It's a real shame that many people will see The Bay as just another in the never-ending stream of found footage movies being release nowadays. It IS a found footage film, in many ways, but the framing structure is that of someone presenting this material to the world. This isn't just raw, shaky-cam footage from start to finish. In fact, there's not that much shaky-cam thanks to webcam footage and dashboard cameras being the main source of the filmed evidence being shown, at last, to the world.
Kether Donohue plays Donna Thompson, the woman speaking directly to camera and setting the scene. A few years ago, on the 4th of July, a mysterious medical condition started to infect the population of a small Maryland town and ruin the celebrations. It turns out that there's something bad in the water, something that some people may have already known about but set out to keep a secret.
Marketed with the increasingly tiresome tagline "From The Producers Of Paranormal Activity And Insidious", the thing to note about The Bay is who it's directed by as opposed to who produced the thing. Barry Levinson is the man sitting in the big chair and it's fascinating to see how he deals with the constraints and problems inherent in the faked cinema verite style. Funnily enough, the end product reminded me most of Hugo by Martin Scorsese, thanks to the way an "old hand" has come along to direct a film in a particular style of the here and now and shown all of the youngsters how it can still be handled masterfully.
The movie doesn't run for that long, and a number of small moments are shown repeatedly to make the big points that the final edit of the material wants to push into the public consciousness, but it doesn't feel rushed either. Things are set up and develop with efficiency and skill. Donohue makes for a likeable lead while Kristen Connolly, Stephen Kunken, Will Rogers and Frank Deal are all excellent as some of the main people caught up in the events of the day for various reasons.
While it's not all that scary or atmospheric in the traditional horror sense, there is a lot here that scares because it all feels very plausible. I don't want to spoil things by providing too much detail but the origin and details of the outbreak will make you wriggle in discomfort and start to worry about how close to reality it could actually be.
A lot of credit for the effectiveness of the movie should also go to writer Michael Wallach. This is his first filmed script, as far as I'm aware, and he does a great job of delivering the required information, providing moments of real nastiness and also being unafraid of leading viewers towards a conclusion that is foretold from the outset.
Don't be put off by the fact that The Bay is a found footage movie. Don't be put off by the fact that it's from those ubiquitous producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Instead, let the fact that it's a very good film helmed by a great director encourage you to give it a chance.
The Bay is available on Amazon Instant Video here - http://www.amazon.com/The-Bay/dp/B00A0G162U/ref=sr_1_9?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1352032372&sr=1-9&keywords=the+bay