Now that it’s been almost 40 years since Jaws permanently terrified swimmers into never wanting to dip a toe in the ocean again, the new ecological horror movie, The Bay, is threatening to do the same for the Chesapeake.
Directed by Barry Levinson and produced by Jason Blum and Oren Peli of Paranormal Activity fame, the eco-thriller takes on the real-life, ever-awful isopod, shown below. (Read the creepy critter’s full bio here: Bizarre Tongue-Eating Parasite Discovered Off the Jersey Coast.)
With parasite poetic license combined with the true and disconcerting facts about the Chesapeake Bay (algae blooms and dead zones, for starters) the film employs a barrage of “found” footage captured by everything from iPhones and security cameras to point and shoot gadgets and Skype, to piece together a panicked and nerve-wracking tale of a bay gone bad.
And bad it has gone. Bad to the bone. In the cautionary tale, massive amounts of steroid-rich chicken waste has been dumped into the water, causing the leech-like isopods to have mutated and move on from a taste for fish tongues to a taste for ... human flesh. And before you know it, all hell breaks loose.
Known for classics like Rain Man, Sleepers, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Diner – not epic startle fests – Levinson got the idea for The Bay after being asked to direct a documentary about environmental crises facing the Chesapeake Bay. After watching a 2009 “Frontline” broadcast on the topic he opted instead for the graphic fictional treatment, he told The New York Times. “I don’t know that we pay attention to facts anymore,” he said.
And indeed, with the onslaught of depressing documentaries about the state of the environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create awareness about specific issues. By making an intelligent horror film that entertains, frightens, and informs, Levinson is devising a new kind of activism, designed to reach new generations.
Telling the Times that he doesn’t like films that are, "too preachy,” Mr. Levinson hopes The Bay will provide both entertainment and reflection. Sometimes when humans toy with nature “it ultimately creates the ills that come about,” he said. “We somehow think we can do whatever we want. There are warning signs all the time, and we still ignore it. We ignore and go along our way and hope everything’s going to be fine.”
The Bay is being released by Lionsgate in theaters, iTunes and Video On-Demand on Nov 2.