Sunday, August 25, 2013

Horror Film Review

The Bay (2012):  This is one seriously gross movie.  It's a found-footage mockumentary brought to us by Hollywood big shot Barry Levinson, known for such films as Bugsy and Rain Man as well as the classic TV cop show Homicide: Life on the Street. You can't help but feel the man is slumming with this eco-disaster horror flick; however, it's still Barry Levinson, so you know it isn't going to suck.  Although you may never eat seafood again.  I'm not kidding.

The film is presented and narrated by Donna (Kether Donohue), a rookie reporter who was at the scene of the Fourth of July celebrations in the small town on Chesapeake Bay where, in 2009, a nightmare unfolded.  The bay has been polluted with everything from chemical agents to nuclear waste to chicken shit from steroid-fed poultry.  Many days prior to the Fourth, scientists Jaquline and Sam (Nansi Aluka and Christopher Denham) discover the fish population are infected with a parasite that is normally too tiny to cause trouble.  The toxic soup in the bay accelerated their growth and, apparently, appetite.  It's worse than that, though.  The larvae of the parasite are small enough to survive the town's water treatment process and therefore are everywhere.  In the bay, in all animal life in the bay, and in the town's water supply.  Jaquline and Sam go diving to collect more data but are attacked by a swarm of parasites and die.  The CDC finds out later (too late) that no one in authority thought the bizarre deaths were important enough to report, so the town's Independence Day festivities aren't canceled.  Oops.  Our first hint something is amiss occurs during the crab-eating contest.  Let's just say it ends badly.  Soon thereafter, almost everyone falls ill.  The hospital's overrun and the meager police force is overwhelmed.  The CDC and governor are notified immediately but no action is taken until it's way, way too late.  In the end, over 700 die.  By the way, did I mention that these parasites look like cockroaches and devour their host from the inside out?  Anyway, the government finally comes in, kills the parasites by dumping tons of chlorine in the bay, and buys the survivors' silence.  Donna the reporter made the film to expose the disturbing truth.  Key word:  disturbing.

The message of The Bay is about as subtle as it is unique.  That is to say, it's neither.  It brings to mind JAWS and Outbreak and Blair Witch while never achieving the required synergy the filmmakers were shooting for.  What bothered me the most was the unrealistic reaction to the calamity by the CDC and state government.  All hell broke loose in the early afternoon.  By midnight, nearly 12 hours later, no CDC, no national guard, not even the state police.  Sorry, just don't buy it.  That said, the various storylines we follow (the scientists, a doc at the hospital, the reporter, a young couple with their baby that boated in late only to find a dead town) are for the most part quite compelling.  And gross.  Did I mention the gross?


Acting:  No performance stands out as either awesome or crappy.  Given that this is supposed to be found footage and therefore real people, I guess that's a good thing.
Story:  While not overly subtle with its eco-friendly message, the film doesn't beat us over the head with it either.  I like how they root the innards-munching critter in science.  That's the key.  The horror stems from the irrefutable plausibility of the plot.
Direction:  It's a scattershot approach as we're bounced from security camera to security camera, from home video to home video.  While there are a number of tense scenes, there isn't a collective push toward a satisfying climax.  We just get Donna and the occasional explanation written on the screen. 
Production Values:  It's not easy to judge found-footage from this standpoint.  All I can say is that the sets look real and the sound/lighting is surprisingly good.  No clue what the budget was. 
Gore/FX:  Gore...yes, there is that.  Infected folks break out in boils of a spectacular nature.  Then they vomit blood and literally puke their guts out.  We're also shown the parasites chewing their way out through the flesh.  The critters must be CGI, but it's impossible to tell.  Oh, yeah...the thing with the tongues is particularly icky.
Scares:  There are a few.  The woman climbing into the cop car toward the end got me.  The scene where the cops enter a house and only the audio is available is crazy intense. 
Ending:  Woman carrying her baby down a deserted street in the middle of town, then exposition by Donna regarding the chlorine and payoffs.  Not what you'd call exciting.
Verdict:  Should you see The Bay?  I can't think of a reason not to.  Well, if you have a delicate stomach, you may want to take special care lest you involuntarily redecorate your living room by explosively blowing chow.  I did mention it's gross, right?

Rating:  3 out of 5

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