Magazine article Screen International

The Bay

Magazine article Screen International

The Bay

Article excerpt

Dir: Barry Levinson. US. 2012. 85mins

Veteran filmmaker Barry Levinson takes a distinct change of cinematic direction with The Bay, a smartly made found-footage style creature feature that eschews big-star casting and instead goes of natural performances and slow-burn chills. The film is an environmental catastrophe film that feels all too real, and given the right word-of-mouth is the sort of film that could creep up on audiences and give them a shock.

Levinson succeeds with his mission to both entertain and inform.

The found-footage horror movie is, of course, very much en vogue these days, but Levinson wisely resists layering on the blood, gore and mayhem, and instead he allows his small-town tale of something nasty mutating in the waters to build with admirable tension. Likely to feature at genre festivals - the film screened in Midnight Madness in Toronto - The Bay could also work as a multiplex movie if campaign and images are handled right.

Levinson - whose hefty filmography includes Rain Man, Diner and Good Morning Vietnam - astutely uses multiple supposed media sources in telling his chilling tale, including video diaries, Skype, webcams, closed-circuit cameras, television channels and of course the ever-reliable hand-held video camera, with the different tones and textures of the material enhancing the eco-apocalyptic mock-doc style.

Against the rather morbid backdrop of millions of dead fish being washed ashore and blackbirds falling from the sky, on July 4, 2009, the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland, celebrates Independence Day with its usual events, such as street fairs, a crab-eating contest, fun'and'games and bathers frolicking on the waterfront.

But a deadly catastrophe struck the town, claiming more than 700 lives, and it is only now, three years later, that journalist Donna (Kether Donohue) - who as a young naïve intern was there when it all happened - has pieced together footage revealing the cover-up and the deadly killer... a mysterious parasitic outbreak.

The story of what happened unfolds over a 24-hour period, with Levinson teasing together supposed footage from mobiles, 911 calls, web cams etc., as well as adding in material from a video report - suppressed by the authorities - by two scientists (played by Nansi Aluka and Christopher Denham) who investigated flesh-eating bacteria in the bay and who - sadly for them - run into tongue-eating isopods that have been mutated due to pollution in the water, mainly from toxic waste from a nearby chicken factory. …

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