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Night Visions 2012: The Bay

Posted on Thursday November 1, 2012, 09:24 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2012: The Bay

Helsinki, it seems, doesn't go much for Hallowe'en. They see it as a kind of affected American import like we do in the UK - in fact they're even less convinced by it, since the shops don't appear to be full of tat like ours. I've yet to see a "sexy Edward Scissorhands" costume. Nevertheless, the long established horror and fantasy festival Night Visions kicks off on an appropriate October 31. There's already been some preamble, with guests John Waters and Paul Verhoeven taking to the stage of the Maxim theatre.
Empire arrives in time to bump into Joel Murray - brother of Bill - here representing Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America. He tells me that Goldthwait once had a collection of thousands of wind-up toys, lining his guest bedroom, which would autonomously move at any given time during the night. He then apparently replaced them with live snakes and spiders - "silent things that can kill you" - and musical instruments that he couldn't play, just in case anyone came round and could. "Are you looking forward to the movie?" he asks. Since his own film isn't playing for two days, and he could be referring to any of the others on offer, including a Finnish-language film with no English subtitles that's just about to start, this is a slightly perplexing question. I go with "yes". He says, "That's the right answer."

Anyway, the inaugural film of the festival is Dredd, which we've covered in some detail already, but hasn't reached Finland yet. People want to see it though. Tickets for the screening sold out four hours after it was announced, and the distributors here are now considering a full theatrical release instead of sending it straight to DVD. Result! Don't think Dredd is a flop just because of its US performance. Other territories get it much better.

The first 'new' film of the festival for me then was The Bay, which has been fascinating me since it first went into production because it's a found-footage movie, produced by Oren Peli and his Paranormal cohorts, and directed by Barrry Levinson. You read that right: Barry Levinson, the 70 year-old director of Diner and Good Morning, Vietnam, has got down with the kids and made a no-budget found-footage horror. It's good too. 

The bay of the title is the Chesapeake Bay in Claridge, Maryland, suffering from a sudden infestation of flesh-eating isopods, courtesy both of a nearby power plant and some unfortunate effluent disposal policies at a battery chicken farm. If you've ever seen that picture of a cheery-looking gigantic parasite inside a fish's mouth, you'll find this revoltingly believable. That thing is basically the villain of this film.

The Bay is at one and the same time a queasy body horror, and a don't-go-in-the-water yarn, and an epidemic disaster movie, but in the latter two categories it functions in the opposite way we've been used to lately. In many ways it's like the anti-Piranha: it's like Piranha, but no fun at all (distributors - you can have that for the poster). But the wider story of the authorities trying to deal with the outbreak also functions completely differently to, say, last year's Contagion, in that everyone is baffled and ineffective and nobody is very competent - like a Health Protection Agency version of The Thick of It, with no jokes. In and out of the water, everyone's out of their depth, leading to a tragedy of Biblical proportions.
It's very bleak, and a bit flat, so that it doesn't end as much as just stop. But it's certainly effectively crawly and nasty, and the sheer volume of supposed different sources for the footage makes it feel more like a proper documentary than a Blair Witch. Recommended. 

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