*** (out of four)
“It’s on me! Is it on me? I can feel something crawling on me!”
If those words are going through your mind at the sight of the creepy little parasite thingies in “The Bay,” that makes two of us. Following a string of mediocre and worse movies (“What Just Happened,” “Man of the Year,” “Envy”), director Barry Levinson takes a surprising left turn and reaps the benefits from this unsettling horror movie, which is told as if an amateur filmmaker were collecting all the unseen footage of an unreported tragedy.
That filmmaker is Donna (Kether Donahue of “Pitch Perfect”), who spent July 4, 2009, in Claridge, Md., working as a summer TV reporting intern. What she witnessed was far from the usual small-town jubilation and crab-eating contests—although some T-shirts she sees read “I got crabs.” No, what occurs joins “Jaws” and “Open Water” on the shortlist of films that can make you really, really uncomfortable about going in the water.
Other familiar faces thrown into an increasingly horrifying, skin infection-laced situation include Kristen Connolly (“Cabin in the Woods”) as a lawyer taking a 7-hour boat trip to Claridge with her husband and baby, and Illinois native Christopher Denham (“Argo”) as a scientist investigating bacteria and other unpleasantness in the Chesapeake Bay.
Without a ton of substance and too many clear-cut answers, “The Bay” documents the bureaucracy and communication breakdowns that allow for a disaster that many people could have seen coming and prevented. Mostly this quality midnight movie reinforces that, no matter how seemingly innocent, movies named after idyllic seaside locations—be it a cove, a beach, an island, whatever—always feature terrible things. You may now begin dreading “The Isthmus.”
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