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Originally published Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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'The Bay': As powerful and insubstantial as water

A review of Barry Levinson's eco-horror film, "The Bay," which takes the found-footage concept and runs away with it.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

'The Bay,' with Nansi Aluka, Christopher Denham, Stephen Kunken, Frank Deal, Kether Donohue, Kristen Connolly, Will Rogers. Directed by Barry Levinson, from a screenplay by Michael Wallach. 85 minutes. Rated R for disturbing violent content, bloody images and language. Several theaters.

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Barry Levinson's eco-horror film "The Bay" takes the found-footage concept and runs off with it, screaming. Here we have not just grainy home video, but a fishing-net full of other media: police video, local TV news broadcasts, cellphone footage, text- message transcripts, Skype sessions, 911 phone calls, surveillance video, webcams and surely others that I'm not remembering. It all runs together in a blurry electronic whoosh; like a text or a Tweet, it's effective but short-lived. Unlike some horror movies whose images linger, "The Bay" quickly disappears from memory, hitting hard and then vanishing into the ether.

During its brisk running time, though, "The Bay" efficiently creates some scares. Told through numerous points of view — a clueless young TV reporter (Kether Donohue), an ER doctor (Stephen Kunken), the mayor (Frank Deal), a young mother (Kristen Connolly) — it's the story of what happened on the 4th of July, 2009, in the small bayside town of Claridge, Md., where a mysterious plague suddenly killed hundreds of people and numerous fish and wildlife. The tale's being pieced together after the fact, with bits of footage (some of it supposedly suppressed) from various sources.

Levinson's use of little-known actors helps to sell "The Bay" as a found documentary, and most of the footage looks appropriately amateurish, though sometimes more disgusting (this plague is in the form of a parasite eating its way out from inside, with great gusto) than scary. For Halloween-week fare you could do a lot worse, but "The Bay" fades quickly — like blood in the water.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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