Although “Found Footage” is still a relatively new sub-genre in horror, it has already amassed an absurdly huge catalog of movies; some great, some not, and most dismally bad. Because they are so cheap to make, found footage seems to be the go-to style for many aspiring filmmakers. But that’s also a big part of the problem. People who hate found footage on principal alone usually have a fairly valid argument: so much of it is just terrible.
But found footage isn’t a total garbage dump; there are some really great, innovative work being done. So I’ve gathered 5 found footage horror movies that I think, while not perfect, are definitely a cut above the rest. These films have, one one reason or another, completely flown under the radar.
If you’re a fan of the genre who lately has found yourself rolling your eyes more than covering them in fear, check these out if you haven’t yet done so. I think this list might just restore your faith.
Willow Creek (2013)
You have to applaud Bobcat Goldthwait for this low-key entry into the found footage genre. The set-up is simple: a guy and his girlfriend embark on a mission to find Bigfoot. Yes, the Bigfoot. Very reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project in that not a whole helluva lot happens for the first 45 minutes; nevertheless, when Willow Creek takes off it really takes off. A little over halfway through its run time there is an extended sequence in a tent that will leave you breathless; or if not you should immediately check your pulse. Anchored by two incredibly likable main characters, Willow Creek is a thoroughly entertaining movie that takes found footage back to its creepy roots.
My Little Eye (2002)
A superb exercise in psychological torture, My Little Eye is a creepy lost gem that plays with the audience’s paranoia. 5 people agree to stay in a remote house for 6 months for a mysterious internet contest. If you last the entire time, 1 million dollars is yours. But, of course, it’s not that easy. Things take a horrifying turn as, one by one, the contestants begin to lose their grip on reality. My Little Eye is a terrific early entry in the found footage genre. Plus, a young Bradley Cooper!
Troll Hunter (2010)
Troll Hunter is just nuts. In the best possible way. I don’t think I’d call Troll Hunter scary, necessarily, it’s more of a crazy thrill ride. But, again, in the best possible way. The premise is simple: after a rash of bear killings in the Swedish wilderness, two college students decide to investigate. But what turns out to be the culprit is something neither of them could have possibly imagined. Armed with a crazy story, and surprisingly great special effects, Troll Hunter is the rare found footage film that embraces the theory that more is more, and it doesn’t hold back; it shows the monsters that stalk the forest in all their glory. While not as technically advanced as Cloverfield, another found footage that ramps up the special effects, Troll Hunter, to me, is a whole lot more fun.
The Houses October Built (2014)
The Houses October Built has a lot of ambition, but it’s far from perfect. Solidly creepy throughout, the central idea is fantastic: a group of friends, in the days leading up to Halloween, hit the road to find America’s most extreme haunted houses. There are more than enough unsettling images to send true shivers down your spine, but the movie is held back by some really bad camera work. I have to recommend The Houses October Built for its great premise, disturbing images, and its twisted ending; but in some scenes the camera work is so bad you literally can’t tell what’s happening, which ruins a couple of moments that could’ve been truly frightening. But, ultimately, it has enough genuine chills to warrant a viewing.
Afflicted might be the most well-known on this list, but it's still not known enough. This film manages to do what I’d begun to think was impossible: put a fresh spin on the vampire genre. Two friends embark on a once in a lifetime trip through Europe; but just days in, after an encounter with a mysterious woman, one of them begins to exhibit physical symptoms that defy explanation. Wildly ambitious, and shot with a frenetic style that keeps you on the edge of your seat, Afflicted is one of the best found footage entries in years. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a must watch. If you have seen it - watch it again.
Found Footage is not dead. Much like the rest of the horror genre, you just have to wade through some seriously deep muck to find salvation. These 5 movies are a great start in restoring your faith in the style. Let me know your thoughts below! And feel free to recommend some more great found footage that I didn’t mention.