Published: October 29, 2012
Directed by Barry Levinson
Opens at the Charles Theatre on Nov. 2
Creepy-crawlers on steroids star in The Bay, Barry Levinson’s new eco-horror film. Fed on tons of chickenshit runoff in the Chesapeake, schools of underwater isopods (Google it) have developed into organ-eating scourges that swiftly chew their way through quaint, fictional Claridge, Md.—on the Fourth of July, no less.
And yet, this bayside-tourist-town massacre has been swept under the media rug. Three years after the incident, Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue), a survivor, posts previously confiscated footage of the town’s gruesome demise, spliced together, on a WikiLeaks-type web site.
Part gory, part environmentally factual, and part political, The Bay mashes up several themes and lightly developed story lines, but it plunges on at an even, entertaining pace.
The most notable feature of the movie is its medium. Levinson used digital cameras exclusively for the film—security cameras, phone cameras, footage from Skype calls, etc. The effect is at times even more chilling than the most graphic horror movie. In one scene, two police officers enter a darkened house; their patrol car’s camera captures only the image of the house and the muffled screams coming from inside. The narrator explains the audio has been enhanced to help explain the situation that unfolded. Captions pop up on a blurry night-vision shot of the home’s windows. “What’s on them?” reads one caption. “Shoot me! Shoot me!” reads another. The unseen can be just as unsettling as a serial killer slashing his first victim.
However, the all-digital palette Levinson relies on also lends itself to absurdity. When an unsuspecting young married couple arrives in Claridge after most of the devastation has occurred, the husband videotapes getting of the boat, walking up the pier—and then keeps recording as they discover the town’s main drag littered with bloody corpses. The bewildered wife intermittently chimes in that he put the camera away—an attempt on Levinson’s part, one imagines, to acknowledge the improbability of the scenario.
The Bay isn’t going to scare you out of the water a la Jaws (though germaphobes will likely suffer some aftershocks). The factual environmental charges it levels won’t carry the same weight as, say, An Inconvenient Truth, because, after all, it is a fictional horror movie. And it won’t be the most beloved work of Levinson’s oeuvre. But, unlike most horror films, it will not only make you jump, it will make you think.
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