There are two types of people in this world: those who find found footage films to be painfully nauseating and aggravating, and those who enjoy the cheap format as a medium for horror stories. If you fit into the latter group, this list is for you.
The found footage subgenre of horror is commonly known for films such as The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocaust, The Paranormal Activity franchise and Cloverfield, but genre die-hards know that the number of movies filmed in this style is far too high to count. Many of them, if we’re being honest, are shit. But every now and then, found footage films tend to surprise with their quality. So today we’re taking a look at five movies within the subgenre that don’t get the credit in which they deserve.
The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)
I’ve never spoken with a single person outside of my family who’s seen this movie. If you’re one of the few who has- speak up, please. The film was released not long after The Blair Witch Project, but it fell miles short of achieving the same sort of success. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. Truth be told, The St. Francisville Experiment is an imperfect film. It boasts some cheesy dialogue and camera footage that couldn’t possibly be coming from the featured characters. What it does well, though, is craft it’s fiction around a genuinely terrifying (and true) backstory. While it may play out more like an especially ghosty episode of a television series than a feature film, it’s worth seeking out and investing 75 minutes of your time in.
Speaking of The Blair Witch Project, the next horror flick on our list comes from the same filmmaker, Eduardo Sánchez. You would be forgiven for assuming that Harry and the Hendersons is the only quality Bigfoot movie worthy of your attention, but Exists is well-worth a try. The films follows a group of friends who are staying in a remote East Texas cabin as they unknowingly anger the forest-beast. With an angry Bigfoot on the prowl and nobody knowing where in the world they even are, the friends are forced to fight for survival and try to escape back to civilization. It may not break new ground for the subgenre, but as Sánchez proved in the aforementioned Blair Witch Project, he’s a master of sustained tension. That alone makes Exists an exciting entry among found footage films.
The Den (2014)
The internet is a scary place, and Zachary Donohue’s debut feature showcases that accordingly. Perhaps more than the other listed films, I found the quality of The Den to be the most surprising. A random Netflix-watch for myself, and I assume most people who have actually seen it, The Den follows a grad student as she takes on a sociology experiment for school. The idea of the project is to chat with as many internet strangers as possible to see how many meaningful conversations she can accumulate. Things take a dark turn, however, when she is hacked, stalked, and forced to witness a murder. Clever editing and breathless tension are prevalent throughout the runtime, which is most impressive when compared to lesser quality found footage films.
Another film that I’ve yet to successfully discuss with anyone, 2011’s Atrocious is a Spanish found footage flick about two siblings who seek to uncover a local urban legend. Like The Blair Witch Project, it effectively uses the woods and darkness for many of its frightening moments. The film features likable lead characters, a thick sense of atmosphere (which isn’t always included in found footage films), and a twist ending that completely alters the way you look at all that came before it. If you’ve been recently taken by the buzz of Veronica, this is another Spanish horror movie worth checking out.
The Sacrament (2013)
It’s crazy how, in a genre with ghosts, demons, and monsters of all sorts, the scariest beasts manage to be human. Loosely based on the shocking events of 1978’s Jonestown Massacre, The Sacrament follows a team of journalists who document their time in a religious commune. Led by a mysterious and persuasive man known simply as Father among his people, the commune eventually becomes a living nightmare for the journalists and many of its inhabitants. Director Ti West wrings every ounce of tension out of the situation, and the climax is sure to rattle you to your core. It’s one of the very best found footage films, so check it out ASAP.
You may also like: