Often ridiculed and overlooked, found footage as a sub-genre within horror CAN be done well. I would say watching found footage movies is a guilty pleasure but to be honest, I’m not guilty. I love it. So, if you don’t like found footage movies, don’t bother reading, you need to be open to the concept if you’re going to attempt to engage with these films.
Blair Witch Project (1999)
While it wasn’t the first found footage horror film, it quickly gained a reputation and set the wheels in motion for found footage to become the massive horror sub-genre it is today.
The marketing for this film was really smart, a lot of people really believed the footage was real thanks to various internet and radio adverts.
Heather, Josh and Mike were making a documentary about a local legend, The Blair Witch when they disappeared in the woods. This footage was found a year after their disappearance.
The footage shows them looking for evidence of The Blair Witch in the woods, they visit Coffin Rock, where a ritualistic murder took place and find some other places of interest but in doing so they disturb whatever is in those woods.
Creepy as hell and has inspired many filmmakers since its release. I still love it.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
This is a Marmite film, you love or it you don’t want to be in the same room as it lest you become overtaken with violence and smash it to pieces, and then you have to have that awkward conversation with your friend as to why you felt the need to destroy their DVD.
Aside from a dodgy scene with a Ouija board that spontaneously combusts, I really liked the film.
You are brought into the lives of Katie and Micha, a couple who have started filming their house at night as Katie is convinced something spooky is going on. She ain’t wrong.
One of the criticisms of found footage is that the action happens right at the end of the film and until that point you’re watching a whole lot of nothing.
I disagree. It’s building pace and mood, you have to give yourself over to the format if you’re going to enjoy it.
What’s interesting about this film is the alternative ending. Yes, there are two and one is far superior to the other but I don’t want to give anything away – is there anyone left who hasn’t seen Paranormal Activity?
The Bay (2012)
I was bored one day and up popped The Bay on Netflix so I decided to give it a go. It was a lot better than I was expecting.
It’s the 4th of July in the town of Claridge and celebrations are interrupted when something in the water causes chaos, unpredictable behaviour and then death.
The Bay has one of the best rational explanations for filming everything, a television crew! The crew’s footage is interspersed with footage taken from various people, from oceanographers documenting strange parasites that they’ve found to doctors Skyping with the Center for Disease Control. I really liked that you got to see how this ‘outbreak’ affected people all over the town, you really feel a part of what you’re watching.
A Spanish found footage horror that was remade for American audiences under the title Quarantine. The film starts with Ángela, a television reporter who is drawn into a nightmare of deadly infections and more! Plenty of good scares in this. As it’s set in an apartment block, the film has a claustrophobic feel to it and the acting is superb. Something that can’t always be said for found footage, sadly.
I haven't seen the remake but dollars to doughnuts it's nowhere near as good as the original. As the film is Spanish there are subtitles and if that puts you off - suck it up, it's worth it!
As with a lot of found footage, and I don’t know why this is but, one of the main characters is such a d-bag that it’s amazing he has friends to go camping with in the first place. This is another film that falls into the keep watching category, it will be worth it. Or at least it was for me. Not your usual scares in the woods.
The Tunnel (2011)
Set in abandoned train tunnels deep beneath the city of Sydney, 4 people set out to discover what is stopping the government from using the water in the tunnels after a recycling project was announced then quickly forgotten.
What’s interesting about The Tunnel is that there’s a FINAL GIRL! (of sorts) Natasha, a journalist who thinks she’s about to uncover a government cover up drives the film forward in her quest to uncover the truth, with deadly consequences.
The film is set up as part documentary part found footage, which is an interesting take on the sub-genre and one I think works well.
Grave Encounters (2011)
Grave Encounters is one of the films that took a while to really get going and I was tempted to switch it off but once it’s up and running there are some pretty decent scares but that’s not why I liked this film. Once you’ve watched a couple of found footage horrors, you get an idea of what to expect and how you think the film will play out. Grave Encounters really surprised me with where it took the story.
So, those are some of the best found footage films I've seen. I've seen Atrocious, Devil's Due, the intensely irritating The Devil Inside, V/H/S, V/H/S2, Home Movie and more. Have I left out your favourite?
Favorite Found Footage Movie?
What found footage horror would you recommend?