The bay | barry levinson | michael wallach | will rogers | kristen connolly | kether donohue | parasite | found footage | found-footage | animal attack | sci-fi | sci fi | thriller | nansi aluka | christopher denham | stephen kunken | frank deal | kimberly campbell
Film: The Bay
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Michael Wallach
Starring: Will Rogers, Kristen Connolly and Kether Donohue
This was a film that I first heard about when I was working at Family Video. I would blindly take home the new horror releases to see if there were any independent ones that were hidden gems. Not to play my hand too early, but I really enjoyed it and it made me feel quite uncomfortable. Decided to give it a rewatch as my girlfriend Jaime watched a couple of found footage films and was intrigued so with this quarantine/pandemic going on, felt this was a solid one to show her to scare us both. The synopsis is chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs.
We start this off getting an interview with Donna (Kether Donohue). She was an intern with the local news station and was covering the 4th of July Crab Festival in Claridge, Maryland. This town is on the Chesapeake Bay. Something starts to happen during this where people are getting sick and no one knows why.
The movie then fills us in that there are some super farms in the area where they have a ton of chickens being kept together. Their feed has steroids in it and the farms are illegally dumping their excrement into the bay. We get footage of a man who is guerilla style filmmaking to show what these farms are doing and the negative impact that has on the environment.
This movie also has two oceanographers who are studying the bay as well. There’s Jaquline (Nansi Aluka) who is from the Cousteau Institute and with her is Sam (Christopher Denham) from the University of Maryland. They notice something wrong with fish they find in the ocean and discover what could be causing things in the town. This problem is made worse when Mayor Stockman (Frank Deal) is ignoring the data.
To ramp this up even more, there’s a couple who have rented a boat of Stephanie (Kristen Connolly) and Alex (Will Rogers). They’re bringing their baby with them to return to Stephanie’s hometown for the fireworks display. When things start to get crazy, her mother tries to warn her off, but being on the water, they don’t receive it.
The cases start to go into the hospital where Dr. Abrams (Stephen Kunken) reaches out to the CDC about what is going on. They don’t know at first and scrambling to help. They’re looking at bacterial, viral or possible fungal, but what really happening is much faster and much more terrifying. On top of that, some of this is true.
As I’ve alluded to, this movie really did unnerve me the first time that I saw it. What is scary is the brutal realism of what we’re seeing here. There are things in this movie that I knew to be true, but Jaime was informing me that while she’s currently reading a book call ‘Food is the Solution’ where they’re talking about things in this movie. Not going to lie, that unnerved me even more.
Going from this idea, the director Barry Levinson came up with the concept of this story with Michael Wallach. He was troubled when he learned this area’s water is 40% dead. He elected to make it into a horror movie instead of a documentary to showcase that if we don’t change our ways, this could be something that could realistically happen. I don’t want to get too preachy here as I don’t like to tell others what to do. With this COVID-19 thing going on currently, I do think that we need to take a second look at our economy and how we treat the environment to be honest.
What also makes this scary is the creature in this movie is real. Isopods are real things that from what I’ve read actually are very similar to woodlice or the lice you would find on people. They’ve adapted to live in the ocean, but that’s not where the adaptations have stopped. What is terrifying if that they’re parasites that can eat the tongue out of a fish and then take over as its tongue until the fish dies. They also can grow as large as 2 and half feet. This is legit the thing of nightmares so coupling this with what we’re doing to the environment can really make a nightmare like this come true.
That’s not to say that this movie isn’t flawed. I do have some slight issues with things. This movie is set in 2009 and there’s a girl who is using FaceTime with a friend. This unfortunately wasn’t a feature until 2010. I do like the idea of Levinson though getting a bunch of different ways of footage filmed to give us this story. It is just a bit problematic at times if I’m honest.
To shift this over to the pacing, I have to say that I think it’s on point. We don’t waste any time giving me an unnerved feeling with the basis of what we’re going to get. It then slows down slightly to introduce us to our main players and see what the brief baseline of this town is. We then see the panic of not knowing what is happening and how quickly communication breaks down. This is scary for what the United States is going through at the time of writing this and it really makes me see that it could happen. The implications of this movie are pretty spot on.
That will take me to the acting. It isn’t great and Jaime did point that out. We both agree though, I think that works in its favor. It makes it feel that much more realistic. It is interesting that two of the actors I recognize from other things though. Connolly was in one of my favorite horror movies, The Cabin in the Woods, and Donohue was briefly in Pitch Perfect. The rest of the cast really do feel like the person they’re supposed to be in this small town and it really adds to the realism for me.
Next I should cover the effects. Normally for a found footage film I don’t really want a lot of them. This one does have some with the Isopods themselves. They don’t look amazing, but I’m willing to overlook that. They’re small enough and we don’t get the longest look at them so I think that is fine for the movie. They did unnerve me to be honest and I think part of that is even when we can see them, we can hear them which sometimes is worst. I do like all of the different forms of found footage that we got. They helped with the realism of a movie like this as well.
Now with that said, this movie is one that I wasn’t sure how it was going to hold up after this second viewing and I have to say, I think I like it even more. Making this a found footage film, I think that grounds it in reality and how many of the aspects of it are based in scientific findings really makes it that much more terrifying for me. I don’t question why people are filming, especially when one group is a news crew which is their job and the other being that they’re scientists. The pacing is on point for me and the acting feels amateur, adding more to the realism. I thought the effects were fine and the sound design was great for the creatures. Overall I’d say this is a good movie for sure. It has some slight flaws, but the realism of the story is on point.
My Rating: 8 out of 10