Bekah’s Ten: Lesser Known Found Footage Films
This past weekend, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series delivered another dose of found footage fright with THE MARKED ONES. By now, we’re all familiar with this immensely popular series, as well as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST as pioneering greats of the medium. But, what of the stellar found footage horror out there that’s passed under the radar? Grab your popcorn and prepare for some shaky camera work as I take you through 10 of the best lesser known Found Footage films.
AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO (Jack Perez, 1993)
A group of criminals kidnap a man (Danny Bonaduce!) who accidentally catches them committing illegal acts and force him to document their crime spree. What results is a superior found footage road flick shot entirely on video, a feat that few filmmakers are able to commit to, despite the nature of this medium.
THE BAY (Barry Levinson, 2012)
Though the leads characters are a bit irritating, the plot and FX of Barry Levinson’s foray into genre will make your skin crawl, rattling even the most hardened horror fan. Flesh-devouring parasites shift from dining on the Chesapeake Bay’s sea life to infecting the local water supply and eating a small town from the inside out.
THE BORDERLANDS (Elliot Goldner, 2013)
Caveat: THE BORDERLANDS isn’t exactly underrated, as its yet to hit our shores, but will hopefully be making its way stateside this year, Elliot Goldner’s debut is perhaps one of the best “found footage” films I’ve seen this decade. In this astoundingly effective UK horror, a group of Vatican researchers travel to a rural church to investigate an alleged haunting.
GHOSTWATCH (Lesley Manning, 1992)
This one is a tad hard to come by outside of the United Kingdom. It first debuted on BBC1 on Halloween night in 1992. Portrayed as a real documentary about a news team investigating a poltergeist, the studio received over 30,000 calls during the broadcast about everything from the content being questionably real to its inclusion of some pretty graphic subjects. Though dated, this mock doc still has some great scares and establishes a lot of the aesthetics of haunting-based “found footage” that would become filmmaking standards in the future.
HOME MOVIE (Christopher Denham, 2008)
Set in upstate New York, a pastor and his psychologist wife seemingly live the ideal life with their twin children. As time passes (and this film does cover a large stretch of time), the children become more distant and sinister. This is not only the most disturbing found footage film I’ve ever seen, but also the most gut wrenching. Don’t miss this sick little movie!
THE LAST BROADCAST (Stefan Aveilos and Lance Weiler, 1998)
For a long time, there was a rumor that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT filmmakers got the idea for their eventual giant success after viewing this other, small feature. The movie is shot docu-style and focuses on several mysterious deaths in NJ and the subsequent murder investigation.
THE LAST HORROR MOVIE (Julian Richards, 2003)
This one was distributed through Fango’s own GOREZONE label back in 2004 and centers on a wedding videographer and his assistant as they commit a series of heinous murders. The innovative bend is that all the carnage is being recorded on a rental VHS tape, setting it up like another film that is being interrupted by a POV slaughter.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: TOKYO NIGHT (Toshikazu Nagae, 2010)
Shortly after the global success of the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film, the Japanese film company Presido made this seemingly unlicensed spin-off, still unreleased in the U.S. Though some of the marketing made it seem like an illegitimate creation, Paramount does own it. The film presents the same set-up (a couple and demon hanging out in a house), but it veers into some completely new ground, offering a subtler, quiet approach and saving the punches for the third act.
THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES (John Erick Dowdle, 2007)
When police raid the house of a killer, they find hundreds of disturbing videotapes documenting his reign of terror. Perhaps the most unsettling part however is that this film has yet to see proper release. Following a disastrous preview screening, MGM still holds the title on a shelf, while its creators John Erick and Drew Dowdle have gone on to helm QUARANTINE and DEVIL.
THE WICKSBORO INCIDENT (2003)
In the 1950s, the entire population of a small Texas town vanishes into thin air. Now 50 years later, a witness emerges to discuss exactly what went down. This one did not get much attention, or positive critical reaction. The premise is great and the build, suspenseful and gripping, yet the ending falls flat, not unlike THE LAST EXORCISM. Still, the fascinating plot and development merit a viewing of this forgotten title.