My favorite horror movie genre is found footage. It’s like I can’t get enough of that style, and I know what many people think, it’s cheap, and it’s cheesy and bad. But, many underrated movies are gaining popularity in the genre. Here are some!
The Found Footage Debate
Many of us believe that the found footage style began with The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Then you have those who argue that Cannibal Holocaust from 1980 is the first of its kind. However, maybe some of us were wrong. The ups and downs of found-footage started in the new millennium for sure!
*** Before we go any further, let’s remind ourselves of a great tool to avoid trauma while watching horror movies: Does The Dog Die ***
While Cannibal Holocaust was part found footage, it wasn’t all found footage. However, maybe they were the first to exploit the marketing method of asking their actors to hide to reinforce the “true story” part. The director was also dragged to court and had to pay a fee for animal cruelty.
The Blair Witch Project did use the same marketing trick with their actors, except there was no mistreatment or animal cruelty. The trio got lost a few times in the woods but always got back on track. But in the end, neither The Blair Witch Project nor Cannibal Holocaust is the parent of the genre.
Two Forgotten Found Footage Movies
However, an exploitation horror Japanese movie came out in 1985 named Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood. The story is about a psychotic killer who films his detestable actions after kidnapping a woman and torturing her by dismemberment.
The movie revealed itself quite controversial, and actor Charlie Sheen even took the movie to the police department believing it to be real.
In 1998, the movie The Last Broadcast came out. It is on the horror side, with the plot revolving around the local television producers. They venture into the woods and search for the paranormal creature, Jersey Devil. Considered to be the first movie on the low-budget end of the spectrum for public consumption, The Last Broadcast became the first found footage of its kind.
Now, do we count Guinea Pig 2 as the first one or The Last Broadcast? What is your opinion on the matter?
A Cascade of Found Footage
After The Blair Witch Project’s immediate success and box office release, the found footage genre exploded. As it happens with every successful product, many knockoffs hit the screen, and the genre became saturated.
So many people thought they could top the success of The Blair Witch Project but fell short. Movies like 2018 Antrum or 2015 The Gallows, sold with high promises, didn’t quite meet the challenge of selling the horror despite having an interesting overall idea.
Others had an intriguing plot following a popular theme like Halloween, Themed Houses, or Parks. Movies like 2014 The House October Built seemed to have it together until you realize it was a bit too slow of a pace to sell the idea.
Then you have a good idea, like, 2014 Digging Up The Marrow, that is awesome! But, ends up as a half-decent movie. It’s worth a watch but doesn’t expect to have your mind blown. The list can go on forever of found footage movies that either were not good at all or had that excellent story but not as good of a direction.
A Decade Of Found Footage
Like any style out there, once a good recipe finds a crowd, many want to copy the formula. That’s a normal thought, and everyone thinks they can do it better by mixing ingredients. Not everyone succeeds, but some do, and it becomes incredible.
Are there rules for a good found footage movie? The only one I think that matters is “Why does it have to be a found footage?” The first big hit after The Blair Witch Project in 1999 was Paranormal Activity in 2009. The frenzy surrounded The Blair Witch Project died out and gave a chance to Paranormal Activity to break new records a decade later.
Another wave started, but this time, some gems came out of it. Let’s not mention both franchises from The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. But instead, what opened the doors to new mockumentaries, documentary-style movies that are entirely fictional.
Horror mockumentaries like The Conspiracy in 2013 revolve around one secret society that supposedly rules them all. It is pretty engrossing and intriguing. They mixed known conspiracies with fictional ones and achieved quite a good result.
The Rise Of Mockumentary Movies
Aside from The Conspiracy that relies on politics and paranoia, others decided to dig deeper with psychology mockumentary and came out with Creep 1 2014 and Creep 2 in 2017, both little gems to watch.
The first movie follows Joseph that decides to hire a filmmaker, Aaron, to record his every move under the assumption that he will die. Joseph wants to leave something for his unborn child to know him.
The movie makes the viewer uncomfortable through strange behaviors and decisions that quickly reveal the man is a serial killer. The sequel is just as good, but the plot changes a little with a woman filmmaker who is quite comfortable with almost any situation. Both are worth watching!
In 2006 Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon came out. It is another mockumentary, but this time we dive into a different concept. In this movie, we follow a documentary crew that wishes to document the life of an upcoming serial slasher killer.
Leslie Vernon is a fan of Jason Voorhees and wants nothing more than becoming a famous slasher killer himself as a career. He explains his training and research, and it is pretty intelligent.
What About The Demonic Footage
The 2014 The Possession of Michael King revolves around a father who suffers from the loss of his wife. That is after she took a decision based on a psychic. He is a widow and father of a young daughter. His only goal is to prove that the paranormal and supernatural don’t exist.
Michael King does everything he could to invite a demon inside of him and confronts the psychic, a con artist. However, things turn for the worst, and the result is a fantastic movie. He documents everything he can to prove it doesn’t exist but fails.
Another incredible movie in the same genre, aside from the 2014 The Taking of Deborah Logan, is an underrated gem. The Last Exorcism is a movie about a young woman who lives in the secluded south of the USA. A priest who doesn’t believe in possessions is out to prove that everything is psychological and for a good while you believe it. It’s logical.
What this movie shows is what seems and should be pretty obvious can hide something darker than anticipated. The Last Possession is an intriguing movie and quite underrated.
There Is Still Place For Paranormal Footage
One that gains popularity every year is Grave Encounters from 2011. This movie follows a team of ghost hunters into a psychiatric asylum where shady things took place.
They have no shame filming themselves laughing and prepping for fake stories and psychic abilities. But, soon, things go south, and the asylum has no entries and no exits.
A movie franchise that went under the radar is 2015 Hell House LLC. This movie is a trilogy that deserves your attention! A found-footage mockumentary about a group of adults who build Halloween houses more horrific than the last. There is plenty of horror for everyone!
Each movie has its place and reason to be. The story makes a full circle by the end, and it is glorious. The Abaddon Hotel becomes the property of the group leader, and no one knows how or why. The group moves inside the hotel to build the most fantastic Halloween Haunted House and their graves.
Plus, one of the life-size clown props in the Hell House basement is one of the creepiest ever made. The clown even made its way into quite a few Top 5 horrifying clowns or props lists!
He is part of all three movies too! Despite Hell House being more of a demonic possession case than hauntings, it only makes the trilogy even more engrossing. This movie franchise is an absolute gem.
Killing And Chilling That’s All?
What is there more for me to say to convince horror fans to give found footage another try? Maybe not all creatures are zombies in those movies?
That’s right! Despite the ever-growing popularity of zombies in horror movies, other creatures have a place in found footage and mockumentaries.
Movies like 2014 Exists revolves around a group of people trying to prove that Bigfoot exists and is just like the movie 2013 Willow Creek. What is best with found footage movies is when animals aren’t on camera since often those movies are on a tight low budget, and it works.
2014 Pyramid is another one where the Ancient Egyptian belief is part of the story, and it works quite well with the genre. Another found footage happening on stranger lands is 2008 The Ruins, where the Mayan ancestry tries to protect itself.
What About More Found Footage Creatures?
However, my personal favorite story with my favorite creature is in the 2013 Canadian movie, Afflicted. It brings vampires to the real world. Yes, I said it, vampires. Plus, the story is not cheesy, romantic, sparkly, or anything else than horrifying and amazing!
Afflicted revolves around a European vacation between two friends, Derek, who has AVM and might die sooner than later, and Cliff holding the camera. The vacation goes downhill when Derek encounters a strange illness consuming him and changing him.
Another movie putting vampires upfront in a found-footage style is 2014 The Black Water Vampire. This is a found footage movie that follows the foundation of The Blair Witch Project and adapts it to fit their story.
So, it’s no surprise when recognizing certain scenes or shared paranoia between the group of friends trying to find a creature in the woods.
What Is Your Favorite Found Footage Movie?
Many incredible found footage movies and horror mockumentaries are hidden in a pool of the same genre but not as good. Sadly, the bad movies gave the genre a bad reputation, but there are underrated gems.
All the movies mentioned above are doing their rotation between the mainstreaming companies such as Netflix, Prime Video, Crave, Tubi, and my personal favorite, Shudder. But tell me, what found footage is the best for you? Tell me if I should mention more because I missed a few in there!