The Bay

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Bay Movie Poster Image
Fake docu about disturbingly believable gory disaster.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 84 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A cautionary tale -- albeit a bloody, scary one -- The Bay could inspire teen viewers to be more aware of environmental issues and how man's actions can change things in both subtle and drastic ways.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Donna is a college-age reporter who survived an ordeal and later pieces its story together on video. From her vantage point of hindsight, she criticizes her own prior ignorance and her on-camera performance. But on the positive side, she has learned from her mistakes and shows a great deal of bravery and selflessness in trying to tell her story to the world.


Dozens upon dozens of dead bodies -- including kids -- with lots of blood (dripping and oozing) and amputated limbs. Also dead fish and birds. A creepy bug jumps out of a fish's mouth and later burrows out of a man's neck. People, including a young girl, have weird boils and blisters covering their skin. Characters throw up blood. They eventually describe the perpetrator: a mutated parasite that not only eats its victims from the outside in but also from the inside out. (Victims' tongues are eaten, but this isn't shown.) There's a general sense of disgust and discomfort throughout the movie. A baby is part of a particularly scary scene.


Two teens flirt briefly before going swimming. A teen girl is shown in her bra/bathing suit. A married couple is shown being comfortable with each another and kissing. While watching herself on video, Donna makes a comment about how tight her pants are.


Strong language includes several uses of "s--t" and "f--k"; they're also shown in text messages and email. Other words include "son of a bitch," "damn," "hell," and terrified uses of "Jesus" and "oh my God."


Google and YouTube are used on various computers.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Bay -- a horror movie about a terrifying, murderous environmental disaster -- is made up of "found" footage from various video cameras (it's presented as a documentary but is fiction). There's lots of death and blood, as well as a general disgusting, disturbing tone as survivors try to figure out what the culprit is and how it works. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," both spoken and written (in text messages and emails). In one scene, a teen boy and girl flirt briefly before going swimming; the teen girl is shown in her bra. The Bay comes from the creator/producer of the Paranormal Activity movies, though it's unlikely to have the same kind of draw.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBigboyChungas1000 January 4, 2021


Solid film. Somewhat believable. Gross but told very skillfully.
Parent Written byAaron C. April 5, 2020

Spine tingling Eco thriller.

This "found footage" documentary has a lot of disturbing, disgusting content & some gore. It might not be entirely engaging, but it's thr... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBonemutt May 28, 2014


Yes, it's very bloody and gross. I watched it when I was 13 years old, but I had no nightmares whatsoever from this film. The violence is really PG-13. The... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byADifferentFantastik December 19, 2013

a stunning movie.

this movie, based off of a horror story, is an over-exaggerated account of water pollution and environmental disregard. this is not a suitable movie for familie... Continue reading

What's the story?

In 2009, in Chesapeake Bay, Fourth of July celebrations are under way as usual. Journalism student Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue) prepares to document the festivities on camera, but something terrible happens. People start getting sick and developing disturbing blisters and boils all over their skin. Soon people begin dying. In the present day, Donna assembles her own footage as well as footage from many other sources to piece together what happened: a series of man-made conditions combined to create mutated, super-parasites called isopods. But can these creatures be stopped before it's too late?

Is it any good?

Oren Peli, the crafty creator and producer of the Paranormal Activity movies brings us THE BAY, with -- surprisingly -- Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson at the helm. Fortunately, Levinson appears very passionate about the movie's frightening environmental message, and it recalls the vicious satire of his Wag the Dog. But at the same time, The Bay's message is presented within the context of thrills and scares, making it much less preachy than it could have been.

Unlike the set-ups of many other fake documentary horror films, Donna's character actually gives The Bay a reason to exist; this isn't just footage that was "mysteriously" found or shot without any good reason. The combination of different kinds of footage fits together well, and several recognizable characters emerge, even if none of them (aside from Donna) is particularly three-dimensional. Overall, Levinson does a commendable job of conjuring up squirm-inducing moments and horrifying tension.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Bay's violence. What's the impact of seeing dead bodies in large numbers vs. people getting killed off one by one in (as in a slasher movie)? How does a movie's plausibility affect the impact of its violence?

  • Does this movie's premise seem believable? Does the fake documentary format help? Why do you think filmmakers are drawn to that format?

  • What does The Bay have to say about the environment? Should we, as citizens, be more aware of what's going on around us? How?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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