Review: The Bay /Cert: 15 / Director: Barry Levinson / Screenplay: Michael Wallach / Starring: Kristen Connolly, Will Rogers, Christopher Denham, Kether Donoghue / Release Date: March 18th
The Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, is officially 40% lifeless. Decades of pollution – chemical contaminants, agricultural and urban waste – have contributed to the worrying deterioration of a once-pristine body of water which brought pleasure to hundreds of thousands of locals and American holidaymakers. Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man; Good Morning, Vietnam) became so concerned by the toxic devastation wrought on one of his favourite childhood haunts that he decided to highlight the bay’s plight by dramatising it as an ecological horror movie, merging the conventions of the found-footage format with a specific element of barbed social commentary. But where The Bay undoubtedly works as a gruesome and disturbing body horror, the overriding sense of 'this couldn’t really happen' inherent in the film’s outlandish dramatic scenario ultimately serves only to detract from the very real-world problem Levinson is trying to bring to his audience’s attention.
Three years after a hushed-up viral outbreak in Claridge, Maryland, reporter Donna Thompson (Donohue) has managed to liberate and assemble all the recorded film footage – CCTV, camera phones, private video recordings – to tell ‘the true story’ of an infestation of parasitic ‘isopods’ which have thrived on the bay’s plentiful sources of waste material, specifically torrents of chicken excrement routinely (and really) dumped into the water. These squirmy little buggers grow inside the human body, which sprouts suppurating boils and pustules, eventually driving the host mad as they’re eaten inside out. Before long the whole town is littered with the dead and the recovered footage shows the attempts of the local medical authorities and the Centre for Disease Control to isolate the cause of the infection and ease the suffering of the infected and the attempts of those unaffected to stay alive as all around them falls apart.
Levinson himself calls The Bay a 'cautionary horror tale' but in reality it’s just another forgettable entry in the found footage genre. Levinson’s message, worthy as it may be, is lost amongst the blood and gore and the pure sensationalism of a story which is often so bereft of real scares it has to resort to a couple of obvious and uncharacteristic 'jump shock' moments just to remind us we’re watching a horror movie and not something filmed on a cheap camera phone. The Bay manages to convey a sense of panic and horror but anything more meaningful and, indeed, cautionary, is lost in the general lo-fi schlockery of the entire enterprise.
Extras: Making of documentary / Trailer