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Film / The Bay

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The Bay is a 2012 found footage horror film from the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious. It was directed by Barry Levinson and written by Michael Wallach.

Welcome to Claridge, Maryland, on scenic Chesapeake Bay. Come for the Fourth of July celebration, stay for the seafood, and never mind the chicken farms dumping pollution into the bay or the two dead marine biologists they found last week. But when the festivities are interrupted by a mysterious illness, fear leads to panic…

Not to be confused with the Canadian department store chain that was once the Hudson's Bay Company.


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Hospital: By the end of Dr. Abrams' videos, the hospital is completely deserted except for him, with the remaining medical staff having run for their lives and the patients having all died. For good measure, it's lit exclusively by red emergency lighting, making it even creepier.
  • Apocalyptic Log: This is what some of the footage is, particularly the videos left by Dr. Abrams, the head doctor who must deal with the outbreak at the local hospital, and Jennifer, a young girl who records the progress of her infection via a Skype/YouTube-like web app. Donna also says that the government may kill her once she releases the video, so this may be her Apocalyptic Log as well.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • At one point in the film, a fisherman pulls up a fish with one of the mutant isopods in its mouth. He's holding the fish with his thumb in its mouth, and the isopod lunges out and attacks his arm, after which it scuttles off the deck with equally impressive speed. The real life speed of Cymothoa exigua is rather less impressive. In addition, C. exigua feeds on blood, not flesh. Finally, while the two previous breaks from reality are probably justified by the fact that these are mutated isopods, there's the fact that real isopod larvae don't look like grubs. Isopods undergo hemimetabolism (incomplete metamorphosis), so an isopod larva looks like a tiny version of an adult.
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    • Vertebrate hormones, even biotechnologically altered ones probably wouldn't have much of an effect on crustaceans.
    • The Real Life isopod of which these are allegedly mutations doesn't actually eat fishes' tongues, but latches onto and drains blood from them until the tongue atrophies over several weeks. Even allowing that pollutants could cause isopods to grow that fast, it certainly wouldn't cause the humans' metabolic rate to accelerate enough to speed up the tongue-shrinkage process to a matter of hours.
    • The tongue-eating isopod is also an obligately marine organism, with saltwater-adapted gills and fluid-balance mechanisms. As such, it wouldn't be able to survive in a freshwater environment, let alone in one where the surrounding liquid it's trying to breathe is stomach acid and/or saliva.
  • Bad Black Barf: Once the parasites have started munching on internal organs.
  • Black Comedy: Although the film is fairly unrelentingly grim throughout, the inclusion of the young Miss Crustacean appearing again as one of the dead bodies in Main Street, having been ravaged by crustaceans is certainly a deliberate irony.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Alex starts vomiting blood before an isopod bursts from his throat.
  • Body Horror: Starts with rashes of giant blisters and gets worse from there.
  • Chest Burster: The isopods like to chew their way out through the stomach. Or exit via the mouth after stopping to snack on the tongue. Or through the side of the neck.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Mayor John Stockman, who helped cause the crisis due to his authorizing the various industries polluting the bay, downplaying the pollution of the bay, ignoring the signs of the sickness and the oceanographers' reports about the parasites - resulting in the outbreak that ultimately dooms Clarisge.
  • Crisis Point Hospital: Claridge's hospital is quickly overwhelmed with the sheer number of infected individuals. Though it's a fully-equipped facility, the doctors don't know how to treat the epidemic short of amputating critically-damaged limbs, and there simply aren't enough staff members to deal with the influx of victims. Consequently, waiting rooms are all but overflowing with patients in agony. By the time the CDC manages to figure out the source of the problem, it's already too late.
  • Da Chief: Downplayed. Sheriff Lee Roberts is initially pretty reasonable and is just trying to do his best in a bad situation, but after he loses contact with his deputies he threatens to fire all of them for it if it turns out they're okay.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Shortly after Alex is killed Stephanie and baby Andrew try to flee Claridge in an abandoned police car, unfortunately neglecting to check the back seat; the moment Stephanie takes a seat, a dying victim abruptly leaps out from behind her in a frenzied attempt to beg for help.
  • Daylight Horror: Bad things kick off on a bright and sunny July 4th.
  • Death of a Child: A number of small children in the beginning footage have the blisters and rash. One of the Apocalyptic Logs contains the deaths of two teenagers and we later see the body of Jennifer in Dr. Abrams's final video.
  • Devoured by the Horde: The oceanographers and a teenaged couple are mutilated by a swarm of fully-grown isopods.
  • Eaten Alive: By parasitic isopods. From the inside out.
  • The End... Or Is It?: It's heavily implied that, even if the isopods truly have been wiped out, the pollution of the bay will result in the creation of something equally dangerous.
  • Eye Scream: One of the oceanographers has his eye bitten out by an isopod.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Officer Jimson goes insane and kills everyone he runs into to spare them the pain of infection.
  • Facial Horror:
    • When Donna and her cameraman discover a still-living victim whose tongue and lips have been eaten.
    • One of the dead patients in Dr. Abrams's final video has had his entire lower face eaten away.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Donna tells us in the beginning about the deaths of Dr. Abrams and her cameraman.
  • Foreshadowing: Sheriff Roberts has to remind Mayor Stockman to buckle his seat belt while riding in the police car. The mayor later dies of injuries received after a car wreck.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the characters are doing a web search for information on the creatures, you can see a piece of artwork by John Wojcik, of Bogleech and Mortasheen fame, whose nature articles focusing on especially disturbing wildlife are largely responsible for the popularity the Cymothoa exigua has gained on the internet.
  • Ghost Town: By the time Stephanie and Alex arrive in town at 9:26 PM, Claridge has been almost completely depopulated, bodies littering the streets; the only people left alive are lucky survivors like Donna and her cameraman - or victims who are in the process of succumbing.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation / Despair Event Horizon: When Officers Jimson and Paul investigate a house where neighbors have reported hearing screaming, Officer Jimson discovers the living and partially devoured residents who beg him to kill them. He does so and is driven insane by what's happening to them. He ends up killing his partner and then later fatally shoots the sheriff and himself. This may also have to do with the fact that some of the isopods got into him earlier.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We never see the living victims who beg to be killed by Officer Jimson, but based on how they sound, that may be for the best.
  • Government Conspiracy: The footage that makes up the movie was supposedly classified by the government.
  • Green Aesop: The isopods mutate because of exposure to hormones in the farm runoff polluting the bay. The film reminds viewers that pollution can have a devastating impact on public health. In real life, the Chesapeake Bay has been polluted for decades by farm runoff, among other things.
  • Hazardous Water: All water within Claridge becomes extremely hazardous - both from pollution and from the mutated isopods.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Dr. Abrams elects to remain at the hospital and continue to treat his patients even after it becomes clear the situation is hopeless, leading to his infection and death.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Takes place on the Fourth of July.
  • The Immune: Some of the townsfolk turn out to be immune to the infection for unknown reasons, even though they were either drinking or swimming in the same contaminated water as the victims. Donna turns out to be one of them, being filmed taking a drink from a public drinking fountain and suffering no ill effects.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Baby Andrew survives the day, despite - at one point - being seen right next to an infected victim with isopods visibly creeping out of her.
  • Instant Fish Kill: Played for horror; towards the end of the film, the coast guard begins reporting tons of dead fish floating just beyond the bay.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Donna's cameraman Jim Hoyt, who's pretty snappy and rude the few times he talks, but sticks with Donna until the bitter end and continues to film even after they are told not to by the FBI. He also takes the time to reassure her she's doing a good job as a reporter.
  • Karmic Death: Mayor John Stockman's death can be seen as a roundabout version of this. As part of the Chesapeake Environmental Council, he would have seen (or at least heard about) the videos the two oceanographers had sent in. The karmic part comes into play as the mayor ends up in a car crash and dies from the injuries he sustains because the medical personnel have either died or fled due to the isopod outbreak.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Donna explicitly says that she expects this to happen to her once she releases her report (the film we are seeing). The movie never tells us if this really ended up happening to her.
  • Medical Horror: Of the mysterious incurable plague kind.
  • Mercy Kill: Officer Jimson does this to the infected inhabitants of a home he enters. He also kills Officer Paul and Sheriff Roberts to spare them the same fate.
  • Killed Offscreen: Almost everyone dies from the infection or other causes offscreen, except for a few characters.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Alex and Stephanie arrive in Claridge after dark, by which time the worst of the chaos has already concluded and the place has been reduced to a Ghost Town. For good measure, it's not long before they notice the first of the bodies.
  • Mistaken for Disease: Dr Abrams initially believes that the plague may be some kind of infection, but after seeing roughly half the town turn up in the hospital waiting room and witnessing the symptoms advancing too quickly to be treated even with amputation, he begins accepting wilder possibilities. Eventually, the CDC discover the truth: it's actually a parasitic infestation; Cymothoa exigua have been mutated by exposure to chemical waste from a factory farm, and are now capable of preying on humans. The "necrosis" is actually the parasites literally eating their victims alive from the inside..
  • Mood Whiplash: The lighthearted fun of the 4th of July fair quickly turns into a nightmare when the woman who just enjoyed a go in the dunking machine starts wandering around with painful lesions all over her body, screaming for help.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young / Explosive Breeder: What the bay's cocktail of hormones and steroids from industrial chicken farm pollution has turned the female isopods into.
  • No FEMA Response: A rash of flesh-eating isopods is eating the inhabitants of an entire town, an incurable, horrifying epidemic that had the chief doctor of the local hospital increasingly desperate and pretty much begging the CDC for help. The government's response? Not provide him with a direct answer when he contacts them, quarantine the town for three days (with the implication that they are waiting for everybody infected by the isopods to be totally killed off) and conceal all information of the attack (to the point that Donna, who edited the "found footage", explicitly says that a bunch of hackers helped her obtain it and that she totally expects to be Killed to Uphold the Masquerade once she releases it). To make things even worse, the implication is that the CDC would have been very glad to help with this situation, but Homeland Security decided to keep everything concealed.
  • Noodle Incident: It's left unclear how Jim dies, though it's implied he was killed by the isopods while the government quarantined the town.
  • Obliviously Evil: The mutant isopods. They might be killing thousands of victims in painful, hideous ways, but their actions are guided by instinct, not malice.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Homeland Security admits to the CDC that they delayed sending the autopsy reports on the two oceanographers to the CDC due to not wanting to cause any panic.
  • Orifice Evacuation: How the isopods sometimes leave their unfortunate hosts.
  • Parasitic Horror: It starts out as Found Footage documentary of the Fourth of July celebration at Claridge, Maryland, only for the town to succumb to a plague of a mutated species of Cymothoa exigua spawned from the polluted bay. They infect the people through the water supply and eat them alive and spawn until they die, where they escape their host and jump to a new one. By the end of the film, nearly everyone in the film had died after the US government quarantined it, the footage leaked by the reporter that survived.
  • The Plague: A mysterious and quickly spreading epidemic going around town. The hospital and other medical facilities are overrun and the medical personnel have never seen anything like this. Your neighbors are dying in horrific pain and are being mutilated by unseen forces. The horror gets worse as parents are watching children get sick and being unable to do anything about it. And worse — it comes from the town's water supply. The water you're drinking and immersing yourself in is killing you.
  • Rain of Blood: Donna gets rained on by a corpse laying on the edge of a roof.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The CDC is presented as eager to help but powerless because of lack of information, while Homeland Security is presented as a bunch of Obstructive Bureaucrats which concealed information of previous isopod attacks in order to "prevent panic" and is implied are the ones who ordered the town to be quarantined and left to die, as well as concealed all information of the isopod attack that makes the whole film (to the point that it may have also killed Donna off-screen, afterwards, once she released it for us to see).
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: Donna notes that several victims gravitated towards main street, hoping that any emergency services trying to provide a medevac would head there first. Unfortunately, with Claridge under quarantine, no help came. Consequently, main street is littered with the bodies of people who died waiting to be rescued.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: By the time Claridge is being completely overrun by the infection, Doctor Abrams' staff all abandon the hospital in an attempt to save themselves. Notably averted with Abrams himself, who refuses to evacuate even when advised to by the CDC, instead staying to document everything until he dies himself.
  • Sound-Only Death: Officer Jimson mercy killing some victims and Officer Paul is only heard through an audio recording.
  • The Swarm: The adult isopods swarm anyone who goes into the water, biting and burrowing into them.
  • Tongue Trauma: The isopods are mutant Cymothoa exigua, also called the tongue-eating louse. Guess what they do to some victims?
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Several people competing in the crab-eating contest at the beginning graphically throw up and collapse due to the contamination.


Video Example(s):



An attempt to escape Claridge via an abandoned police car goes awry when there turns out to be a parasite-infested victim still in the backseat.

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