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Featured DVD Review: The Bay

March 2nd, 2013

The Bay - Buy from Amazon

The Bay is a documentary about the Hudson Bay Company, a Canadian retail chain that is the oldest company in North America and one of the oldest companies in the world, having been incorporated in 1670. -- No, wait. I'm being told that is incorrect. The Bay is actually a horror film that opened in limited release last year. It earned very good reviews, but completely bombed at the box office. Granted, most horror films struggle in limited release, but this was even worse than most. Were the moviegoers right to stay away? Or should it find a more receptive audience on the home market?

The Movie

The film begins with a montage of news footage about the mass deaths of fish and birds before we are told that while the news agencies covered the death of these animals, the real story was covered up. We then flash to Donna Thompson, who was a rookie reporter and was there in Claridge, Maryland on July 4th, 2009 when the incidents happened and she knows what the government covered up.

As Donna narrates, we see the incident as it develops through countless clips of camera phone footage, CCTV footage, recorded video calls, recorded 911 calls. We also learn a bit about what led to it. The problems began six weeks before Independence Day when two environmental scientists were discovered dead in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Most people thought it was a shark attack, which would be rare, but not unheard of, so they didn't think too much of it. Their work, and others investigating the pollution created by the local chicken industry, was causing some concerns among the residents of the town, but the mayor, John Stockman, pushed for the industry and protected it. During the July 4th Celebration, hundreds of people broke out in boils and blisters and lesions, prompting Dr. Jack Abrams to go to the CDC. We also meet Stephanie and Alex Talbot, who were visiting for the fireworks. For Stephanie, it was a return home, as she grew up in the area.

That's pretty much it for the plot. The film is mostly just short clips following a few characters, as we learn more and more about the outbreak. The format of the movie works, mostly. There are a few jump scares and a lot of gross Body Horror type scenes. However, this comes at the expense of a solid narrative, which does hurt the mood and tension, and because of this, the film dragged at times. It is less of a horror film than it is agitprop for stricter environmental protections. This is not a strike against the film, but one should know this going in.

Two side notes. Firstly, I hate movies that pretend to be based on a real story, but are not. It is like the filmmakers are admitting their script isn't interesting, unless you think it really happened. However, in this case, the story, while exaggerated, as a basic plot is actually quite real. The environmental damage done to the Chesapeake Bay is extensive. Two, I want a giant isopod as a pet. I think they look cute.

The Extras

Extras include an audio commentary track with the director, Barry Levinson, who also narrates a 12-minute making of documentary. That's not a lot of extras, but about on average for a limited release.

The Verdict

The Bay is an effective film that is more a cautionary tale than a true horror film. It is worth checking out, but maybe start with a Video on Demand rental before buying the DVD.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Bay, Barry Levinson, Kristen Connolly, Kether Donohue, Will Rogers, Stephen Kunken, Frank Deal