I’m somewhat of a found footage fan, if it’s done right. A lot of movies go for the found footage style because it’s cheaper (and they also believe it’s most effective in way of being scary). This isn’t always true and because of the whole Blair Witch phenomenon (a GOOD found footage movie that everyone hates for no reason) there have been a bunch of attempts to recreate this type of movie. A lot of them fall flat and suck. Here I have presented in no particular order, the top 10 favorite found footage genre movies I have seen. This may not be entirely spoiler-free but I’ll try.
- Cannibal Holocaust: I basically have to include this one, not only because I really like it but because this is the movie that really started all of the found footage stuff. Mostly. At least, this is the very first movie filmed in this style and it’s from way back in the day. I mean like the 80’s. The director was brought up on murder charges because it was believed he actually killed people on film (he didn’t the effects were just that good). The murder charges were dropped when he was able to prove it, however he was brought up on animal cruelty charges due to how they kill some of the animals on film in the movie. It’s about a film crew that goes out to film an allegedly cannibalistic tribe in the Amazon and obviously it ends up really badly for them. Badly enough that people believed there were actual murders on film and the movie was banned for like 20 years only having been recently released. I’ve only seen it once (that was enough) but I do highly recommend it just for the sheer horror value and the extreme effects.
- V/H/S: Even though I didn’t like 2 of the segments in this movie I still think it’s really good. It’s more of a collection of short found footage horror films than an over all film. The “plot” tying it together also makes no sense. If you can even call it that. Basically a bunch of guys are sent into some weird house to get a tape (they are offered money to find the tape and bring it back). Once in the house they discover a not so dead body and a bunch of VHS tapes. They end up watching tapes at random and all of them are just short segments of found footage horror. Almost all of them are very well done. I’ve already written a review of what is in each segment (which includes a ranked list of which segments I liked and didn’t).
- The Blair Witch Project: Of course, this was going to be one of the movies I included. I like this movie. A lot. I think it’s completely under appreciated for what it is. It’s also been on other lists that I’ve made because I’m intent on making people not only watch it (probably again) but seeing why it’s so great. Really, just think about it. Three people, in the woods. They are filming a documentary about a witch. They come to believe that the witch is real. There’s no actual evidence of said witch. It’s all just psychological. This is something that could really happen to people, and does. People get lost all the time in the woods, in areas they shouldn’t have ever been lost in. They freak out and make it worse on themselves. In this case, they just happened to film it and probably went insane and killed each other. If you watch this movie from the aspect that there really isn’t a witch and it’s just crazy ass people in the woods it’s a lot better. There are also theories around about how it was all just a plot for Mike and Josh to kill Heather. Not ones that I agree with, but potentially could make the movie more scary if you hated it the first time around. Considering how the movie was filmed, how little it cost to make, and how much it made at the box office, there are thousands of reasons why people should technically enjoy this movie. I think what kills it, mainly, is audiences these days want everything spelled out for them because they are lazy. They don’t appreciate vague horror that makes you think and that makes me a sad panda.
- RWD: This is a film I just saw very recently and let me tell you, it’s really good. I did a review of it. Even though I have my complaints I still would rather see something of this caliber than most of the shit they are crapping out in the mainstream as of late. It’s about two guys, Chris and Ricky, who have a youtube channel. They go out into the woods to film some paranormal activity and also try to interview some people who might know about the tragic backstory of the place. Then madness ensues when something happens and they are able to go back in time (and possibly forward) to meet clones of themselves over and over again. This movie was written, acted, filmed, and edited by 2 guys. Just two guys. The end product for the work of two people is absolutely astounding. There are weird plot holes (if you can call them that) but this movie is good enough that I’m interested in watching it multiple times because I’m very set on figuring out just what is going on. I highly recommend it.
- As Above, So Below: I don’t know if this one is cheating or not, mostly because it could also be defined as a mockumentary. However, it is “found footage” in the way that it quite obvious that the documentary they are filming is just never completed. Especially with the ending. Someone must have either found the film or the the main characters kept it and “released” it. You know, as if this were a real life thing. The point is that it somewhat qualifies and that’s why I’m including it. I already did an in depth review of it here. The basic plot to the movie is that there is a girl named Scarlett who is trying to find the philosopher’s stone. She talks about how her father went mad trying to find the location and she’s finishing his life’s work because he killed himself. The only problem is that the stone is in the catacombs of Paris and then they have to literally walk through hell to get it. The acting, effects (and claustrophobic aspects) of this film are amazing. I think it’s well edited and a decently new/original plot idea. The ending definitely seems to be set up for a sequel but there isn’t one in sight (at least for now).
- The Poughkeepsie Tapes: Once again this may be seen as cheating as it’s a mockumentary as well. The “documentary” parts of the movie are horribly acted and done. Which would make people question why I’d include it. Well, the found footage parts of the movie are fucking terrifying. It kind of redeems the horribly lame documentary parts. The found footage is that of an alleged “real” killer in a city called Poughkeepsie and he liked to document his crimes. It seems that the FBI is looking for him and has the footage but also has no idea who he is. The film, I don’t exactly know what happened with a theatrical release. I remember seeing a bunch of trailers for it and then it just never came out. I kept researching it and eventually found it somewhat went straight to DVD (either that or it had a limited release first). I also heard that it just couldn’t be edited down to an R rating and because of that, they couldn’t get it in theaters. Whatever the case, I really recommend it. However, I’ve only seen it once, I only plan to see it once, and I will never see it again. Creeped me right the fuck out. The killer in question pretty much kidnaps a girl, convinces her she’s a doll, makes her kill other people, mutilates her…it’s just fucking wrong. The gritty old style 90’s camera type feel of it makes it more real as well. Definitely give this one a look.
- The Devil Inside: I know that a lot of people didn’t like this movie. I clearly was not one of those people. This movie is about a girl who’s mother killed a bunch of people during an exorcism back in the day. She was moved to a hospital in the Vatican and the girl didn’t know much about her mother. She’s on a documentary mission to find the truth about what really happened. She heads to the Vatican where she sees classes of priests being trained about demonic possession and the practice of performing exorcisms. Eventually she talks to two priests who actually believe her and want to help her. She goes to visit her mother and of course her mother is crazy. A lot of demonic shit happens as well. One of the two priests that help with this whole thing ends up drowning a baby during a baptism and then shooting himself in the head. Yes, I agree the movie has flaws and major plot hole moments but I really like it. Maybe it’s the way it’s filmed or the realism of it. Maybe it’s just that I’m absolutely a sucker for any film about demonic possession. I have no clue. I just think that people hate on this movie more than they really need to because it’s not that bad and I’d even rank it as one of my favorites as of late.
- The Den: This one is really fucking good until the last 10 or so minutes until the entire plot unravels to a point of WTF I can’t believe this shit kind of moment. The point is, that despite that, it’s still worth watching. The movie takes place via videos on a Macbook. A girl is trying to get funding for a documentary project about meeting people online. It’s a psychology thesis thing. She intends to film her video interactions online for a period of a few months to write a thesis on online behavior and interactions and things like that. Except at some point her computer gets hacked. There is a killer (or killers involved). Her friends start dying and she starts seeing it happen in real time. Her phone is hacked and all sorts of other things prevent her from getting in touch with police. She finally finds someone via a chat roulette like system that believes that she’s in trouble and tries to help her. That’s around the point that it all devolves into one of the worst plot twists in history. I still think that for what it is (basically one girl who is always online in some capacity) it’s a good movie. It’s also insanely better than “Unfriended” cause fuck that piece of shit.
- REC: Not to be confused with the American version, Quarantine, which is far worse and not worth your time. REC is a Spanish movie and will have subtitles. This is about a film crew that is filming some normal footage of the nightshift at a firehouse for a segment on the news that is done regularly. They get a call about a woman in an apartment building who is screaming. It all goes to shit from there as it appears that pretty much they’ve stumbled onto a contaminated area where a zombie virus is running rampant. It’s well done and suspenseful. Especially the scenes done in almost total darkness. It’s also a new spin on zombie movies and the cause of the zombie virus is creative as hell (if you ask me and I won’t give away what it is). It’s also far better than the remake and since I feel people are probably more aware of the crap remake than the actual film I wanted to point out that this is the one to watch, not the one America made.
- The Sacrament: This one gets a lot of hate because “blah blah blah it’s a ripoff of this that and the other” whatever I still liked it. This is a movie about some documentarians who go to some kind of commune run by a cult. At first things seem okay, just that all these people are weird hippies. Then it becomes more and more apparent that it’s a religious cult. Some people who want to leave can’t but for the most part they are brainwashed. The filmmakers ask a lot of questions but are met with a lot of roadblocks as well. Then it pretty much devolves into a Jonestown situation of people drinking Kool Aid to end their lives because blah blah blah “salvation”. The only people left are the crew and they are being hunted by the survivors there because no one wants them out alive to tell the story. Things are complicated by the fact that this is an isolated area, private property, and highly secured by these paranoid and religious nutjobs. The helicopter can only land once a day and it’s dangerous to do so. I like it because of how it depicts religious cults and is based heavily on Jonestown even if it isn’t exactly about that. I think it gives a very realistic view on how dangerous cults and people in cults can be (or become) if exposed to that mentality long enough while also being isolated from the real world.
These are my picks for recommended found footage horror. Some of them are probably predictable and some of them I’m sure people just haven’t heard of before. Though all of them are worth watching, some are better than others. Notice how I stayed completely away from the Paranormal Activity movies. That’s because I fucking hate them and I don’t think anyone should watch them. You can read more about that here. These are the found footage movies worth watching if you are either into that genre or trying to get into it.