For the month of October I will put out a list of Top 10’s on a number of subjects each day, this should be fun as I would enjoy feedback and discussion on my list and will welcome feedback on how to improve the list as I plan on featuring them on my website.
The Best Found Footage Horror Movies
Dir- Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza
A Spanish news crew follows a team of firefighters on a routine call only to discover that the apartment building they enter is quarantined, and they are now trapped. One of many films that use found footage style, this one stands apart with its terrifying plot and efficient use of confusion and fear brought about by the reactions caught on camera. Followed by many sequels and, an American remake titled Quarantine that had its follow-up sequels as well.
Lake Mungo (2008)
Dir- Joel Anderson
The aftermath of a family tragedy unfolds in video testimonials captured by the teenage brother of the victim Alice Palmer who had drowned while swimming on a family outing. Alice's brother Mathew records a series of bizarre events he claims are attempts by his sister's spirit to reach out to his family, but there may be hidden clues as the family discovers Alice's secrets. Lake Mungo is a well-paced and unique film that starts out as a slow burn but delivers on its tragic premise and stands out among found footage films with its tight production and surprising ending. Lake Mungo was produced as a pseudo-documentary employing improvised dialogue by a cast of relatively unknown actors adding to its authenticity despite being a fictional production. Although it received a limited release, it received positive critical acclaim and had gathered quite a following as a cult classic.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Dir- Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez
A trio of young college filmmakers treks through the town of Burkittsville, Maryland documenting the legend of a banished woman and her awful deed. Armed with a 16mm camera, Hi8 Video and Digital Audio they record every moment in the hopes of producing a thesis for school. Their adventure starts off with plenty of enthusiasm, they shop for supplies, interview townies and have a lack of respect for the legend that has drawn them together. What follows is a journey into madness as the director, and her crew finds themselves lost and at the mercy of an unforeseen entity that seems to chase them through the night. The cameras capture their every emotion as the trio fight amongst themselves and the elements, often with the knowledge that someone or something is out there screwing with them.
Dir- Lesley Manning
A British mockumentary that made quite an impact when it was shown live in 1992. BBC reporters perform a live interview where they plan on investigating a London home that is reporting ghostly activity. During interviews, the news crew and family encounter seemingly harmless events that get worse as the show progresses. After a seance is performed things get worse as all hell breaks loose in the home and outside in the city. The pseudo-documentary feel of Ghostwatch confused viewers who thought this was a genuine event and proof that the supernatural exists. The BBC faced an onslaught of calls from viewers who were scared or angry that they showed this and made it seem so real despite being presented under the Drama banner. Having actual news broadcasters and reporters added the realistic look of the show, and their fate did scare many people who thought they genuinely were hurt in the events. In the years since it released Ghostwatch has emerged as a favorite among fans of pseudo-documentaries and horror movie fans who enjoy a seemingly realistic portrayal of events.
Dir- The Vicious Brothers
A ghost hunting team disappears after a visiting an abandoned insane asylum, the events of the night are shown by the Producer after he recovered their footage. The crew locked themselves in the facility and promised to the audience valid proof of ghostly events. After some genuinely unexpected occurrences, the teams decide to leave only to find that escaping is not quite as easy as entering was. Grave Encounters is a favorite among found footage enthusiast for capturing the perfect formula for a found footage movie, a team of people eager to find a story venturing into a creepy old building only to have something horrible occur. Followed by a sequel and dozens of films that followed these films exact formula.
Home Movie (2008)
Dir- Christopher Denham
A series of home movies document the descent into darkness for the Poe family and what happened to them at the hands of their children. What starts out as the perfect family in a remote upstate New York home takes a shocking turn as the children are shown to be hiding something from their parents. The children are deeply disturbed, and the further along the movie goes the audience witnesses the acts of cruelty and horrible events that leave the parents terrified and looking for help. Home Movie has a much more disturbing and realistic feel than most other found footage movies as this one seems so genuine and foreboding given the outcome of the family’s tragic fate. Easily one of the most disturbing movies in recent years and one of the best made found footage films.
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Dir- Adam Robitel
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)
Dir- John Erick Dowdle
This pseudo crime documentary details the events surrounding a fictional serial killer who operated in the New York town of Poughkeepsie in the 1990s. It begins when police raid a house and find hundreds of videotapes inside, it is revealed that the tapes document untold numbers of abductions and murders committed by an unknown assailant all cataloged and numbered in order. The serial killer never allows himself to be seen unless he is disguised and in many of the tapes he tortures his victims physically, emotionally and psychologically. Police and crime experts appear in numerous interviews trying to profile the killer and look for patterns that could aid in his capture. The serial killer is given a name, but not much else is learned about him due to the random nature of the crimes that he appears to plan in a deliberate attempt to confuse authorities. The few bits of footage shown detail a handful of some of his more notorious crimes offering a glimpse into the mind of a genuinely disturbed and evil mind. The Poughkeepsie Tapes was never released theatrically and until Oct 2017 was never released on video in any format except for VOD on DirecTV. This lack of release has added to the notoriety of the film as word of mouth has increased the desire of horror fans to watch and see if it is as disturbing as people say.
Dir- Barry Levinson
A leaked tape reveals an interview with a reporter speaking out on the coverup behind the events of a tragic July 4th in a Chesapeake Bay town that resulted in many deaths. A series of videos show the events from some people including some oceanographers, a young doctor and a reporter who is on what seems to be a puff piece story covering the holiday festivities. A deadly outbreak is shown over the course of the day, and the cause may be related to the local water treatment plant and a mutant breed of parasites. The Bay is a compelling eco-horror film that employs found footage in an efficient manner that builds on the tension of the cast while creating a chilling atmosphere for the survivors. Director Barry Levinson made the movie to help bring attention to the issue facing the Chesapeake Bay, and they do so in a way that might show what a real eco-disaster might look like and how it may be played out.
Dir- Orn Peli
A young couple moves into a home in San Diego and begins to encounter bizarre events. After setting up cameras the audience witnesses the series of events that lead up to a tragic conclusion. Paranormal Activity was a big hit with fans for its simple yet effective premise that would be copied by other knockoff films. Followed by some sequels that used the same formula with differing plots.
Dir- Simon Barett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjant and Jason Eisner
This follow-up to the 2012 film picks up with a pair of police investigators looking into the disappearance of the previous films missing hooligans. This time the tapes reveal a man who has an implant that reveals too much, a thrill seeker rides through the woods and finds himself in the middle of the Walking Dead. The best video focuses on a film crew investigating a bizarre cult with some genuinely horrific occurrences. The finale has a slumber party interrupted by some truly out of this world party crashers. Like the first film, VHS 2 relies on found footage with four distinct and uniquely creepy tales. The third installment is easily the best of the two movies and the reason I include the sequel in this list.
Hell House LLC
Dir- Stephen Cognetti
Found Footage movies are a hit and miss, more often the shakiness of the camera tends to be a distraction, but there are those instances when the cameras flawed views work for the subject. Hell House LLC has been compared to The Houses October Built as both focus on Commercial Haunted Houses, but Hell House is more similar to Lake Mungo in that multiple video sources are used to create a documentary feel. The setting of Hell House is important as it is an actual commercial Haunted House, so the creepiness of the setting adds to the genuine feel of the events. What makes Hell House stand out is the seemingly mysterious way the horrible events of its fatal opening are presented, making efficient use of Youtube and Cell Phone videos we view the panic of the situation along with the mystery of what exactly is going on. The movie does slowly reveal what did happen but also leaves some mystery for the viewer to ponder. Most reviews of the film agree that Hell House is unique and does not seem too derivative among the dozens of recent "found footage" films. The only area of the debate centers on the ending; you will either love it or hate depending on how much closure you seek. Overall Hell House LLC is a terrific film, and for its small budget, it compares well with bigger budget films that focus more on FX and less on the plot.