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DVD Review: 'The Bay'

‘The Bay' is toxic.
Modified: February 21, 2013 at 4:14 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013

DVD review: ‘The Bay'

Many great directors got their start making cheap, exploitative horror films, but Barry Levinson, the director of “Rain Man,” “Diner,” “The Natural” and “Wag the Dog,” went in the opposite direction.

It is hard to fathom how Levinson ended up taking cues from found-footage directors such as Oren Peli (“Paranormal Activity”), yet here he is with “The Bay,” an ecological disaster movie in which the government covers up the water-based devastation of fictional Claridge, Md.

Whether he is slumming or has organically arrived at this sad state hardly matters. Either way, “The Bay” is toxic.

Most of the narrative thrust comes from the work of neophyte journalist Donna Thompson (the thoroughly unconvincing Kether Donohue), who is making a video diary-style documentary based on what she witnessed during a 2009 internship at a local TV station. Over the course of several hours during July 4 festivities, townspeople begin developing rashes and pustules, vomiting blood and exhibiting other signs of infection.

This is a nice way of saying that large water bugs, or isopods, start bursting out of their stomachs, necks and upper thighs.

In a making-of featurette included in the DVD, Levinson talks about the scientific basis for “The Bay,” including the 40 percent of Chesapeake Bay that is considered a “dead zone” and the effects of runoff from neighboring poultry plants.

But no matter how much Levinson wants to sell his film as a serious piece of speculative environmental fiction, “The Bay” is a gross-out movie — a really gross gross-out movie. And that's fine, but Levinson is demonstrably better than this, or at least he used to be.

George Lang