Over the last twenty years or so, the found footage sub-genre has exploded to the forefront of the horror genre, with plenty of misses, but also some extremely terrifying hits, hence today’s 31 Days of Horror being dedicated to some of the best entries.
Found footage does seem to be on the decline, both in quantity and quality, with interest waning and the bigger franchises griding to a halt, so for now we’ll have to look back rather than forward for the better ones.
Not to be confused with the horrendous American remake Quarantine that followed the next year, REC is a Spanish found footage film that follows a news crew as they investigate a block of apartments a fire crew are attending. The apartments get put in a lockdown by the Spanish authorities after some sort of virus infects some of the inhabitants, giving them inhuman strength and anger issues, to put it lightly.
Shown entirely through the cameraman’s camera, who like in most found footage films conveniently keeps the camera rolling even when it clearly inconveniences him, it’s a claustrophobic, fast-paced film that’ll make you glad when it’s over, but also make you want to watch it again.
One of the most commercially successful found footage films ever, Paranormal Activity spawned multiple Sequels, each attempting to add to the story of the previous, and each actually making the franchise as a whole worse. The first though was full of genuinely scary found footage scares, with a ridiculously simple premise involving a couple’s haunted house and their attempts to remove it.
Anyone that has seen this knows how it ends, and the following sequels actually explain more of the simple premise making it unnecessarily complicated and years-in-the-making. Still, the first will always be worth throwing on if you need a quick scare.
The Blair Witch Project
Arguably the film that started it all, or at least brought the genre to the horror-loving masses, The Blair Witch Project was made and marketed in a time before the genre was a horror staple, and before the internet could spoil a film before release. Marketed as a true story, many fans sat in the cinema glued to their seat in terror, believing the events unfolding in front of their eyes actually happened.
The director took the extra step of having the stars of the film effectively hide away from public life leading to the film’s release, adding to the fervour of the film and the belief of the audience that they were indeed dead. Hard to imagine such a film could be made to the same level today.
The second and third entries into the franchise departed from the found footage genre in their own ways, but the first that started it all used the limitations of the genre to great effect. Featuring a group of New York residents celebrating New Year’s Eve, the film follows as they go from happy, celebratory revellers to running throughout New York City to avoid an unknown threat – at first – in their attempt to survive.
Throughout the film we get little glimpses of what they’re running from, and ideas of the large scale destruction it is causing, but it makes us wait till the very end to see the gigantic monster in all its glory.
Another found footage franchise that has tapered off to the more entries we get, it started off by bringing a fresh take to the genre. Instead of it being one continuous story throughout the film, it’s instead an anthology of smaller, individual stories all tied together in the form of a group of boys having broken into a house and happening upon a large collection of VHS tapes.
By no means all winners, the most infamous of the first film’s tapes is the one of the woman getting picked up at a bar, before chowing down on the group of men she went back to the motel room with.
Each of the following films all have at least one standout entry, but as a whole the first film is more consistent throughout, especially compared to the later ones. The less said about the toothbrush in the toilet later in the film, the better.
There are so many found footage films throughout the years, and maybe we’ve missed some, but these are five of them that’ll leave you questioning reality once they finished. What others would you include?