Remy: Hey man, I found this old unmarked VHS under my grandad’s TV last week and was wondering if you wanted to watch it? Who knows what it could be!
Nato: Sure Remy, what’s the worst that can happen!
*20 minutes later*
Nato: Did we just watch a sex tape of your grandparents doing it?
Remy: Jesus Christ, that may be the most terrifying found footage I have ever seen, I am so sorry…
Nato: What the hell made you pick that random video of all things to show me!?
Remy: Well, it seems to be “working” for horror movies, and you wanted to talk about the found footage horror movement this week, so I thought this could make a cheesy introduction displaying the proverbial gamble that is found footage horror?
Nato: Well, now that you put it like that…wait…why didn’t we ever turn it off?
Today’s Topic: What’s Up With Found Footage Horror These Days?
If you’re a fan of horror, then you already know about how overly saturated our beloved genre is with found footage thrillers these days. Whatever film you want to blame for the recent trend, be it Cloverfield back in 2008 or Paranormal Activity in 2009, there’s just no escaping shaky first-person camera work and cheap jump scares in today’s cinema, as everyone eventually is forced to partake in a found footage crapshoot at least once in their life.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen some absolutely gorgeous creations that utilize found footage stylings which completely dominate your senses, but in return we’ve also sat angrily through too many films that exploit such an easily manipulated genre and attempt to pass off such abominations as feature films.
The movement goes back much farther than 2008 though. Dating back to 1980, Italian director Ruggero Deodato created one of the most controversial horror films of all time, Cannibal Holocaust, which happened to use found footage. Deodato’s film was so real and unsettling, it was seized by the Italian government for investigation into whether the director actually killed his actors to make the film and in turn was peddling a snuff film to the masses. These allegations of course were proven untrue, but as you can see, found footage was around much earlier than one would expect. Films like Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch, and Cannibal Holocaust can all be praised as original kick-starters for this movement, aside from Charles B. Pierce’s The Legend of Boggy Creek, a much lesser known creature feature from 1972.
In the most mainstream sense though, let’s break it down.
As I said, there are films which make us hesitant in calling for the immediate stop of found footage. Films like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project, the [REC] franchise, and Trollhunter all do things tremendously well in their own right. From Cloverfield and Trollhunter‘s focus on gigantically scaled threatening creatures to Paranormal Activity‘s gripping tension, these films have kept me from writing off found footage horror altogether.
Unfortunately, there’s so much to hate. Films like Chernobyl Diaries, Apollo 18, Quarantine, The Last Exorcism, and The Devil Inside all suck the big one. From terrible attempts at intensity absent horror, to cheap scares, to nauseating camera work, the horrid list goes on considering how easily filmmakers can muck up this genre. Anyone can grab a camera and scream at monsters off-screen, but that doesn’t mean you’ve made watchable horror. Most of the time, it’s just lazy.
Found footage horror’s main selling point is the idea that you’re watching past events based on reality, usually as police evidence or some wide-releasing circumstance. Films like Cannibal Holocaust and The Poughkeepsie Tapes are considered so highly disturbing and real, audiences questioned directorial intentions. Likewise, when Paranormal Activity came out, one of the top searches on Google was if main character Micah Sloat was actually dead. I’d say if you’re film is considered snuff, you’ve done a pretty damn good job creating something realistic.
Side note, if anyone has a way for me to watch The Poughkeepsie Tapes, I would love to know! It’s 2012 and there’s still no DVD release after its extremely limited 2007 release.
But enough about history, follow Remy and I as we tackle our most hated and loved found footage horror films!
Continue reading on the next page…