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Review: 'The Bay' swamped by bad choices

Barry Levinson can't save this film plagued by a poor plot and off-the-mark casting.

November 01, 2012|By Mark Olsen
  • Jane McNeill in "The Bay" from director Barry Levinson and the producers of "Paranormal Activity."
Jane McNeill in "The Bay" from director Barry Levinson and the… (Stan Flint / Roadside Attractions )

It was only a matter of time before the found footage craze drew a bona-fide name-brand Hollywood filmmaker into its ongoing vortex.

"The Bay" is directed by the Oscar-winning Barry Levinson, known for his longstanding connection to the city of Baltimore through such films as "Diner."

This time Levinson checks in on the small seaside town of Claridge, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay, with a story recounting an ecological horror show that (fictionally) occurred on July 4, 2009, and was subsequently covered up.

As pieced together in a Wikileaks-style information dump, the local water, described as a "toxic soup" of radioactivity and growth hormones from chicken excrement, has become suddenly infested with rapidly growing isopods that take host inside people and work their way out.

The story becomes more ridiculous as it escalates, the film's over-determined ecological focus undermining any real horror movie tension. Levinson's casting choices are off-the-mark as well — star Kether Donohue is just plain bad.

It is intriguing to see a filmmaker of Levinson's caliber grapple with the challenges a smaller budget present, and he manages to answer some of the questions that often vex found-footage movies — who assembled the footage and how did it come to exist in the first place?

Still, "The Bay" is make-work slumming, a scared-straight eco-horror PSA where the message comes first.

"The Bay." MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent content, bloody images and language. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At selected theaters.

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