Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust set tongues wagging in 1980 with its controversial found footage presentation. It's hard to tell what's real and what's not, granted, the film features the actual on-screen slaughter of animals (does that technically make it akin to a snuff film?), but no humans were actually skewered or consumed on screen. The first found footage horror movie to terrify audiences and make the general populace question reality. After the release of Cannibal Holocaust, about three other movies utilized the found footage technique, so while it existed, it was nowhere near as prevalent as we see it today.
Enter, The Blair Witch Project. No other film did as much for the subgenre as Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick's 1999 debut. The internet was just enough of a thing at the time of release to fuel the confusion and rumors rather than immediately debunking them. A phenomenon we will likely never experience again. Following the wild success of Blair Witch, (the film grossed nearly $250 million worldwide on a $60,000 budget), the early aughts ran rampant with found footage horror. A phenomenon that shows no signs of dying down any time soon.
Since Blair Witch's release, dozens of entries have tossed their hat into the ring of the found footage horror subgenre. Now, not all films are created equal, and that holds especially true for found footage. The ultimate beauty of Blair Witch is that it inspired a whole new generation to pick up a camera and make movies. And in that tsunami of entries, there are indeed some true gems. Here are some fan-favorite found footage horror movies in the wake of The Blair Witch Project. 15 of the scariest the subgenre has to offer (post-1999) chosen by found footage fans.
1. Noroi: The Curse (2005)
A missing paranormal journalist and the chilling mystery of a demonic entity. This Japanese-found footage classic is presented as an incomplete documentary by an independent journalist specializing in the supernatural. It comes complete with a warning, “This video documentary is deemed too disturbing for public viewing,” and found footage fans tend to agree, it certainly lives up to it. If you're in the mood for more "J-Horror", we've got a rundown of the essentials.
2. [REC] (2007)
Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró's Spanish nightmare follows a TV host and crew tagging along with the fire department as they answer a call to a large apartment building. An old woman within the complex becomes infected and the whole building is sealed off- with the residents still inside.
3. The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)
Another found footage entry from 2007, this domestic terror focuses on a fictional serial killer, as viewed through the lens of his homemade snuff films. Which is a topic you all seem to be morbidly fascinated by, but you're in luck. More on that here. You can also read Mike Gingold's original Poughkeepsie Tapes review.
4. Lake Mungo (2008)
This 2008 Australian entry focuses on a family who has recently lost a daughter in a presumed drowning. They hire a parapsychologist to help them unravel the mysteries of the real Alice, and all signs point to Lake Mungo. Party mystery, part ghost story, worth a watch. There's a reason it made our list of 13 Top Frightful Films That Marked Zoomers For Life.
5. The Fourth Kind (2009)
A slew of missing folks in Nome, Alaska lead to evidence of alien abduction and possession as viewed from a psychological angle. Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich) conducts a series of interviews with the afflicted residents in a a pseudo-documentary style. Read Mike Gingold's original review here.
6. Grave Encounters (2011)
Grave Encounters models itself after popular paranormal "reality" investigation series, and does a pretty accurate job of capturing the vibe. The crew is invited to examine an abandoned psychiatric hospital, where unexplained phenomena have been reported, and this time, the scares are real.
7. V/H/S (2012)
The first installment in the long-running V/H/S anthology franchise created by Brad Miska (of Bloody Disgusting ) centers on a gang offered a fat paycheck if they break into a house to steal a single VHS tape. Naturally, they accept. What they find inside is a corpse in the TV room, and as the thugs search the house, one stays behind to watch a VHS left in the VCR. Read Mike Gingold's original review, and check out our interview with filmmakers Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, and Johannes Roberts from the most recent release, V/H/S/99. We are eagerly anticipating V/H/S/85, featuring directors Scott Derrickson (The Black Phone), David Bruckner (the recent Hellraiser), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Bingo Hell), Natasha Kermani (Lucky) and Mike P. Nelson (Wrong Turn).
8. The Sacrament (2013)
Ti West's found footage horror reveals the events surrounding an investigative team's visit to a remote commune, led by a dangerous fanatic who maintains an iron grip on his followers. Heavily inspired by the real-life horrific events of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre. As a bonus read, dive into cults in Society and The Sacrament.
9. The Borderlands (2013)
Also known as Final Prayer, The Borderlands centers on strange phenomena in a rural English church. A team sent by the Vatican to investigate a potential modern miracle, discovers some dark secrets lurking off the grid. This one's got an ending that sticks with you. Enjoy!
10. As Above So Below (2014)
As Above So Below takes viewers beneath the streets of Paris to explore the ancient famed catacombs with a team of archaeologists in search of Flamel's Philosopher's Stone. The initial premise sounds like an Indiana Jones or even Goonies-esque adventure, but naturally the team descends further into their own personal hell as the expedition goes on. Filmed in the actual Paris catacombs, something about knowing civilization is above, just out of reach, somehow makes the horror and claustrophobia all the more chilling.
11. The Taking Of Deborah Logan (2014)
Before director Adam Robitel brough us Insidious: The Last Key and the Escape Room movies, there was Deborah Logan. As a film crew documents what they believe to be an elderly woman battling Alzheimer's disease, they end up discovering something far more sinister going on. Even if you missed this one, chances are you've encountered (and been haunted by) the image of an old woman going full anaconda on someone's head. Full marks for that alone. It's on our list of 10 Terrifying Movies To Keep The Frights Flowing After You Watch Insidious, check out the rest of the list.
12. Hell House LLC (2015)
Hell House LLC kicked off this series, following an investigation into a suspicious and tragic Halloween haunt accident at the mysterious Abaddon hotel. Two sequels have since been released Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel and Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire, exploring the malevolent history behind the hotel and its inhabitants. There's talk of another sequel on the way, Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor, slated for a fall release.
13. Host (2020)
Before tackling a feature film adaptation of Stephen King's short story, The Boogeyman, director Rob Savage was hunkered down in lockdown with the rest of us. But unlike most of us, he and writer Jed Savage and the cast of Host created a viral sensation in the age of Zoom meetings and hangouts, the Host team presented a Zoom seance gone wrong. A horror movie and a sort of time capsule that will be especially interesting to revisit a decade or so down the line.
14. Incantation (2022)
I get the feeling this one is criminally underseen, despite being available on Netflix. I stumbled across it one night, unceremoniously dumped onto the home screen, entered blindly, and spent the night with what I'd put my money on as the scariest movie of 2022. Shot on a small digital video camera and GoPro, director Kevin Ko packs some hard hitting scares into this tale of ancient curses, hair-munching frogs, and, well... incantations. If you need more convincing, take a peek behind the scenes here.
15. Horror In The High Desert (2021)
This recent entry on the list takes it back to Blair Witch style origins with a missing hiker and night vision footage. Presented as part Dateline style pseudo-documentary mixed in with the "missing hiker's" recovered footage, this one takes us into the wilds of the Nevada desert. A sequel, Horror In The High Desert 2: Minerva was released earlier this year and is streaming for free on Tubi.
The Blair Witch Project didn't invent the found footage horror subgenre, but it certainly doused it in kerosene, tossed a match, and the flame has since been burning fiercely for over two decades. A slew of filmmakers have ventured off, video camera in hand, fueled by the fact that found footage can be a bit more accessible to the low to no budget set.
Blair Witch managed to capture lightning in a bottle, but every so often, a filmmaker comes along and shows us a new and innovative angle in the world of found footage, as in the examples above or the "haunted house underwater" terror The Deep House, and most recently with the horror-comedy Deadstream which is best described as Evil Dead meets Blair Witch in the age of the "influencer." How's that for a lasting impact on the genre? And for that, we salute you, Blair Witch, and all the creatives out there doin' the damn thing.