As I continue to review horror film’s sub-genres and the greatest films of each, I knew eventually I would have to tackle “Found Footage” films. I say “have to” because of all of the sub-genres of horror, it is my least favorite. Horror film makers love the found footage sub-genre, and why wouldn’t they? The give an incredible cinematic experience to the audience without the Hollywood production, void of fake sets, sound effects and soundtrack. There is no orchestra to speed up the tempo when something terrible is about to happen. And best of all, these things can be made on a shoestring budget.
I struggled with this one, as I was forced to watch a lot of films that I really didn’t want to watch. That said, I also came across some that surprised me by drawing me in. I have to admit, I got some help with this list from a couple of friends of mine who are horror film freaks like me. Thank you, John Gilliam, of the “Mean Joe Grizzly” podcast and one of my best friends in the world, Dr. William Lester of Nightfall Radio.
- Blair Witch Project (1999) – This is one I enjoyed when it came out. Mystery unfolds as the film takes you through the journey of three film students, eager to investigate the local Blair Witch Legend. However, a supernatural presence takes their lives, leaving only their camera behind to offer clues. It was filmed on a $35 thousand dollar budget and earned 258.6 million dollars at the box office. Even better than the realism of the style of shooting was the brilliant pre-release advertising campaign online and social media. People went to this movie believing it was real and left saying, “damn, it was real.”
- Creep (2014) – A freelance videographer accepts a Craigslist gig, and travels to a remote mountain cabin to record the last words of a dying man. As his subject’s behavior gets stranger and more sinister, the videographer is forced to come face to face with his own tragic fate. The film’s dialogue is almost entirely improvised, which makes this even better.
- Lake Mungo (2008) – There are no ghosts or ghouls or creatures in this one, but there are some family demons. It centers around a family that has been shattered by a daughter’s drowning, and the family’s subsequent entanglement in what may or may not be a haunting, and the mother’s desire to determine what kind of life her daughter had been living.
- Cannibal Holocaust (1980) Some critics consider director Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust to be the most controversial horror film to ever be made. Controversy aside, the cult classic of a film certainly was the first major motion picture to experiment and bring the found footage format to the forefront of a movie. I just recently watched this one and it was brutal and savage. Documentary film is found from a crew exploring the amazon and their fate is captured on the film, which was all that was found of them by the search party.
- The Last Broadcast (1988) – When two cable TV hosts are tragically murdered, one body winds up never to be found. Inspired by the gruesome mystery, a documentary filmmaker investigates the murders within his unsolved crimes show. His team receives a tip to track down the Jersey Devil, a mythical creature said to fly the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey. Shot on a $900.00 budget it grossed $400 million at the box office internationally.
- Paranormal Activity (2007) – Filmed entirely with a handheld camera from the perspective of Micah, the main character, it tells the story of him and his girlfriend Katie, who move into a middle-class house and attempt to document why Katie feels she has been experiencing supernatural events her entire life. It is revealed that a demon has attached itself to Katie and that Micah’s attempts to film it, even while they sleep, have angered the demon. Shot on $15,000 dollars and grossing $300 million, it sparked five sequels.
- The Visit (2015) – I saw this one when it came out and have to say I enjoyed it. It was creepy as hell and there were a couple of parts that made you kind of pull your feet off the floor and cringe. Two young kids visit a farm in rural Pennsylvania to meet with their grandparents for the first time. They stay the weekend and things get eerie. In a way the movie combines horror and comedy, but still always manages to be a radically scary, or at least very creepy, film.
- Cloverfield (2008) – A monster, which is never really at the forefront of the film, unleashes carnage on New York City, and we, the audience, are witnesses to the chaos created in the lives of people in the face of disaster. This could be considered a sci-fi movie but the terror it causes and the filming style from JJ Abrams slap it right in this sub-genre.
- The Den (2013) – A show of the dangers of technology and that monsters are really humans. a graduate student studying sociology with a focus on how relationships develop online. Her dissertation research involves her sitting on a chat site called The Den, where a user is randomly connected to another user through video chat. But the more time Elizabeth spends in The Den, the more she realizes that it’s being used for something much more sinister.
- The Last Exorcism (2010) – This was one I listed among my top possession movies. A charismatic Pentecostal preacher performs exorcisms not because he believes in demons, but because he figures that some mentally unwell people will simply respond to the power of suggestion. Until he runs into a case that is an authentic possession and things go sideways. Loved this movie, as I’m a bit possession movie fan.
A few more to consider
Hell House LLC (2015)
As Above, So Below (2010)
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)