Found footage movies generally get a bad rap. Everyone tends to complain about them, pointing out how overused and terrible the format is when, in reality, the found footage craze is, for all intents and purposes, over. Horror has moved on.
We’re not getting nearly as many of them as we did in the early part of the decade, which, for most people is seen as a good thing. But now that the moment has passed, it’s easier to look back on some found footage features to see what actually stood out among the bunch.
After all, there have been so many found footage horror movies that some of them are bound to go completely overlooked. Prior to the release of big-hitters such as The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, there were also other, similar features that tend to be forgotten.
It’s a tough style to get right. When found footage really took off, every movie was designed to fit that format and it’s not something that works for every genre. Most features don’t need to be found footage. It can reek of insincerity and studio interference when a film is forced to fit that style.
There was a time when we were just getting the (terrible) found footage versions of Rosemary’s Baby, Back to the Future, E.T., etc, all of which subsequently led to the inevitable bursting of the FF bubble. It also made FF harder to get right, but that didn’t mean nobody ever did.
Here are my picks for seven found footage movies worth another look:
The first V/H/S divided audiences. It is, admittedly, kind of uneven. But the sequel is, thankfully, a better movie in almost every aspect. While the original had the intensity of “Amateur Night” this one ramps up the intensity of every segment. It’s a shame that certain fans haven’t given it the benefit of the doubt, because it does top the original.
Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow doesn’t really count, as it’s more of a mockumentary, but the two formats are very often lumped together. Regardless, Green’s latest is often overlooked. It’s a strong film with some interesting surprises and they clearly had a lot of fun running with the joke and playing up the mythology, which is surprisingly imaginative.
The Houses October Built
Another combination of found footage and mockumentary, The Houses October Built is creepy on many levels. It’s never clear what’s actually going on, if anything is going on. But there’s so much dread hanging over it, it’s like a Creepypasta being told directly to the screen. Is it real? Do these kinds of things happen in professional haunted houses? The movie doesn’t really answer these things, leaving you with a lot to wonder about after it’s over. Great for sparking morbid research.
More people really need to see Lake Mungo. It’s garnered some critical acclaim, but few horror fans actually seem to have caught it, which is a real shame because it’s absolutely worth the watch. There’s so much going on, from the family’s attempt to deal with their tragic loss to the events that occur afterward. Is it supernatural? Or is the family imagining a paranormal scenario in an effort to keep their child alive in their own minds?
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Fans of this movie are so excited and so passionate about it that I often find myself thinking there are more of them than there actually are. But it’s so good. It’s one of my absolute favorites of the 2000s and is so worth checking out. It’s a total deconstruction of slashers in a way that is done with the utmost respect.
Man Bites Dog
Behind the Mask often draws unfair comparisons to this terrific French film, about a documentary crew following a killer. Tonally, the two are entirely different. This is a completely different approach to black comedy. But it’s still scary. It’s as though the audience are dropped into Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and forced to go along with it. There’s something interesting and genuinely disturbing about that.
The Last Broadcast
It might be a little rough around the edges, it might not be the first found footage horror, but everything that The Blair Witch Project did in terms of furthering the idea of found footage and trying to make the audience believe in what was happening was first accomplished by The Last Broadcast. Substitute the Blair Witch for the Jersey Devil and you’re left with two shockingly similar features. Amazingly, this one only beat Blair Witch by a year. Just from that perspective, it’s well worth a watch. But it’s also pretty interesting and spooky on its own.