'The Bay' swamped by terrible choices ★ 1/2

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

"The Bay" is directed by Oscar-winning Barry Levinson, known for his long-standing 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 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 overdetermined 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 presents, 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 in which the message comes first.


'The Bay' -- 1 1/2 stars
MPAA rating:
R (for disturbing violent content, bloody images and language)
Running time: 1:25
Opens: Friday

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