Review: THE BAY (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Review: THE BAY (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

Throughout his illustrious career, veteran director Barry Levinson is primarily known for his small-scale comedic dramas by the likes of his beloved "Baltimore" series (1982's DINER, 1987's TIN MEN, 1990's AVALON and 1999's LIBERTY HEIGHTS) and of course his biggest hit to date, 1988's RAIN MAN, in which the movie won four Academy Awards. He tackled other genres as well with varying degree of success, such as 1984's THE NATURAL (baseball drama), 1991's BUGSY (gangster drama), 1994's DISCLOSURE (techno thriller) and 1998's SPHERE (sci-fi thriller). In his new movie, THE BAY marks Levinson's first foray into found-footage horror genre. It's a radical change of pace, and it's also interesting to see how an old dog like Levinson can brings his directing experience to this current genre craze. Produced by none others than Oren Peli of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY fame, THE BAY is a genuinely creepy, if somewhat hollow thriller that exploits the horror of an ecological disaster.

The movie follows a shocking revelation of the fateful July 4, 2009 celebration that quickly went awry in the sleepy Chesapeake Bay harbor town of Claridge, Maryland. A sole eyewitness named Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue), who managed to survive that event, sets up a Skype interview while unveiling a series of chilling footage that the government has been covering up the whole truth for the past three years.

Back then, Donna was a news intern covering the Fourth of July celebration for the local news network. At the beginning, the celebration was filled with lots of fun activities and every townspeople are enjoying themselves. Not long after, something bad has happened -- the townspeople started showing signs of a terrible infection. Ugly rashes start to envelop all over their bodies, some of them start vomiting blood, and many ends up mysteriously dead. Apparently isopod parasites are found in a school of dead fishes floating at the bay by two ocean biologists that somehow made its way into a human host. Soon the parasites begin to spread at an alarming rate where they consume its victims from the inside out. Local doctors are completely unsure what to do to stop the massive outbreak as more victims pile up until the population at the Chesapeake Bay drops drastically.

Instead of a typical found-footage horror movie that shot in a way where some teenager wobbles around with his/her camcorder, the movie is effectively captured in a pseudo-documentary style like you are watching a special episode of a National Geographic channel. Levinson is smart enough not to fall victim with the deliberately shaky-cam style that caused the viewers a lot of nausea or very hard to see what is going on within the footage. Make no mistake, there are some shaky-cam moments, but at least they are watchable. Here, he mixes all kind of multiple video formats he can think of (video cam, surveillance cam, CCTV, mobile phone, Skype and even FaceTime) and he succeeds admirably to keep viewers off balance throughout the course of the movie.

Apart from that, Levinson also effectively conveys a sense of uncertainty and paranoia with a generous amount of stomach-churning gores (all the icky effects caused by the isopod parasites) and sudden burst of violence (the scene involving an infected, hysterical cop gunning down another cop before killing himself is genuinely shocking).

And while Levinson and screenwriter Michael Wallach does make an effective cautionary tale of an ecological disaster -- something that should inspire or teach the public a lesson or two about not to undermine environmental pollution, THE BAY can be exceptionally slow-moving at times. Other times, viewers might be put off by a somewhat anticlimactic finale that only be unveiled in a matter-of-fact scenario.

THE BAY may have been erratic, but somewhere in between, it's nice to see that there's still life left in this overcrowded found-footage horror craze.

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