Found footage is popular in the horror genre. These documentary-style movies often make the audience feel like they’re following amateur filmmakers or people recording themselves on a standard, non-professional camera -- people who are just like them. This level of realism can connect an audience to the story and characters, provided it’s done right.
Here are some of your Hattiesburg Horror Movie Examiner’s favorite found footage movies. Some of them are well-known, some are not. But all are examples of filmmakers with a handheld camera and identifiable characters getting under an audience’s skin.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The movie that started the modern found footage craze. The Blair Witch Project follows a group of film students who get lost in the woods while filming a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch. As they get deeper into the woods, they start to think the witch is hunting them. This movie works so well not only because it was marketed as a true story (though it’s clearly not), but because it builds the right amount of suspense at the right times.
Spanish movie [REC] follows reporter Angela Vidal filming a group of firefighters for a segment on her late night show. When the firefighters get called to an apartment building, they find something they never expected -- zombies. As if that weren’t bad enough, the police and military seal everyone inside for fear they’ll get out and spread the virus. Now Angela, her cameraman, the firefighters, and apartment residents have to escape the building before they really do become infected.
Quarantine is an American remake of [REC]. The basic premise is identical, and even the first half or so is almost frame for frame the same. But this movie delves into an entirely different explanation for the zombie virus.
The Last Exorcism (2010)
Reverend Cotton Marcus doesn’t believe in exorcisms. But when a farmer asks the Reverend to perform one on his daughter, he agrees. At the time, he’s being followed by a film crew shooting a documentary about his life, and he thinks the film footage will prove his belief that exorcisms aren’t real. But, of course, he turns out to be wrong.
Grave Encounters (2011)
Grave Encounters follows filmmakers on a ghost hunting show. When they arrive at the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, it’s supposed to be a typical night of filming. But of course, there’s more to it than that -- once the building gets them inside, it might not ever let them leave.
Grave Encounters isn’t as well-known as some other movies on this list, and it does get a bit tiring near the end, but it’s still a great option for people looking for some found footage fun.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
This movie was a sleeper hit, only gaining traction after a massive internet campaign for a wide release. The story of a couple haunted by an unseen demonic force has spawned numerous sequels and even a spin-off, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. After the first movie, the sequels were somewhat hit and miss in terms of popularity.
Found footage movies are rarely big budget, but this one has tons of crazy special effects. It begins with a twentysomething named Hudson (Hud for short) filming his friend Rob’s going away party. But when a monster attacks New York, they have to escape, and Hud decides to document the experience. In many ways, it’s a classic monster movie.
Diary of the Dead
This installment in George A. Romero’s famous Night of the Living Dead franchise follows a group of college students making a horror movie. But when they get word that real zombies are roaming around, they decide to make a real zombie movie...and, you know, escape the zombies.