The Bay (film)

The Bay is a 2012 American mockumentary horror film directed by Barry Levinson and written by Michael Wallach. It stars Nansi Aluka, Christopher Denham, Frank Deal, and Kristen Connolly and premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. It was released in theaters on November 2, 2012.[3][4]

The Bay
The Bay (film).jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byBarry Levinson
Screenplay byMichael Wallach
Story byBarry Levinson
Michael Wallach
Produced byBarry Levinson
Jason Blum
Steven Schneider
Oren Peli
StarringWill Rogers
Kristen Connolly
Kether Donohue
Frank Deal
Stephen Nunken
Christopher Denham
Nansi Aluka
CinematographyJosh Nussbaum
Edited byAaron Yanes
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
Distributed byLionsgate
Roadside Attractions
Release date
  • September 13, 2012 (2012-09-13) (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • November 2, 2012 (2012-11-02) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$1.6 million[2]


The movie explains the footage was confiscated by the U.S. government until an anonymous source leaked the footage for the entire world to see. The footage is gathered from various news reports and home video, following multiple narrative lines.

On July 4, 2009, Claridge, a seaside Chesapeake Bay town nestled on Maryland's Eastern Shore thrives on water, both from tourism and from how it benefits the chicken industry. However, the chicken farm has come under fire from criticism from some citizens who are concerned about the water quality of the bay due to the dumping of chicken excrement and other toxins into the water, though Mayor Stockman, who is eager to further Claridge's burgeoning economy, insists the water is perfectly safe. Despite Stockman's proclamations, as rookie reporter Donna (the individual behind the film's leaked footage) covers the event, dozens of citizens begin falling ill with severe lesions with no explanation. Participants of a crab-eating contest also all begin to vomit violently. Dr. Abrams, the head of the local hospital, is overwhelmed with patients and contacts the CDC, who initially believe the issue to be caused by an unknown virus or fungal infection. The city descends into chaos as people begin dying en masse within hours. Two teenagers are killed by an unknown animal while swimming, and several citizens, including a teenage girl using FaceTime to speak with a friend, report bizarre symptoms, including the feeling of bugs within their bodies. Many die within hours. Mayor Stockman continues to downplay and deny the situation.

It is revealed that months beforehand, two oceanographers discovered high levels of toxicity in the bay. After encountering multiple eviscerated fish eaten from the inside out, they realize that the true culprit is the tongue-eating louse, also known as Cymothoa exigua. The ispopods have seemingly evolved to affect humans as well due to the high volume of excrement from the chickens from the plant, who were pumped with steroids to promote rapid growth. Because of this, the isopods breed and grow quickly, killing off millions of fish and causing 40% of the bay to become lifeless. It is also discovered that the boils and lesions are the result of the isopods eating their hosts from the inside out. The oceanographers alert the city's environmental council, but Mayor Stockman, who heads the council, ignores the warnings. The oceanographers are killed by a swarm of fully-grown isopods while doing further research, and their bodies are discovered shortly before the events of the film but are initially written off as victims of a shark attack.

Stephanie and Alex, a young couple with a newborn, sail to Claridge, unaware of the danger as local law enforcement has shut down cell towers. The bridge to the town is also shut down as the citizens are forcibly quarantined. Meanwhile, two deputies are overcome with complaints of citizens screaming in pain; in a digitally enhanced audio recording, Officer Jimson encounters an infected family begging to be killed. Having gone insane from seeing what has happened, he euthanizes them, and then murders his partner Paul after one of the isopods bites him. After being confronted by the sheriff and Mayor Stockman, he is revealed to also be covered in lesions; he kills the sheriff and then commits suicide. Mayor Stockman flees in haste, only to be killed in a car accident.

An infected Dr. Abrams is told by the CDC that no help is forthcoming; he uses his final hours to document the mass of dead bodies within the hospital, among whom is the teenage girl from earlier. Officials at the CDC learn that the water in Claridge contained a slew of toxins and likely had a considerable radioactive rating, but it was never reported previously due to radioactivity not being a quality that is measured in water quality checks. The CDC also contacts Homeland Security, who write off the chaos as happening in a "small town" and fail to offer help. Stephanie and Alex arrive to find the town mostly deserted, with corpses littering the street. Alex, who swam in the bay earlier, becomes infected and dies. Stephanie is able to escape unharmed with her baby.

Years later, Donna leaks the gathered footage, revealing that the government managed to kill the isopods by filling the water with chlorine; they then covered up the incident as the result of "unusually high water temperatures" and paid off the few survivors and relatives in exchange for silence. Donna guesses that the government may kill her for leaking the information and reveals Stephanie survived but refused to participate in the film. The movie ends with shots of civilians innocently enjoying the water of the bay, unaware of the dangers, as 40% of the bay remains lifeless.



The film came about as a result of a documentary Levinson was asked to produce about problems facing the Chesapeake Bay.[5] Although Levinson chose to abandon the documentary upon learning that Frontline already covered the same issue, Levinson instead decided to use the research to produce a horror film which he hoped would shed light on the issues facing Chesapeake.[5] As such when promoting the film he noted that it's "80 percent factual information."[6]

According to script writer Michael Wallach, the script originally started out as a short story about a young couple who comes across a dead town. After having pieced together what happened from footage scattered across town, they realize the town had not fully died yet.[7] Barry was happy with the script, and sent Wallach the movie JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America and asked if the movie could be made into a documentary.[7]

Levinson chose to use the found footage format after thinking about the Pompeii disaster[5] and noting that if such a disaster happened today there would be much more evidence of what happened with him telling Yahoo! "For the very first time in history, you can get a picture of that town, if you collect all the footage from everyone's cell phones and their digital cameras and the Skypes, and the texting and everything else"[6] A byproduct of the format was that much of the footage was able to be shot by the actors themselves as opposed to a more traditional camera crew. According to Levinson roughly one third of the film was shot this way.[5]

Though the film is set in Levinson's home state of Maryland, it was shot on locations in North Carolina and South Carolina.


The film has received mostly positive reviews from critics, with a 76% "certified fresh" approval rating and an average rating of 6.6 out of 10 on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 82 reviews.[8] The website's critical consensus states that "Barry Levinson's eco-horror flick cleverly utilizes familiar found-footage methods in service of a gruesome yet atmospheric chiller." It also holds a score of 65 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 20 reviewers, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[9] David Cox of The Guardian awarded the film 5 out of 5 stars and called it a "horror film for grown ups".[10] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, however, was less positive, awarding the film 2.5 out of a possible 4, stating "Although there are some scary moments here, and a lot of gruesome ones, this isn't a horror film so much as a faux eco-documentary".[11]


  1. ^ "The Bay After: A Chat With Barry Levinson". Mother Jones. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Bay (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  3. ^ Wong, Tom (September 13, 2012). "TIFF 2012: Barry Levinson's The Bay at Midnight Madness Diaries". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  4. ^ "The Bay Trailer, News, Videos, and Reviews". Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Watercutter, Angela. "The Bay Spikes Cellphone Footage With Environmental Horror". Wired. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b Crow, Jonathan. "Barry Levinson on his environmental horror movie 'The Bay' – 80 percent of this is true". Yahoo!. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ "The Bay (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Bay". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  10. ^ Cox, David (February 28, 2013). "The Bay – review". The Guardian. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 7, 2012). "The Bay Movie Review & Film Summary (2012)". Retrieved June 30, 2014.

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