80% of This Found Footage Horror Movie Is True, According to the Director

Part of watching horror movies is being able to tell yourself “none of this is real.” That’s easy with ghost stories and most creature features. But there’s one found-footage movie fans can’t say that about. That’s because The Bay is rooted in fact. 

Barry Levinson, director of 'The Bay' movie
Barry Levinson | Matt Carr/Getty Images

In July 1999, much of the world went into a panic when The Blair Witch Project was released. Thanks to the low-quality footage and no-name cast, the movie had audiences thinking the Blair Witch was real. The movie is about three film students who travel to Maryland to shoot a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch. 

The found-footage aspect makes The Blair Witch Project creepy in its own right. But it wasn’t just the movie that scared audiences. The viral marketing behind the scenes had people believing in the mythology. From the documentary website to the obituaries, The Blair Witch Project‘s marketing paved the way for the found footage sub-genre.

‘The Bay’ is a found-footage horror movie about an ecological plague 

In a tourist town along the Chesapeake Bay during the Fourth of July, people start experiencing strange symptoms. From boils to vomiting blood, the townspeople discover a fish parasite called isopods living in the bay. Thanks to chicken excrement and nuclear waste being disposed in the water, the isopods grow at an alarming rate. 

The found-footage horror movie relies on photos and video captured by the townspeople. Cell phones, laptops, and security cameras help tell the story in The Bay — a horror movie rife with political and societal commentary. 

According to director Barry Levinson, 80% of ‘The Bay’ is true 

Barry Levinson is an award-winning filmmaker known for movies like Rain Man and Donnie Brasco. In 2012, the Baltimore native was approached to do a documentary about the Chesapeake Bay, of which 40% is dead. After discovering a documentary covering the same subject, Levinson created a movie that wouldn’t “fall on deaf ears.” 

“I gathered the facts and thought [they were] pretty scary,” Levinson told Yahoo in 2012. “[I thought] maybe if I apply a lot of this factual information into a story, I can end up with a piece that’s suspenseful, scary, unnerving, and backed up with 80 percent factual information.” 


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Isopods are a genuine specimen that live in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, according to Levinson. “What they haven’t done is get into brackish water of the Chesapeake Bay,” the director explained. While the giant isopods in The Bay aren’t real, the small isopod used in one scene is very real. 

“You see a tight shot of [the isopod],” Levinson said. “That’s not CGI; that’s real. We just pulled that out of the Atlantic.” The isopods operate in the way The Bay explains, too. “They do eat the fish from the inside out — all of that stuff is factual information.” 

As for the other facts in The Bay, Levinson says a leaking nuclear reactor had runoff heading toward the Chesapeake. “Its quantities aren’t great,” he said, but the fact that it’s happening seems scary enough. “The chicken farm runoff stuff is factual [too],” Levinson added. “At the end of the day, it is a movie —not a documentary. But it’s infused with a lot of things that are real. I think it adds to the nature of the piece.”