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The Bay (2013): Horror Ecological Mockumentary & Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay

Ghouls discuss the eco-horror mockumentary, The Bay, that will scare you into caring about the environment. Gabe talks about how the film is 80% true and based on ecological disaster facts, making it significantly more terrifying. Kat discusses what's really happening in the Chesapeake Bay, why you should be afraid of flesh-eating bacteria, and how to help the environment.

Sources in this episode: The Bay Spikes Cellphone Footage With Environmental Horror

Barry Levinson's 'The Bay' Is A Fictional Horror Movie Meant To Save The Real Chesapeake

Experts find an average Chesapeake Bay dead zone in 2021

5 facts about Vibrio

Ways to Help:

Protecting the Chesapeake Bay | National Wildlife Federation

Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

More than a Feeling: Climate Emotions in Film & TV

Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors | Fix

Indigenous Environmental Network

Indigenous Environmental Network – Sacred Land

Why Indigenous Resistance is More Important than Ever - Greenpeace USA

Fresh Banana Leaves - Jessica Hernandez


Media from this week's episode:

The Bay (2012)

Chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs.

Director: Barry Levinson


The Bay: Horror Mockumentary That'll Turn You Into a Conservationalist

by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


The Bay is pure terror and it’s one of the best found footage horror films, in my humble opinion, because its feels very real in ways that found footage often doesn’t but it’s also 80% real facts. The film is a collection of various footage from news, to personal video recorders. It primarily focuses on the retelling of the fateful 4th of July by former reporter, Donna (played by Kether Donohue). Years later, she’s breaking her silence and thanks to the helpful wiki-leaks adjacent gov-leaks site, footage that had been covered up is now available to the public. Devil’s Pass also tried to use a wiki-leaks-esque site to explain their footage but unlike most found footage films, the Bay features a natural and believable eclectic mix of footage and stories. We don’t follow just one Marylander but rather spend our time with Claridge as a whole. We get to see government agencies, hospital workers, young girls, oceanographers, teens in love, neighbors, news teams, everyone. The film pieces together the events of the day sequentially and also blends in past footage from the oceanographers who warned the governing parties of the dangers long before the terror. We start with a cute and quaint small, waterside town with Miss Crustacean pageants, crab eating contests, and the promise of fireworks. Not soon after the Independence Day festivities begin, we hear the Governor and former vacuum-salesman, bawk at rumors that the water is unsafe. He revels in the booming poultry industry and touts the power of their water purifier. The story takes place over only a span of a day, the end of which results in the death of 700 out of their 1600 Claridge citizens.

**SPOILER ALERT for the Bay**

You may wonder, “how could something so awful just happen overnight?!” And of course, it didn’t. The film informs us pretty quickly about the death of two oceanographers - their deaths were deemed sharks attacks despite them having suffered peculiar injuries (seemingly having been eaten from the inside out). We learn that the oceanographers had been inspecting the water and the levels of toxicity. They were growing concerned about the toxic soup in the bay that was having an effect on marine life. Throughout the film, we watch these two uncover increasingly more horrifying finds in the ocean. Their footage is followed by a title card explaining that they reached out to the appropriate office each time and that there is no evidence they were ever responded to by those offices. They discover that the isopods have evolved because of the high volume of excrement from the poultry farms which had become incredibly toxic due to a variety of steroids and other chemicals (aimed to grow chickens faster) that expedited the evolution process. This evolved monstrous isopod then kills millions of fish and causes 40% of the bay to become lifeless.

Something I found super interesting and what added to the horror of the film is that the director, Barry Levinson was originally going to make a documentary about pollution and the crisis in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. However, he found out there were other productions happening under the same topic so he was like, hmm let’s do this in a different genre! You know Ghouls love it when a creator seeks to scare you into caring about issues.

Found Footage:

I found some interesting film facts in an article on Wired, The Bay Spikes Cellphone Footage With Environmental Horror by Angela Watercutter. Levinson used more than 20 kinds of digital cameras and cellphones. And because a lot of the film involves victims and first responders chronicling their experiences with the isopods, Levinson estimates about one-third of the flick was shot by The Bay’s largely unknown actors.

This was one of my favorite parts of the film. As a lover of found footage, if a film can effectively convince me this is found footage and not footage pretending to be found, I will wholeheartedly suspend disbelief and enjoy the film. The Bay, features a wide range of media access such as security camera footage, news footage, personal facetimes, and more. And while, in reality, it’s really uncomfortable to imagine all of your content (personal or otherwise) being accessed by an online file share service (regardless of benevolence), it’s not too far from how the real world works. The cloud is not inaccessible. (If you want to learn more about our government's surveillance of its citizens - check out our episode on Surveillance!).

In an interview on Huffpost titled, Barry Levinson's 'The Bay' Is A Fictional Horror Movie Meant To Save The Real Chesapeake, Director Levinson explained their excitement over the potential of our surveilled world and how it’ll change the way we understand, react, and feel about natural disasters and crises.