Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Bay

* spoilers *

A news team led by an inexperienced reporter named Donna went to Claridge, Maryland to report on the 4th of July festivities. All seemed to be going well with a crab eating contest, dunk booths, parades, and the like. Then people start to get sick in droves until the majority of the city is infected with a mysterious disease. The Bay is a found footage film that compiles news coverage, personal videos, facetime conversations, surveillance footage, hospital documentation, conversations with the CDC, and oceanographer's video report to create its narrative. Donna in the present (three years after the events of the film) comments over the footage she took along with all the other compiled videos to get the full picture of what happened. It took three years to get this footage out there because it was confiscated by the governement until an anonymous hacker group released it online.

Underneath the prestige and success of the idyllic looking town Claridge is a seedy underbelly of sacrificing the environment for financial benefit. The most lucrative businesses in the town are the chicken industry, restaurants, and tourism. A large chicken farm dumps over 5 million pounds of chicken waste into the bay each year doing untold damage. The water is full of bacteria plus all the pills people take every day which then is desalinate (but not filtered) and given back to the townspeople. Although people have protested the pollution, the drive of the mayor, good old American capitalism, and tradition keep those opposing voices to a minimum.

The real trouble starts when thirty people exhibit extensive boils over large parts of their bodies. Dead people are found disemboweled with tongues missing that are assumed to be murder victims. Things are still generally normal while these people suffer. The mayor condemns any reports of toxic water as fearmongering and stresses personal responsibility for safety. The public call in to a radio show with huge amounts of outlandish theories from biological warfare to vaccines. The makeup effects make the rashes and boils look absolutely disgusting and lend a sinister tinge to all the lighthearted celebrations of the town and its use of water. It's crazy, but realistic to see how so much can go wrong without any real response or effort to protect people. As the film goes on, more and more people get sick with increasingly terrible symptoms.

The film follows a few people intermittently through the story which include the oceanographers studying the polluted water, a teenage girl facetiming at the local ER, the doctor in the ER, Donna the reporter, the mayor of the town, cops patrolling the neighborhood, and an oblivious couple with their baby coming to visit family. Donna is the main person connecting all this together, but I found her annoying especially when she cared more about her naivete showing in the video over the devastation. My favorite was the doctor in the ER who worked with the CDC to find out the cause of the outbreak. He works tirelessly interviewing, treating, and operating on people plus giving all the information to the CDC despite the people's growing panic and pain in the ER plus the risk of infection for himself. He prompts a girl facetiming with her friend to record what is happening in order to garner more evidence.

The culprit turns out to be a mutated type of parasitic isopod paired with a bacterial infection. The natural type of these parasites target fish, get in through the gills, remove the tongue, and then replace it with their bodies. Other than that, it doesn't do any other harm besides sometimes causing them to be underweight. These mutated ones attack humans, fill their stomachs with larva, burst out of their bodies, and remove and replace their tongues. This is the perfect movie to watch for the 4th of July considering the current political climate. Those in power are actively shutting down the EPA and other restrictions that protect wildlife and the environment in favor of businesses, drilling, and jobs in defunct energy sources. This film is frightening because it shows an extreme version of what could happen if we refuse to take a good look at what is being done to the environment. The only flaw of the film is the annoying reporter Donna and the terrible CGI effects, usually with fast-moving isopods. The Bay takes a water creature feature similar to Jaws and adds an additional aspect that makes all of the water, not just the ocean, dangerous.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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