“There’s something wrong with the water.”
Barry Levinson has had an odd career. With an Oscar under his belt, and another half dozen nominations, he’s done well for himself. He can consider his career, spanning the last 43 years, a success. His recent work does leave much to be desired, sadly. Obviously, the logical next step is to jump genre and go for an all out gore-fest involving flesh-eating parasites to fill the void. “The Bay” fills said void in his eclectic career. This film takes a page out of the ocean’s natural nightmare manual and delivers a story that’ll both disgust, terrify, and mildly confuse you.
“The Bay” introduces us to a young reporter recounting her experiences in surviving a disastrous outbreak. On the 4th of July weekend, a small Maryland town and its residents find themselves in the middle of a horrible crisis where nearly the entire population is infected by some sort of parasite. Things get more deadly and more gruesome when the parasites are found to be quite large and quite aggressive, both on land and in the water, outside and inside the body.
“It’s eating their organs.”
Open water holds a special hellish place in my nightmares. “Jaws” did not keep me out of the water. But the thought that Cthulhu might be waiting for us deep enough in the ocean just scares me shitless. Call me idiotic. It’s still terrifying. “The Bay” doesn’t try to tap into the open water fears of us land-dwellers, but it does make your skin crawl in other ways. The parasites are water-based (and unfortunately for your dreams, quite fact-based to an extent), and so there is that aspect of horror to it when the action is always so near to the shore. The real terror comes from the horrific nature of the infection. The makeup and effects are quite impressive and grotesque and will churn even the steeliest of stomachs.
Where the film loses its edge is in the delivery of its story and the idiocy of its characters. Yes, overweight Americans on their 4th of July high are not an intelligent animal, but these people are just asking to have their organs eaten. There’s also a doctor who does treatments and surgeries on infected victims for an entire day before having a sudden “Aha!” moment when he realizes it’s a parasite… qhich he somehow never noticed earlier, and about 23 hours too late. There’s also some half-assed, shoehorned “message” about environmental awareness and ocean dumping. Something about super-chicken shit mutating the sea life from factory runoff. I think.
“It’s eating them from the inside.”
Overall, “The Bay” is a half-decent horror with a gross-out factor that surpasses its waddling plot, and iffy satire. I’ll also never understand why these found footage films have to consist of 50% post-action interviews. It’s not real. Stop making it so falsely realistic before it becomes boring! Levinson is not anywhere near where he used to be as a filmmaker, but “The Bay” proves that he can at least still surprise us. Perhaps he can do it again soon.