Keep away from the bay! —- the body of water, that is, not the movie.
I was pointed in the direction of THE BAY (2012) by some folks at NECON who spoke very highly of it. THE BAY is a found-footage horror movie by acclaimed director Barry Levinson, and after catching this one on streaming video, I’d have to say that I agree with my NECON friends that THE BAY is definitely a movie worth viewing.
THE BAY recounts events from a 2009 4th of July festival in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, in which hundreds of people died and all video footage of the tragedy was confiscated by the government— of course—until now. That’s because former reporter Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) has put together documentary footage that will reveal the truth from that day for the first time.
Thompson provides the narration which pieces the story together in an interview where she looks back at the events of that day, when she was a young reporter on her first assignment, a human interest story covering the Fourth of July celebration, and so much of the footage comes from her cameraman. But there are other sources as well.
There’s footage of two marine biologists who are investigating a strange parasite found inside the fish inside the bay. The bodies of these two biologists turn up dead, victims of an “apparent shark attack.”
Things begin on the 4th like any other day, except that soon people begin to break out in horrendous rashes and boils, and they grow violently ill. The perpetrator here is the parasite discovered by the biologists, and what it does is enter its victims’ bodies, and then eat them out from the inside, feasting on their internal organs until they eat their way out of their victims. Nice!
The reason this is happening is the unscrupulous mayor (Frank Deal) has carelessly allowed a humongous chicken plant to dump its chicken feces into the water, feces that are chock full of steroids and growth hormones intended to produce ultra plump chickens, but the unintended side effect is that they also produced monstrous parasites which now infest the bay.
THE BAY is a satisfying thriller for several reasons. The number one reason, and the reason I liked this movie as much as I did, is the strong central performance by Kether Donohue as reporter Donna Thompson. While she’s okay as the frightened newbie reporter in the found footage scenes, she knocks the ball out of the park as the seasoned survivor of the ordeal looking back at it several years later. Her performance as the narrator is first-rate. She’s the glue that holds the movie together.
I also liked that THE BAY was based on truth. Unless you’ve had your head stuck in the sand the past few years, you’re probably aware that the food industry in the United States has been under heavy scrutiny, and rightly so. The back story of the chicken plant comes off as plausible, mostly because plants like this exist, and the idea that they would allow contaminants into the water is not unrealistic.
And THE BAY is also a decent horror movie. There are some neat, nail biting scenes and plenty of scares throughout. The scenes showing the parasites eating their victims from the inside out are wince inducing. I also liked the scenes where young Donna is reporting from the empty dock and suddenly screams erupt in the distance all around her. It’s very very creepy.
The found footage style works here, and it’s a nice job by veteran director Barry Levinson, who’s not known for his genre work. Levinson is best known for his early films, DINER (1982), THE NATURAL (1984), and RAIN MAN (1988) to name a few.
Michael Wallach wrote the believable screenplay, and it works as well as it does because in addition to the necessary thrills and chills, its background story is a credible one. Even though the horror elements of THE BAY are all there in their gory glory, the film plays like a documentary and so the thrills are all the more disturbing.
While Kether Donohue steals the movie as reporter Donna Thompson, there are a couple of other notable acting performances as well. Robert C. Treveiler stands out as CDC Dr. Williams, who listens in disbelief and helplessness as he receives reports from the local doctor about what’s going on in Chesapeake Bay
And Frank Deal makes for a slimy Mayor John Stockman, a character who know doubt went to the Murray Hamilton school for mayors. Hamilton of course played Mayor Vaughn in JAWS (1975), the guy who wanted to keep the beaches open in spite of the fact there was a 25 foot great white shark in the water constantly seeking its next meal.
Speaking of JAWS, while that classic frightened moviegoers everywhere and took the fun out of swimming, after watching THE BAY, you’re not going to be too keen on swimming either, nor drinking water or eating seafood— or even eating chicken for that matter!
If there’s anything that hurts this movie, it’s the fact that the parasites remain mostly unseen. The film could have used a more tangible threat. I think this is one reason why the movie may have flown under most people’s radar. It comes in so strongly on the documentary side, that it almost masks its horror elements, which is too bad, because the horror elements are all there. THE BAY is quite graphic and scary to boot.
All in all, I liked THE BAY a lot and highly recommend it. If you’re in the mood for some summer thrills, and want something a bit more realistic than SHARKNADO (2013), take a trip to THE BAY.
Just don’t stay for dinner. Because if you do, you’re the one who will be on the menu.