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The Bay – 7

Director – Barry Levinson

Cast – Kristen Connolly, Christopher Denham, Stephen Kunken, Andy Stahl, Kether Donohue, Michael Beasley, Justin Welborn, Jody Thompson, Frank Deal, David Andalman

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

The found-footage/mockumentary sub-genre has taken the horror scene by storm these last few years, producing a few good efforts (REC/REC2, PA/PA2, Cloverfield, The Tunnel, V/H/S, Diary of the Dead) and a slew of really bad ones not worth mentioning. As with every horror sub-genre this one has become convoluted with the usual elements – ghosts, zombies, Bigfoot, etc. – but we have now been given something new with The Bay. Heavy in biology and environmentally sound, this effort gives us a unique take on the virus element often used in horror films. Surprisingly directed by the very unlikely Barry Levinson (Sphere, Sleepers, Avalon, Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam), this is an effective experience that delivers horror in a different light and left me appreciating a unique story within a convoluted sub-genre.

First two million dead fish washed ashore, then one thousand blackbirds dropped dead from the sky. On July 4th, 2009 a death-dealing virus erupted through the quiet Cheseapeake Bay town of Claridge, Maryland, but the real story of what happened that Independence day that resulted in the deaths of 700 people has never before been told…until now. Three years after that menacing day a reporter has emerged with footage exposing the government cover-up and a parasitic killer no one would have suspected, unfolding over 24 hours of footage found from people’s cell phones, web cams, dash cams  surveillance cameras, and 911 calls in one of the worst catastrophes in US history.

Proactive didn’t work for her…

After a short introduction from Stephanie, a former Claridge reporter who witnessed the July 4th, 2009 events firsthand, the film takes off quickly and rarely relents. The first signs of horror erupt at the 8 minute mark, with something definitely wrong going on in the Chesapeake Bay. The bodies of two scientists were found floating along the shore, and despite numerous bites on the corpses an exact cause of death could not be found. Eventually we learn that a controversial decision was made to erect a desalination plant alongside a poultry plant that dumps over 1 million pounces of chicken feces into the water every year – feces that contains the steroids and antibiotics provided to the chickens to help them grow and survive in their harsh living quarters. What does this mean for the town? Well, it means their water is most likely contaminated with the steroids and antibiotics from the chicken “dump”lings (I HAD to) despite it being “the best water I’ve ever tasted” according to the town’s mayor. The town’s water doused with unnatural elements is not the town’s biggest problem though, but actually the small parasitic creatures spiked with steroids and antibiotics swimming within the water that will erupt in an outbreak they never saw coming. It begins with the victims suffering terrible boils spreading all over their body until the parasite finishes its dinner and literally bursts out of the person’s mouth. What I really enjoyed about this parasite is that it is actually a parasite that exists in real life, and a haunting one at that. When I took Ichthyology we learned of the Cymothoa exigua, or the tongue-eating louse, and that is the souped-up parasite laying waste to the town of Claridge. I have never seen such a parasite used in the horror genre and found it a fresh idea for an antagonist. Some may not “feel” this parasite as a good threat to the protagonists, but they did their evil bidding and they did it well.

Writer Michael Wallach, a first-timer, did a swell job at not just writing in good horror but also many heartbreaking scenes that will leave you glued to the screen and saddened at the same time. From an overweight woman covered in boils desperately searching for her husband in her time of need to young couples being torn to shreds while trying to save one another while swimming along the coast, Wallach finds ways to bring on the sorrow. The best example of this was a scene where an infected mother called her daughter and left a voicemail to warn her not to come back to the mainland and stay on her sailing trip. It was a heartbreaking scene thanks much to the direction, but the writing sealed the deal with the initial heartbreak in hearing the mother probably speak the last words she will ever say to her daughter, and then knowing that the daughter would not only never return home, but never hear the voicemail her dying mother left her.

Director Barry Levinson did a great job piecing this film together into one 84 minute haunting experience. I really enjoyed how the “documentary” was made from video taken from all sorts of devices and formats, and expertly spliced together into the cohesive flick I just watched. The cell phone videos add a sense of realism as they place us at the scene, and the surveillance clips leave us helpless as we can only watch the horror from a stationary view. There is plenty of blood and gore for the viewer to enjoy, with the horror slowly manifesting from live-action boils spreading over people’s bodies until the arthopodic parasites violently burst out of their spent host. Some of the scenes required CGI effects and I was mostly OK with them thanks to Levinson only using CGI when it was necessary and giving us the real stuff whenever possible. His execution of the horror was great overall and he also managed to deliver a heavy sense of dread that I felt throughout the entire experience. The musical score was minimal but very effective, and somehow this man found a way to make a sleepy seaside town one of the creepiest places to be.

Overall, The Bay is a fresh breath for the convoluted found-footage sub-genre.  We are given a unique killer and the story comes written with plenty of horror and sorrow.  The direction is solid and Levinson makes the most of the minimalist approach with good execution and kills even gorehounds should enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

She could have used a LifeProof case…

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