Just When You Thought The Water Was Safe

In 1975, a little movie was released that traumatized a generation.  That movie was called Jaws.  Now imagine the sharks are microscopic, in your drinking water, and eat you from the inside out.

That movie is The Bay by Barry Levinson.

The bay in question is the Chesapeake.  The “sharks” are isopods, which are actually real things that eat their host’s tongue and then take its place.

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This is one of the most horrifying real natural phenomena I’ve ever read about

Granted it’s never been documented in humans, but Great Whites don’t go on massive killing sprees as often as Jaws made it appear either.  Nature +1 makes a pretty effective horror movie though.

These isopods are special, with their growth amped up by unregulated amounts of steroid-laced chicken poop being dumped into the water, in addition to the occasional nuclear waste spill that was too tiny to be reported, neither of which are actually filtered by the desalination plant.  The scariest thing about the movie is that this kind of careless disregard for what goes into drinking water isn’t at all farfetched, as evidenced by recent events in West Virginia.

So the shit all comes down on the Fourth of July, naturally, the peak of tourist season and water activities.  Essentially anyone who comes into contact with any water first breaks out into a rash, before several hours later dying most horribly from the now full-grown (and unnaturally enlarged) parasites munching on their innards (including their tongues sometimes).

The narrative is presented as “found footage” by an aspiring journalism student who was there but unaware of exactly what was happening until after the fact.  For the most part her commentary is enjoyable (although the, “this is so-and-so, who would be dead eight hours later” gets a bit repetitious eventually), but in general the veracity of the storytelling is undermined by a subtly ominous soundtrack that gives it an unfortunate “Dateline” flavor.  People have huge insect-like things chewing their way out of their bodies — we don’t need musical cues to tell us to be scared.

It’s not without its logistical flaws.  It’s stated at some point that just putting your feet in the water is enough to get infected, yet our brave young reporter emerges unscathed after spending the entire day there (her cameraman isn’t so lucky).  Two oceanographers, who are the closest to figuring out what’s going on, decide inexplicably to dive in for a closer look, straight into a nest of adult isopods that consumes them within moments.  The CDC, who the poor overwhelmed ER doctor contacts quite early in the day, does nothing until most of the town is dead (and in fact seems to think that one small New England town is acceptable collateral damage).  And the mayor who has ignored public health in favor of increased revenue, who deserves most of all to have his tongue eaten out, dies from a T-bone car crash that he might have survived if there were any emergency personnel left to save him.

But none of these things detract significantly from the unrelenting terror, to borrow a phrase.  When the threat lives in every drop of water, it’s so much scarier than a dumb old shark whose territory ends at the shoreline.  Apparently the movie was a result of a request for Barry Levinson to make a documentary about the Chesapeake Bay which in reality is 40% dead, and this is what he did instead.  Probably expanded his audience at the expense of the message, because it’s easy to write off as fantasy.

Speaking of dumb old sharks, I also finally got to see Sharknado.  Hoo boy.  It was magnificent — magnificently ridiculous.

I don’t remember enough for a complete play-by-play, lucky for you.  The premise is simple:  A monster tropical storm sucks up a lot of sharks and hurls them at Los Angeles over the course of several hours.

As if this isn’t nonsensical enough, let’s add in these elements:  The sharks first hit Ian Ziering’s beach bar, which is completely destroyed.  He and his friends race inland to save his ex-wife (Tara Reid, and this caliber of movie is really the best her ability deserves) and daughter.  While in his Hollywood mansion, the house starts to fill with water, and sharks.  When they finally battle their way out, a) there’s almost no water on the ground (in fact, many streets go from flood conditions to bone dry in a matter of minutes) and b) the run-off from Hollywood hill crumbles his house while leaving his next door neighbor several feet away untouched.  Then while escaping through the streets of Los Angeles, sharks start falling out of the sky onto his SUV but no one’s around him.  I would start to take it a bit personally if I were him.

This is obviously a low budget movie, so it’s not surprising that most of the background actors were probably unaware they were in a movie, but the makers might have tried harder to disguise this fact.  It looks most of all like a nightmare where the dreamer is being chased but life goes on around him, with everyone oblivious to his plight.  This isn’t a terrible thing, except here it was unintentional.

Some laws of reality:  Sharks are aquatic, not amphibious, and need water to survive.  They could not live for any length of time spinning in mid air (let alone long enough to bite through an SUV’s roof and try to eat the occupants).  Or, for that matter, in freshwater swimming pools.  Sharks are flying out of manhole covers, drainage pipes…you can’t defy every law of physics and hope to maintain any credulity.  Also, sharks do not swallow people whole (this happens multiple times), hence the bitey chompy dismemberment style of killing most often seen (although, come to think of it, Captain Quint got swallowed whole in Jaws and that was the scene that haunted me the longest).  I accept that horror movies require a certain lack of common sense in behavior, but you really shouldn’t depend on this rule for your only antagonist to such an extraordinary degree.

(And only in a bad B-movie would the hero be able to get himself swallowed whole with a chainsaw and saw his way out, ALONG WITH the heroine that was swallowed multiple scenes earlier, a little waterlogged but still very much alive.)

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Nothing looks remotely fake about this

Hence, the only death by shark outside of the ocean I’ll accept is if a shark gets sucked into a tornado, dies in mid air, and then falls on someone (which also happens, but not often, because that isn’t as terrifying).

It has to be seen to be believed how hilarious it is.  I literally LOL’ed through the whole thing.  In fact, I really can’t determine if it was going for comedy or horror.  I’d suggest it to the MST3k guys, but they don’t usually go for such low-hanging fruit.  Catch it now, streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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8 thoughts on “Just When You Thought The Water Was Safe

  1. I had to take a break from reading this because I was EATING AT THE TIME. I now have a new water-related nightmare. Sorry piranhas, you’re not the Big Bad anymore.

    Are you sure it’s unintentional? Maybe Sharknado was meant to be one giant dream sequence…or the main character is actually insane. Does anyone else see the sharks?

    • Ha, and you haven’t even seen the movie yet. Fortunately I’m not as impressionable as I was when Jaws came out and haven’t suffered nightmares. On the contrary, I always feel fresh and rejuvenated when coming across something that actually scares me anymore.

      You know, you may have hit on the only way to improve Sharknado (besides, you know, trying to apply logic and reality). A movie about a guy being chased by imaginary sharks sounds a little intriguing. I hear there’s a sequel on its way. Fingers crossed.

      • Maybe not, but that picture will haunt me forever. Apart from this, what’s the scariest thing you’ve seen recently? Are all of your waking nightmares sea creatures?

        Logic and reality? Let’s not try to rewrite the whole script.

        • Well, I did try to make the picture smaller but I guess this is the best WP would do for me.

          Not a lot that really scares me lately, so I have to resort to some older movies that are scarier than anything that’s come out lately, like “Stephen King’s The Mist” and “Midnight Meat Train.” I do hope you would share anything with me that truly scares you (post “Piranha”).

          True. Adding logic and reality would completely corrupt the entire Sharknado spirit.

  2. Thomas Jane, people trapped in a grocery store by alien creatures, things get ugly when a religious zealot turns them against each other. It’s not about monsters but about how quickly the thin veneer of civilization can disintegrate. Not as scary on subsequent viewings, obviously, but still the best, bleakest, darkest ending of a movie ever. Even King was jealous he hadn’t thought of it.

  3. Ok, first, is the isopod movie real or fictitious? I think I’d remember a New England town being decimated by parasites. But your commentary about the Fourth of July fallout makes me wonder about the lead and cyanide and other pretty colored poisonous elements that go into fireworks hanging out in our air and water.
    Second, if you liked sharknado you will love “Ghost Shark”, another Syfy original where ghost sharks come out of puddles and faucets to kill people. It’s magical! I love how you can tell these movies are low budget and probably filmed in BC Canada because these “Southern California beaches” have deciduous trees in the background, not Palm trees. It’s so good!!!

    • The movie is fictitious but isopods are real (that photo of the fish mouth is real). It’s just the latest of increasingly rare movies that actually creeped me out lately, because it seems like it could happen.

      Haha, ghost sharks? I’M IN.

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