Opening with an array of actual news footage, Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson's latest work The Bay works with "found" home videos, security cameras, police patrol car cameras, and Skype and FaceTime recordings, giving us a sense of the urgent realism behind this eco-horror/thriller. Why should Levinson make a film about isopods (or sea lice, as some prefer to call them) taking over residents near Chesapeake Bay? Because we're a nation living in fear of one another, and perhaps we should pull ourselves together and fight the greater monster: greed.
Although greed is not an overt theme in The Bay, it is the underlying cause of the parasitic growth that killed more than 700 residents of Clairidge, Maryland on July 4, 2009. The Bay opens with a journalist, Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue), exposing, via Skype, the government cover-up of that fateful Independence Day. In a post-Watergate America, this film fuels our conspiracy-loving, government-questioning selves where big business always wins and science (as good as it gets) is no longer the answer. With the environment continually in the forefront of the news (and, to some extent, in the current presidential race), it's no wonder there's a fear of parasites eating us from the inside out—or outside in, if you're one of the lucky ones. Without a doubt it's a creep- crawly film because this new strain of sea lice scurry across the screen at least a dozen times—Google "isopod" for a horrifying glimpse. Let's hope nature stays in balance at least a little longer.
In a statement, Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Bugsy) described his process: "Do it on a micro budget, use no famous actors, and shoot it with consumer cameras like iPhones and point and shoots to create an authentic visual language of found footage. In the end, we used 21 digital platforms. We took all kinds of steps like this to make a hyper-realistic found footage movie."
The Bay connects emotionally through this home video-style footage (the teens at the dock, the couple on the boat), though sometimes the results are more hilarious than moving. Nonetheless, the result is something suspenseful, entertaining, and, at 84-minutes, just the right length. Levinson sums it up: "Maybe at the end of the day, The Bay is a cautionary tale. A tale that both entertains and disturbs."
The Bay screens September 29 at 11:59pm and September 30 at 9:00pm as part of the 50th New York Film Festival's new Midnight Movies section. Barry Levinson will be in person at the midnight screening. Rush tickets available!