Found Footage Films That Don't Suck





Blair Witch Project
1999 



Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind. Depending on how you view the current state of horror this is either a film that's revered or one that's reviled. Several films used the found footage conceit before Blair Witch but this is the one that crossed over in a big bad way. The film made $248 mil worldwide on a $60 k budget. I'm not terribly interested in box office figures but it is important to help illustrate the impact it had. Its easy to draw a line in the sand of films that came before and after Blair Witch. Unfortunately it seems like most producers and a number of film makers latched on to the obvious conceit of the film and ignored what made it work, it wasn't the camera work or special effects, no, it was the performances. This film is scary as hell because you become invested in the protagonists. If you haven't seen it do yourself a favor and remedy that immediately, if its been a couple years you'll be pleasantly surprised by how well it holds up.

BWP is currently streaming on HULU and EPIX




[REC]
2008


A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying. Remade as Quarantine for American audiences) because god knows we hate reading at the movies) REC is a tense thriller that did something truly unique with the overcrowded zombie and found footage genres. I watched this film with my wife and it scared her in a way that few horror films have.




Willow Creek
2013



Jim and his girlfriend Kelly are visiting the infamous Willow Creek, the alleged home of the original Bigfoot legend - the tale of huge ape like creatures that roam the forests of North America. It was there that in 1967, the legendary beast was captured on film and has terrified and mystified generations since. Keen to explore more than 50 years of truth, folklore, misidentifications and hoaxes, Kelly goes along for the ride to keep Jim happy, whilst he is determined to prove the story is real by capturing the beast on camera. Deep in the dark and silent woods, isolated and hours from human contact, neither Kelly or Jim are prepared for what is hidden between the trees, and what happens when the cameras start rolling...

Bobcat Golthwait (World's Greatest Dad, Shakes The Clown, Call Me Lucky, Sleeping Dogs Lie) continues to become one of the most interesting film makers working today.  There is a scene towards the end of the film that runs close to 20 minutes without a cut. Its one of the more tense experiences I've had in a theater.  Brilliantly acted and directed Golthwait somehow made a scary found footage Bigfoot movie. The deck was certainly stacked against this one but it manages to defy the odds and go down as one of the better horror films of the last ten years.



The Sacrament
2013


The journalist Patrick works at the VICE, a company dedicated to cover bizarre news. When his sister Caroline joins a community, she travels abroad with her new family. Out of the blue, Caroline invites her brother to visit her in an undefined country and Patrick travels by helicopter with his friends Jake and Sam that work with him at VICE. They find weird that the men that have come to guide them to the Eden Parish have guns. On the arrival to the camp, Patrick, Sam and Jake find a community of happy people that worship Father. They interview Father but soon they realize that people are not as happy as they seem to be. Further, they find that they are trapped in the Parish Eden and they want to leave the place with the newcomers. But the Father does not have intention to let them go.

Don't call it a slow burn. Ti West (The House Of The Devil, The Innkeepers) hates it when you say his films are a slow burn.... fine, this film falls in line with Ti Wests deliberate pacing. He builds tension like few other film makers and allows dread to fill every frame he composes. Gene Jones was overlooked this year for any awards but he was more than deserving. Genre films are often over looked and The Sacrament is no exception.



The Last Exorcism
2010


In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the evangelical Reverend Cotton Marcus was raised by his father to be a preacher. He agrees that the filmmaker Iris Reisen and the cameraman Daniel Moskowitz make a documentary about his life. Cotton tells that when his wife Shanna Marcus had troubles in the delivery of their son Justin, he prioritized the doctor help to God and since then he questions his faith. Further, he tells that exorcisms are frauds but the results are good for the believers because they believe it is true. When Cotton is summoned by the farmer Louis Sweetzer to perform an exorcism in his daughter Nell, Cotton sees the chance to prove to the documentary crew what he has just told. They head to Ivanwood and they have a hostile reception from Louis's son Caleb. Cotton performs the exorcism in Nell, exposing his tricks to the camera, but sooner they learn that the dysfunctional Sweetzer family has serious problems.






Man Bites Dog
1992 



A camera crew follows a serial killer/thief around as he exercises his craft. He expounds on art, music, nature, society, and life as he offs mailmen, pensioners, and random people. Slowly he begins involving the camera crew in his activities, and they begin wondering if what they're doing is such a good idea, particularly when the killer kills a rival and the rival's brother sends a threatening letter.

When you opened this article you probably weren't  expecting to see any Criterion titles but you have to pepper them in every now and again. Man Bites Dog is shocking, funny and way ahead of its time. It predicted the reality TV culture that we were leaning towards in the 90s but find ourselves fully amerced in today. This film is over the top and probably the most disturbing one in the bunch because it is the closest thing to the reality we currently inhabit.  You probably haven't seen this one but you should.




The Bay
2012



This "found-footage" film is set in 2009 in the town of Claridge, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. During the town's annual 4th of July Crab Festival, townspeople become sick, exhibiting a variety of symptoms, which leads local news reporters to suspect something has infected the water there. No one is sure what it is or how it's transmitted, but as people start to behave strangely, and others turning up dead, fear spawns into panic. The town is shut down as government authorities confiscate video footage from every media or personal source they find, in an effort to cover-up the incident. But one local reporter who witnessed the epidemic, was able to document, assemble, and hide this film in hopes that one day, the horrible truth would be revealed . . .

Wait a minute Barry (Avalon, Tin Men, Sleepers, Good Morning Vietnam, Diner, Wag The Dog) Levinson made a found footage horror film? Well that's true but he also wrote it. So this wasn't a hired gun type gig where he needed to pay for a divorce. Well maybe it was but it doesn't come across that way. In fact The Bay is filled with a kinetic energy that few other horror films can match.  Something about this film feels vital and alive. A small part of me hopes that this film is really a commentary on the films of Michael Bay. We can assume that Mr Bay is the scientist and his films are the ecological disaster that devastates a small Maryland town. 


Troll Hunter
2012

When bears are found dead in Norway, the students of the Volda University Thomas, Johanna and the cameraman Kalle decide to investigate. They stalk the trailer of the mysterious hunter Hans expecting to find an explanation for the killings. The reluctant Hans tries to flee from the youngsters, but he agrees that they film him in action provided they follow his orders. Sooner the trio of students learns that Hans is actually a troll hunter that works for a secret government agency. Further, several dangerous trolls have escaped from their territory and Hans is assigned to eliminate them.



Cloverfield
2008 



Cloverfield follows five New Yorkers from the perspective of a hand-held video camera. The movie is exactly the length of a DV Tape and a sub-plot is established by showing bits and pieces of video previously recorded on the tape that is being recorded over. The movie starts as a monster of unknown origin destroys a building. As they go to investigate, parts of the building and the head of the Statue of Liberty come raining down. The movie follows their adventure trying to escape and save a friend, a love interest of the main character.

You've seen it. You loved it. Or you hated it. Either way I think its a whole bunch of fun and I'm excited for the sequel. 


Creep
2015

When a videographer answers a Craigslist ad for a one-day job in a remote mountain town, he finds his client is not at all what he initially seems. This film has had a lasting impact on my household. Anytime I want to get a rise out of my wife I'll mention "Tubby Time" and she gets creeped the fuck out. Most horror films are filled with empty calories that barely leave an impression but I have a feeling Creep will be sticking with the Maynard household for years to come, much to the chagrin of my dearly beloved.






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