Thursday, January 10, 2019

Found Footage Movies that Came Out Before The Blair Witch Project

Alternative 3 (1977)

In the style of Orson Well's famous War of the Worlds broadcast, Alternative 3 was a UK television program produced in the late 70s that featured a story involving the disappearance of some notable scientists. The television report would reveal the discovery of a secret project that included setting up colonies on the moon as a way to avoid extinction in the face of climate change. The program was an elaborate April Fools prank that did not adequately warn its audience that the programs surprising revelations were nothing but a staged production. This type of fictional reporting would be used in the next decade with pseudo broadcasts involving Cold War fears with the American TV movies Special Bulletin and Countdown to Looking Glass getting the same response from the audience who did not know they were watching a fictional broadcast. The most famous of all fictional shows would be in the 1990s with the brilliant BBC Ghostwatch that is covered in this blog post as well. 

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust is considered by many to be the most graphically intense and brutal film ever made even when compared to its grotesque cannibal contemporaries. The film begins with an award-winning documentary expedition, who travel to the Amazon to film cannibal tribes. Months pass and not a word is heard from them. A rescue/search party is put together and led by a Professor Harold Monroe, along with his guides he travels to the Amazon and hopes to discover the fate of the expedition and possibly get their lost film. Director Ruggero Deodato created the movie as a commentary on sleaze journalism and how they often exploit death for ratings, yet he became a target of criticism due to the animal deaths that occurred. As a sign of the human condition, this film gets bloodier, darker and unsettling with each scene in hypocritical contrast to the Directors supposed intent to criticize the very violence this movie seems to excel in. Cannibal Holocaust was not only the most notorious of the many cannibal films of its era it is also the first found footage movie predating The Blair Witch Project by almost 20 years.

Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)

The Guinea Pig films are a series of controversial Japanese horror films that were released in the 1980s and 90s that gained a reputation for their extreme graphic imagery and use of torture giving many who viewed the movie the impression that these were genuine snuff films. The second film of the series Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood features a man dressed a samurai who kidnaps a woman and proceeds to dissect her for his morbid collection. Rumors abound about the reaction that this movie had with a favorite story concerning Charlie Sheen contacting the FBI. The Director Hideshi Hino has to demonstrate how the special effects were accomplished in a film titled The Making of Guinea Pig as well as show that the actress involved in very much alive and well.

84C MoPic (1989)

A small budget indie war movie that follows a group of American soldiers on a Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) during the Vietnam War. The video is shown from the perspective of a cameraman who accompanies the team and films the events of what is supposed to be a routine mission that turns into a firefight when they encounter hostile forces. This film is an early example of the style of filming that would be known as Found Footage as well as reflecting the pseudo-documentary style that helps to make the movie seem more authentic. The video has received accolades for its honest and genuine look into what a real-life combat situation would have looked like from the eyes of a cameraman. 84C MoPic is the rare Found Footage movie that is neither a horror movie nor a paranormal-themed film.

UFO Abduction (1989)

Director Sean Alioto put together this no-budget short film that he wrote, directed, produced and appears in as the camera operator. The video shows the Van Heese family celebrating a party when they are surprised by the arrival of aliens. The amateur look and unknown actors add significantly to the film that despite flaws in the video make it seem more genuine especially with the gaps in the action of events. Director Alioto would remake the movie titled Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County in 1998 with some changes to the film but keeping the plot of a family gathering being interrupted by aliens.

Man Bites Dog (1992)

A documentary crew decides to follow the life of a criminal in his daily routine and in doing so go far beyond then they had expected. Man Bites Dog is a pseudo-documentary that follows the killing sprees of the murderous Benoit (Benoit Poelvoorde). With cameras rolling, he calmly explains his theories about killing people and weighing down the bodies so they won't float to the surface of whatever river or lake he dumps the evidence. He then proceeds to slaughter person after person, respecting neither age, sex or race, and murdering in a wide variety of ways from strangulation to a bullet to the head. All the while, the film crew trails him, heedless of the danger they put themselves in, and uncaring as they are drawn deeper and deeper into the insane, criminal world of their subject. Every moment of this film is shot documentary-style in grainy black-and-white. This pseudo-realism, complete with choppy editing and shaky, hand-held camera shots, gives an eerie air of legitimacy to Man Bites Dog.

Ghostwatch (1992)

A British mockumentary that made quite an impact when it was shown live in 1992 on Halloween. BBC reporters perform a live interview where they plan on investigating a London home that is reporting ghostly activity. During the interview, 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 including the studio that Michael Parkinson is broadcasting from. 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 it a seemingly realistic portrayal of events.

Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction (1995)

Fox Television aired this pseudo-documentary that claimed to be footage of an actual alien autopsy performed in 1947 with a grey alien that was recovered from the Roswell Crash. The program included interviews with an award-winning special effects expert, a medical professional and film experts who were brought to debate the authenticity of the footage. The program was shown multiple times and had high ratings with people seeking more answers about the supposed event. It was later revealed that the film was a hoax yet the filmmaker insisted that the footage was partially genuine despite confessions by those who worked on the film. Despite this Alien Autopsy did make headlines, spawned some copycats and was even mentioned in some shows such as The X Files and Seinfeld.

The Last Broadcast (1998)

The Last Broadcast features the hosts of a paranormal show going into the New Jersey Pine Barrons only to be found murdered with a series of confusing and mysterious clues left to a documentary filmmaker named David Leigh to piece together. Released a year before The Blair Witch Project, The Last Broadcast was one of the first films to be produced using consumer-level digital cameras and editing technology. The film predated Blair Witch but did not have anywhere the success of the Blair Witch. The movie is amateurish with the public access level editing and production. This element does add to the unique feel of the film given its found footage style as well as the movie within a movie setup.     

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