Acting: C- (Not realistic nor emotional enough.)
- Direction: B- (Solidly built tension, creative edits.)
- Script: C (Good concept, but its boundaries aren't pushed as far as they could be. Bland dialogue.)
- Gore/Effects: B (It's takes a while to get to it, but the grisly moments are nerve-wrackingly effective.)
- Overall: C+ (A tense infection movie-meets-creature feature whose skin-crawling nature overcomes flaws with the performances, script and pace.)
The Bay is directed by Barry Levinson and is rated R by the MPAA for disturbing violent content, bloody images and language. Release date: November 2, 2012 (in theaters and on demand).