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John’s Horror Corner: The Bay (2012), the best killer isopod movie on the market!

November 9, 2012

The Hof offered a less favorable review of The Bay.  But Hofsey is no horror fan (—not to say that he dislikes horror).  So, for readers who don’t drool over the next DTV horror releases from Fangoria magazine every week, perhaps you should turn to his review.  But the real horrorhounds may prefer my take; that of a true Horror Czar…


MY CALL:  Parasitic isopods?  Nope.  No one else has done that yet.  But this turns out to be more interesting and well-composed than exciting, there were hardly any scares.  I enjoyed it very much but hesitate to strongly advise this movie to others.  For me, it gets a solid “B”.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  No movie that I can summon compares well to this.  Lake Placid (1999) is too tame, The Thaw (2009) was just awful although conceptually similar, and Cabin Fever (2002), Splinter (2008), Piranha 3D (2010) and The Ruins (2008) are pure gore-hound flicks.

This film was directed by Barry Levinson (Academy Award-Winning Director of Rain Man, plus Disclosure and Sleepers).  He’s never done “horror” before—but, of course, Sleepers was more terrifying than A Nightmare on Elm Street in its own way—and I’m so glad he finally did.  Levinson brings a serious attention to detail that is often ignored in the recent found-footage subgenre fad.  And how perfect, in my opinion, that he teamed up with the Paranormal Activity production team.

From iphone recordings and news clips to security camera footage—quite an impressive media admixture—The Bay presents a small coastal Maryland town on Chesapeake Bay on the 4th of July.

In the beginning we are introduced to the film’s narrator Donna, an intern reporter who was on site covering the holiday festivities during “the event” and is now disclosing a collection of previously withheld-from-the-public clips.  She introduces us to the ill-fated town on the 4th of July:  boardwalk families coming together, games, Miss Crustacean…I’m actually reminded of the finale of Humanoids from the Deep (1980).  So many of these movies revolve around small towns dependent on summer tourism revenue (e.g., Piranha 3D).

It all begins as an “outbreak” of CDC concern, but escalates into the “animal horror” that was advertized.  Regular updates from a team of marine biologists and a concerned doctor’s regular exchanges with the CDC gradually reveal more about this outbreak’s causative organism.  There are also brief but effective clips spread throughout the film that add a very real humanity to the film; text messages, 911 calls, radio transmissions and voicemails.  The intentional diversity of media results in scenes of varying film quality, some quite poor.  However, this didn’t bother me.  It just added flavor.  I can see how others would disagree, though.

An explanation is offered as to the origin of the outbreak.  Investigative news clips reveal that 45 million pounds of chicken shit are dumped into the bay each year and others point to a water desalination plant that hydrates the chickens and the chickens’ steroid-rich diet.  Levinson really gets into it in a rather politically-geared context.  Not that you need to have any political cares to enjoy this film, but there is a strong political statement being made about handling our water management and waste disposal.  It’s all well assembled into a cohesive background story.

The story is carried by clips of our narrating reporter, a mother (Kristen Connolly; The Cabin in the Woods) in a young family of three, a few cops, the doctor and the mayor, along with numerous clips of suffering extras.  It’s not such a fresh take, but it’s fresh enough for me.  It also comes off as shockingly realistic.  Do a Google search for the “tongue-eating louse” Cymothoa exigua.  This isopod really is big and really eats tongues (which happens in the movie).

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