Swimtime (The Bay, 2012)
So, Barry Levison (director of Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam) decided it was time to dip horror waters. Interestingly, he opted to go with the found footage format. Found footage is risky, because it can be hard to stand apart. I give Levison a lot of credit for making the choice he did.
The Bay opts for a “science gone wrong” theme that seems relatively uncommon for found footage. It is presented as a compilation of footage collected by a reporter who witnessed the events. This gives Levison a lot a freedom in telling the story. The reporter is able to narrate the film, more in a documentary format.
The story begins with a series of footage regarding the strange phenomenon of the passed several years ( masses of dead fish, dead birds falling from the sky, etc). The film states that while the news covered those stories, it never told this one.
We are introduced to a small town celebrating the 4th of July. There is celebrating, but slowly, people are going to the ER with rashes. In addition, two scientists who were doing research in the bay have washed ashore, mauled by…something.
As the day progresses, more and more people end up in the hospital, citizens complain of intense pain. We discover that mutated isopods are infecting people and eating them from the inside out. There is a terrific moment where the reporter the film is centered on shows us footage taken after people have evacuated the streets. As she is attempting to make a report and then, in the distance hear an inhuman howling. It is effectively creepy.
The format allows exposition, as we get to see hospital footage and sky conversations between the doctor trying to solve the problem and the CFDC, as well as news footage, police cruiser footage and home movies.
I appreciated the filmmaker’s starting with something quite real and gruesome(isopods that eat a fishes tongues and then live in their mouths as a faux tongue) and then tweak it. It beats yet another haunted asylum. I found the film pretty effective and interesting to follow.
While the majority of the film worked, I felt the end kind of fell flat. It just seemed to end, we get some text telling us about the clean up and cover-up, but it seems like to important part of the story, deserving more than a brief bit of text.
Levison does a nice job overall, spicing the story up, knowing when to keep us in the dark and when to illuminate the viewer. In spite of my disappointment with the end, the overall film make for an entertaining watch.