Film review: The Bay

A clever and chilling eco-horror movie by Barry Levinson that feels a mere hair's breadth away from reality.

In Barry Levinson's The Bay, the residents of an American coastal town begin to die gruesome deaths. Courtesy Roadhouse Attractions
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Barry Levinson's The Bay is an eco-horror film with a realistic touch and a dire warning, writes Stephen Applebaum

The Bay

Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Kether Donohue, Andy Stahl, Christopher Denham

Teaming up with the Paranormal Activity creator Orin Peli – and taking on a co--producing role – the veteran filmmaker Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam, Diner) has made a clever and chilling eco-horror movie that feels a mere hair's breadth away from reality.

And in some ways it is, because not only is much of the science that underpins the story authentic, but so is the creepy--looking organism that wreaks bloody havoc in a picturesque coastal town.

Like Peli's supernatural hit, The Bay is a found-footage movie. Oh no, you say, not another one of those. Yes, it is, but this is a good one.

Levinson handles his material so expertly and with such a feeling of urgency and timeliness that he breathes new life into the somewhat overused format.

The footage comprises confiscated personal and public digital data that is being disseminated via a -Wikileaks-like website by Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) in an effort to reveal the truth about a terrifying story that had been suppressed by the authorities – and reported as an “environmental mystery” by the mainstream media – three years earlier.

Donna is an inexperienced intern in the fictitious Maryland town of Claridge in Chesapeake Bay, reporting on the July 4 celebrations for a local TV news station.

The day begins with the townsfolk in high spirits. However, the fun ends abruptly when revellers suddenly start falling sick.

People’s skin comes out in a rash, which then erupts into agonising blisters, boils and lesions. Before long, they slowly begin -dying.

A vast array of different media – including FaceTime messages, texts, emails, footage from mobile phones, CCTV, in-car cameras and more – creates a vivid and gruesome collage of a town in -complete chaos.

Sufferers pour into the local hospital where an overwhelmed doctor, exhausted by having to remove the infected limbs of countless sufferers, awaits help from baffled staff at the Center for Disease Control. Meanwhile, Claridge’s citizens continue to die painful and grisly deaths, like characters in an early David Cronenberg horror movie.

As the pieces of information fall into place and the cause becomes clear, we learn that what occurred was a disaster waiting to happen: a product of environmental negligence, vested interests and complacency.

The result is a horror film with a message, a warning and a firm grasp of the zeitgeist. Highly recommended.

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