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Marina Antunes [DVD News 03.04.13] scifi horror thriller



Also be sure to check out our NYFF review of the movie

It was only a matter of time before someone made another really good thriller about the evils of pollution. The Bay is very much an eco-thriller, a story that plays with some very real concerns and mixes in a cover up, the kind that conspiracy theorists thrive on. There are signs of local politicians lining their pockets at the expense of the town's natural resources, government officials who are lackadaisical about a small town doctor's concerns and a media blackout.


Donna Thompson was an inexperienced reporter sent to Chesapeake Bay to cover the July 4th festivities. She grew up in town and had the advantage of an insider's perspective into the events which she was covering as part of her internship at a local news station. All was going well until an incident at the crab eating competition put a damper on activities and soon the town was plagued by much more than just a few folks throwing up. The local hospital was quickly overrun by individuals reporting rashes and boils and before anyone could figure out what was going on, people started to die in rapid numbers.

Michael Wallach's script opens three years after the events of Chesapeake Bay and The Bay plays out as Thompson reveals to the public not only what happened on July 4th but also the events that led to the devastation of the idyllic seaside town. The choice is a good one because rather than simply seeing Thompsons limited view of the events, we now get a full explanation of not just what happened but how it came to be. The result is that The Bay, rather than simply being a horror movie about some nasty parasite who infests a local town and kills off nearly the entire population, the movie is a cautionary tale about the side effects of ecological contamination. Not only can these disasters kill the local environment but there's a high chance that once in the water, they could also kill the people who live in the area.

What's particularly scary about The Bay is that it outlines how contamination is slow to spread and when it's finally a cause for concern, chances are that it's also too late to do anything about it. Leave it to a horror movie to drive home the perils of overlooking environmental concerns. It certainly helps that The Bay sticks close to reality, using a little talked about but common and very real parasite as the basis for its monster and the idea that hormones, along with various other chemicals, are responsible for the parasites mutation into human killing monsters.

The story of the day's events is edited together from various video feeds, providing an excellent overview of how the day quickly spiralled from bad to catastrophic. Levinson uses the various feeds to great effect though perhaps the best of them are the police car videos which are by far the most chilling, capturing audio of horrific events unfolding inside houses with no video. The old idea that the director can never show you anything as horrific as what you think up is put to great use in these scenes though it's worth noting that there is some pretty graphic video to be seen, the most disturbing of which is the hospital footage which features some of the best make-up I've seen in some time.

The very make-up of the movie doesn't allow for emotional interaction with any of the characters beyond Thompson and quite honestly, she comes across as so incompetent that mostly I was annoyed by her (something the older Thompson comments on) but at one point they do introduce Stephanie and her story does feel like it's a cheap attempt to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience, something which is unnecessary considering the movie's documentary-like approach and the fact that it already does a pretty good job of scaring the bejesus out of the audience.

The Bay could easily have been written off as just another found footage movie but the story and editing deliver not only a really intense horror movie but also a very believable "what if" scenario.

The Bay is available on DVD Tuesday, March 5th.

DVD Extras: Feature commentary with director Barry Levinson and a making of featurette titled "Into the Unknown: Barry Levinson on The Bay"

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