The 10 Best Found Footage Horror Films on the Market!
Whether you’re a fan of the found footage sub-genre or not, one undeniable fact remains: found footage flicks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. With monstrous successes like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise, it’s safe to assume that more production companies will rush to ride the wave, and if all goes well, we may catch some more excellent offerings. Of course, we could find ourselves head over heels in uninspired efforts like ‘The Devil Inside’ (*), but I choose to hope for the best.
Some of the pictures I’m about to list will ring out as obvious selections, while others may blindside you: not every nominee here is a commercial success, and a few have been all but forgotten. Whether you’re familiar or foreign, heed my advice: these specific flicks are worth tracking down!
Note: I will not be listing these in any specific order: They all kick serious ass!
Apollo 18: Apollo 18 was derided by critics and fans alike. And when I say derided, I mean this flick was crucified six ways to Sunday. Try finding more than a trio of positive reviews for this one, you may be challenged. However, after a second screening of this feature, I can completely identify the genius at work here. For ages the horror community has been pleading with studios to feed us original content that isn’t fueled by obnoxious computer generated effects, and when we finally receive that offering what is the response? Pure hatred. Apollo 18 develops some great tension, exhibits some controlled but quality special effects, utilizes multilayer story telling sure to whet the appetite of the conspiracy theorist, and is capped off by spectacular performances from Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen.
Paranormal Activity Series: I opted to bunch this franchise into one selection, as they’re all pretty fine films (I guess that contradicts the whole “Top 10” concept eh?) that each boast memorable qualities. Unlike many, I found the second installment to be the most frightening of the bunch, as the involvement of the dog and child (I’m a father myself, so that angle hit me in particular) seemed to take the tension straight over the cliff. The death scenes are fantastic (you’ve got to love when Daddy-o gets his head all Regan’d) and the build-up, while a bit on the slow side follows a genius setup. I of course love the first film as well, as the springboard served to deliver serious scares. While the third and most recent installment has been hailed as the optimum of the franchise, I actually found it to be far less frightening than its predecessors, though I did admittedly enjoy it.
The Blair Witch Project: Here we have the film that officially launched the craze. Though ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is indeed very, very chilling in key spots, it was truthfully the marketing attack that Haxan launched that sold this movie. Crowds honestly didn’t know whether to expect a certified documentary, or a well assembled indie effort. We of course received the latter, but the promotional campaign worked to draw the curious in by the car loads, making TBWP one of the most successful indie releases to hit the big screen. This one is creepy as all hell, but it’s been outperformed by technically superior efforts since.
Cloverfield: J.J. Abrams has a way of making a fairly minimal budget look like someone dumped $300 million in his lap. I call that a gift, and a rarity in this business. This creature feature sees New York turned upside down by a massive extraterrestrial with some hideous growths affixed to its frame. While the story really equates to little more than a Godzilla/Alien hybrid, the characters in tow set the tone, and make the crucial difference. There’s personality at work here, and the acting is top notch on all fronts. Aside from a wild, wild conclusion, this one also boasts one of the coolest scenes you’ll spot in any film: the head of the Statue of Liberty, crashing through the streets of New York… Effing GOLD!
Lake Mungo: Of all efforts listed in this article, ‘Lake Mungo’ may be the cleverest of the bunch. The story is air tight, the direction is absolutely flawless, and for a mocumentary, this one is deceptively realistic. The story focuses on the disappearance of a young girl, and a family’s quest to unravel the truth in regards to what truly happened to her. That may not sound ground breaking, but the twist that writer/director Joel Anderson inserts midway through the picture not only alters the dynamics of the story, but completely intensifies the visual jolts. Arguably the most underrated feature on this list, ‘Lake Mungo’ is an absolute knockout that has me eagerly awaiting Anderson’s return to the camera.
REC: ‘REC’ is the most unforgiving, vicious picture to land on this list. This movie just reaches back to the darkest recesses of the human psyche and squeezes, hard. There’s a very sadistic sense to Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s tale of quarantined apartment residents, but the action is so damn frenetic, it’s easy to let the sinister side of the picture slip right past you. However, between the looming danger on the staircase, the plummeting bodies within the building, all the way down to the infected inhabitants, this one is a bona fide winner.
As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge Quarantine, the American spin on this story, which is a surprisingly well pieced together picture.
TrollHunter: Don’t be alarmed, the idea of a mock crew following a bunch of giant trolls really caught me off guard myself. A promising trailer led me to take a risk on this one, and that risk actually yielded a magnificent reward. ‘TrollHunter’ is another prime example of stepping outside of the box, ignoring trends, and working hard to create an attractive film. The scenery in this Norwegian beauty is genuinely breathtaking, and the special effects work is handled in stunningly respectable fashion. If you’d have told me a group of Norwegian filmmakers were going to pump out a flick with 100 foot tall trolls that appear to be genuinely real creatures, I may have slapped you; I’d have earned the subsequent retaliation, because that’s the exact scenario here. André Øvredal is an absolute genius who grabbed the most risky concept floating about, and turned it into a future classic.
Cannibal Holocaust: Due to the decline of our society, ‘’Cannibal Holocaust’ has lost a bit of its steam. We’ve become desensitized to such a great length that the on screen murder of animals really doesn’t faze us all that much anymore. Just the same, when this creepy tale of twisted documentarians was released overseas back in 1980, the public erupted in rage. A great deal of controversy followed, and it would take another half decade before a chopped version of the picture arrived in the US. On a technical level, ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ isn’t a stellar film. It does however contain some iconic imagery and unnerving sequences. Not a favorite of mine, ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is still a film that any horror buff should experience on at least one occasion. It is after all, a remarkably influential picture, believe it or not.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes: If you don’t mind extending a little suspension of disbelief, you’ll likely cherish this warped exploration of a blossoming serial killer. I’m not a big fan of some of the flaws affixed to this film, but I’ll be damned if the concept isn’t overtly creepy. There are a handful of shots (particularly the torture chamber scenes) that actually trigger a physical reaction, and I can’t say that’s a common occurrence. There are also some extremely degrading exchanges that really leave a knot in the belly and an ache in the heart; as demented as it sounds, that’s a good thing. This film signals serious emotions, and errors aside, it’s an enjoyable little shocker that completely disregards the concept of sensitivity.
The Last Broadcast: One rule of thumb I like to live by: never investigate the Jersey Devil. Hell, I don’t even like dogs. But that’s what a small news crew does in this instance, and they’re about to pay the ultimate price for their curiosity. I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with “Seth”. This film actually predates ‘The Blair Witch Project’, and many actually feel that ‘The Last Broadcast’ served as the strongest influence in the creation of TBWP. A few have even gone on record labeling Daniel Myrick, and Eduardo Sánchez’s found footage feature a full blown rip-off. Regardless, this is no pissing test, and both films offer some truly transfixing moments. It’s a shame that The Last Broadcast never truly earned the release it deserved: the picture would unquestionably be held in far higher regard today.
*Editor’s Note: ‘The Devil Inside’ is almost universally panned by critics, and Matt clearly agrees with that assessment. The Editor-in-Chief of Best-Horror-Movies.com, however, does not share this view. Read alternate thoughts in our review of The Devil Inside, and an argument as to why this film ended exactly as it should have (caution, spoilers in this piece).
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