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With Halloween just around the corner, I decided to brave the terrifying landscape of “found-footage” horror films so that you, the reader, can truly learn what fear is.
If you have the desire for a terror-filled All Hallows’ Eve, or just like soiling yourself in the general pants area, this piece has been specially tailored for you.
This article contains vivid description of violence, pure evil, and unfathomable insanity. Please enjoy.
Disclaimer: One of the entries in this article has been removed due to the unprincipled practices used in the film’s production.
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project tells the story of three student filmmakers who hike into the Black Hills Forest to investigate rumours of the mysterious “Blair Witch”, a local legend of an evil woman who kidnaps children and takes them to her home in the forest. What follows is, to date, one of the most terrifying films ever created.
In one of the greatest marketing-stunts in entertainment history, it was originally claimed that the film was a compilation of real footage found on discarded video cameras in the Black Hills Forest. To take it even further, in the weeks prior to the films announcement, the film’s creators fabricated missing posters of the actors, listed them as either “dead” or “missing” on their various online profiles, and eventually set-up a website detailing the “origins” of the The Blair Witch Project.
In a time when the internet was still relatively young and the authenticity of its information wasn’t as harshly questioned, this string of events sent people flocking to the movie theatres. The Blair Witch Project, which was shot in eight days on a budget of US$60,000, ended up making nearly US$250 million.
The Blair Witch Project is undeniably the king of found-footage horrors .Without this film, the genre would probably not enjoy the popularity it does today.
The Conspiracy is one of the lesser-known titles on this list but one that should certainly not be missed. If you have ever entertained the idea of conspiracy theories, even for a second, this film will send shivers down your spine.
The Conspiracy tells the story of Aaron and Jim, two young filmmakers who are shooting a documentary on avid conspiracy theorist, Terrance G. It wouldn’t take a large stretch of imagination to see that Terrance is based on the notorious Alex Jones. The sudden raging rants, the megaphone-preaching in the streets, a condescending attitude towards the “sheep”, Terrance is a textbook, stereotypical conspiracy theorist.
Aaron and Jim aren’t convinced though, with the focus of the documentary being more on Terrance than the subject of his theories.
“It wasn’t too much conspiracy theories themselves as it was the people who believe in them that attracted me.”
But then Terrance suddenly vanishes overnight, his apartment completely empty except for a few signs of struggle. The filmmaking pair, shocked by his sudden disappearance, decides to investigate deeper and slowly start uncover the truth behind Terrance’s chilling research.
Unfriended tackles the found-footage horror from a more unique and contemporary angle, with the film taking place on the eerily familiar backdrop of a computer screen.
The movie starts with a young group of friends having a group chat on a Skype, laughing, joking, and gossiping about all usual things young adults do. But then they suddenly notice an uninvited guest in the group.
All attempts to get rid of this anonymous person fail but the group decides “it’s probably just a glitch”… until it starts responding. The person is claiming to be Laura Barnes, a friend of the group who committed suicide exactly a year ago after a horribly demeaning of her went viral on social media. And she’s putting the blame on her friends.
What follows is a series of terrifying mind-games and inexplicable moments of pure horror. If you’re looking for a cure for your social media addiction, Unfriended is probably your best bet.
While most found-footage films pride themselves on their low-budget production cost, Cloverfield tailored the recipe for a mainstream audience and turned into a high-budget action blockbuster. It also moved away from the paranormal and based its story on another horror favourite, the ever-popular alien invasion.
The film starts at a going-away party, with our humorous camera man filming the attendees’ farewell messages for the guest-of-honour, while occasionally veering off course to spy on people with his zoom-lens and long distance microphone.
The introduction is humorous and light-hearted, effectively drawing the viewers in and immersing them in the happening of the party. You’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’re watching a horror. But then, as sudden as would be expected from the genre, the proverbial shit hits the fan.
Large balls of fire fall from the sky and the city turns into utter chaos, sending our protagonists fleeing into the streets of New York. To avoid any spoilers, I won’t go into further detail. But what I can say is that this film is brilliantly paced and builds tension so meticulously that you won’t experience a single dull moment through its duration.
As one of the most commercially successful and renowned found-footage horrors, this list would not be complete without mentioning Paranormal Activity. Although the franchise currently boasts six films, few of them have come close to capturing the ominous dread of the original.
In Paranormal Activity, we follow the story of a young couple, Katie and Micah, who have recently moved into their new home in San Diego. After some minor but strange occurrences in the house, Katie tells Micah that she has been plagued by some evil force since she was a child.
Micah is not totally convinced and decides to buy and setup a video camera in the house in an attempt to capture footage any strange phenomena. The events slowly escalate, with Micha’s filming adding to the horror.
The film has a tremendous sense of pace, acrobatically balancing between suggestion and reveal, suspicion and terror, sceptical and acceptance. It’s lengthy static shots and deep droning sound effects effectively build the tension, to the point where even the minutest movements will grip you in fear.
The Taking of Deborah Logan
The Taking of Deborah Logan totally caught me by surprise. Released smack down in the middle of found-footage film fever, it managed to avoid my radar for quite some time until a friend finally recommended it. After enduring the film’s mind-bending horror though, I wasn’t if I should thank this friend our end our friendship.
The Taking of Deborah Logan tells the story of a film crew who are creating a documentary on Alzheimer’s disease. This leads them to Deborah Logan, a seemingly harmless elderly woman who suffers from a severe case of the condition.
But after interviewing and filming their share of Alzheimer patients, the film crew can’t help but feel that Deborah’s actions are rather bizarre, even though her personal physician, Dr. Nazir, assures them they are perfectly normal. Long story short, Dr. Nazir was wrong… so, so wrong. Why? Well, that’s for you to find out isn’t it?
Although The Taking of Deborah Logan arguably doesn’t bring much new to the table, it’s execution was potent and I consider it to be one my favourite horror films, to date.