The found footage genre is arguably one of the most divisive in modern cinema nowadays. Over the past ten years we have been treated to an onslaught of film after film, seeing as Hollywood had found itself a big seller after Paranormal (non) Activity (2007). Whether you love them or hate them, they have made a significant impact in the film world, scaring audiences with an almost fly-on-the-wall documentary feel as to the horrors (or fun) the central characters seem to be going through. Now that Hardcore Henry (2015) is getting some praise for its unique spin on the action genre (although it is from the 1st person but very similar in style), let’s have a look at some of the greats.
10. Paranormal Activity (2007)
The reason this film is so far down the list is pretty obvious after what I said in the introduction. It really is such an unbelievably boring movie, and quite frankly I can never understand how anyone finds this franchise the one bit scary. However, it is hard to deny how much of a success the franchise has made for itself, and now with talks of a new VR simulator in the process, it could finally make something that needed help in the frights that bit more scary (people who have ever played P.T would have a better understanding of what could be achieved).
9. The Last Horror Movie (2003)
This is actually quite an underrated gem. The only problem is that the novelty of the film is solely based around a rented VHS that is supposed to be playing some corny slasher, but instead is taped over by a serial killer and his exploits. It follows almost in the same vein as Michael Hanake’s Funny Games (1997/2007) in the sense that the killer questions why you continue to watch. It was quite a good idea for the time, however it just never caught on as everyone switched to DVD’s at the time. Still a thumbs up for originality though.
8. Grave Encounters (2011)
A lot of people would have a problem with this selection but quite frankly it deserves to be on this list, and yes ahead of Paranormal Activity. The ghost hunting tv show thing has been done to death, but the atmosphere and the overall creepiness of this film really had me on edge for weeks to come. Especially after walking home at night with no lights and coming home to my kitchen to see every cabinet opened, I was pretty spooked for a while (that is 100% true by the way).
7. Chronicle (2012)
The first non-horror film to hit our list. A surprisingly enjoyable take on the superhero film, and a good look at how too much power can consume you into complete madness. It’s a fun and enjoyable film for the first while, just showing typical teenage banter if you had magic powers. However it takes a very sinister turn when one of them realises he could use his gifts for acts of revenge. Well worth your time.
6. V/H/S 2 (2013)
Although the first V/H/S (2012) had its moments, the sequel really ups the ante. With some short films dealing with a robotic eye that sees ghosts, a cyclist with a go-pro turning into a zombie, and a boys slumber party turning into an alien abduction, it is a ridiculous amount of fun and has plenty of gore. Keep an eye out for the cult short, directed by Gareth Evans, the mastermind behind the amazing The Raid (2011), which is bloody and bonkers, just exactly what every gore hound needs.
5. Trollhunter (2010)
The second non-horror film on our list is this amazing Norwegian fantasy film. As the title would suggest, a documentary crew follow in pursuit of a man who is suspected of poaching bears, but discover in reality, he hunts trolls for a living. This then leads them on a few surreal encounters with some strange looking creatures. The climax is one of the most astonishing final acts in a film I have seen in quite some time.
4. Man Bites Dog (1993)
The final non-horror on the list (some may disagree), is this pitch black comedy from Belgium. Following a serial killer named Benoit on his exploits, we soon discover how foul he really is, even beyond his sick murders. It starts off pretty bleak with some of Ben’s strange sense of humour and world views, but it soon descends into chaos as the film crew join in on his adventures, leading them all on a downward spiral of rape and murder, one they would never recover from.
3. REC (2007)
The only zombie film on our list (excluding the segment from V/H/S 2) follows a news team who shadow a firefighting team out on a routine call out. What they soon discover in fact is that the apartment building they have been called to is now on lockdown from the government, as something evil has found its way into the building, and is possessing everyone into undead flesh-eaters. Incredibly intense and with a creepy environment located in the old building it will always be hailed as not just one of the best found footage films, but also one of the scariest films in general.
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Before you all start getting your panties in a twist let me just say this, if it were up to me, this film wouldn’t even be on this list. It is powerfully boring, the acting is rubbish, and I would honestly watch Paranormal Activity instead (which is saying a lot). However I will say that it is a missed opportunity as I was too young to have seen it when it was first released, and I can only imagine it scared the shit out of people back then. The gimmick may be long gone but I have to face facts and accept the impact of the film itself, some may even argue that it is the first found footage (it isn’t but it got its inspiration from 1992’s Ghost Watch), but its legacy will always be remembered for the chills it gave people back in 1999.
1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
The Mac Daddy of them all. Arguably the first found footage film ever, this is the one that really made an impact. Quite frankly one of the most repulsive and disturbing movies ever made, when a director has to prove his cast were not actually murdered in real life and bring them into court to prove his innocence, it just makes any other film on this list pale in comparison. Found footage is just a novelty these days, but people thought this was the real thing. Although the animal cruelty is unforgivable, and director Ruggero Deodato did get into trouble for it, it’s impossible to shake off how much this film grabs your soul and ruptures it till you feel somewhat unclean. Sick, intense, disturbing, and it sits proudly on my DVD shelf.