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Heavily inspired by ‘Blair Witch Project’, ‘Re-Cut’ is less of a horror movie but more of a thriller that has a great mythology and setting behind it. Thankfully, it manages to exceed expectations and actually delivers a pretty creepy and sometimes disturbing story that may be light on scares but pays off in a satisfying manner.
It was about time someone used the found-footage format to do a ‘TV show gone wrong’ horror film, and ‘Grave Encounters’ is exactly that. Following a team of ghost-hunters who decide to stay in a haunted asylum for an episode of their TV show, things go downhill and in very creepy territory as the film goes on. There’s some chilling moments and lots of suspense, even though the third act may be a little too over the top for some viewers. Regardless, it’s a polished film that does something new with the format.
Most people attribute the invention of found-footage films to ‘The Blair Witch Project’. But the grand-daddy of found-footage films might even be the most controversial of them all even after 30 years. ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is way back from 1980 and follows an American professor investigating the disappearance of a group of documentarians who went into the jungle to film a tribe of local cannibals. The film is graphic and exploitative, being definitely not for everyone but effective on its own. It was notorious back in its day for having live animal killings on screen because they didn’t have a budget to use props. In fact, the film looks so real that people began to think it’s a snuff film and the filmmakers were ordered to court to prove that it was not. It’s the kind of publicity that studios wish they could buy nowadays, but ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is still remembered as a found-footage film that even inspired ‘The Blair Witch Project’ which went ahead to steal all the thunder.
Coming straight out of Norway, this found-footage mockumentary is the most unique in storyline from any of the films mentioned here. It deals with a documentary crew in Norway going about to investigate a series of mysterious murders. After a bit of nosing around, they find a troll-hunter and find out that huge trolls actually still exist in the modern world and are not just a myth. From there on out, it’s a thrilling ride although not easily categorized as a horror film. There are some very suspenseful action sequences and excellent CGI that makes it all very believable. Even though the plot begins to drag mid-way, there are some unique themes here that Hollywood has never done before including an interesting religious angle that comes into play. Hollywood has already announced a remake, but the film feels so seeped into the Norwegian culture that it would be hard to translate it for American audiences without losing much of its power.
Exhibit A wouldn't really classify as an all-out horror film, but it decides to be much more subtle and psychological. It’s by far the most realistic portrayal I’ve seen of a deconstruction of a happy family. Just like ‘Home Movie’ did, the film uses amateur footage recorded by the daughter of the family to tell the story of a family that seems very jolly on the outside but slowly disintegrates into a terrifying conclusion. It’s extremely relatable in its themes and shines in terms of acting and realism that was much-needed for a film of this sort. Without bringing in the supernatural, the film uses every-day family household things to craft a terrifying and tragic tale that needs to be seen even with its flaws.
While most found-footage movies are based on people recording video on cameras, ‘Megan Goes Missing’ takes a different approach to it. It incorporates footage from webcams, mobile phones and surveillance cameras to craft an effective but disturbing cautionary tale about the dangers of the internet. It’s not a horror movie per se, but the final twenty minutes of the film are no less horrifying. In fact, the final twenty minutes literally make the movie what it is - a brutal, unflinching but very real scenario that’s not everyone’s cup of tea and will disturb you majorly if you’re a teenage girl or a parent. Suffice to say that you’ll think twice before ever letting your kids loose on the internet again. It doesn’t shy away from details and manages to keep the viewer gripped in the story throughout building to an unforgettable finale. It may not be the most polished film and has its flaws, but it’s a must-see low budget film just for the way it tackles a real-life issue through the found-footage medium.
This Australian gem is more of a mockumentary than a found-footage film but it does incorporate that element quite a few times in the film. It follows the family of Alice Palmer after she accidentally drowns and passes away, and the grief that they are dealing with. But soon they realize that Alice had been hiding a lot of secrets and her presence can still be felt. It’s such a well-made and spooky film that you wouldn’t believe it’s made up if you tuned in mid-way on TV. Suspenseful and intriguing from start to end, ‘Lake Mungo’ is a must-see for those into psychological horror of the more dramatic sort. Enjoy it before the American remake in development ruins it all.
This one’s not technically a found-footage film and more of a mockumentary but it’s well-done enough to be worth an entry here especially with the clever premise that it carries. It follows a documentary crew who is following a serial killer and documenting his everyday life. Throughout the movie, he explains how he finds his victims and kills them. Any slasher fan would have a kick out of the film since it’s a self-aware parody on the tropes of the slasher genre. Slowly, events become to happen that turns it into a very cleverly constructed version of what it’s parodying in the first place and it’s an enjoyable film to watch for horror fans that manages to craft an original new slasher villain unintentionally.
The most subtly creepy way of using found-footage is through home videos that families make, which is a natural fit for the format and it was high time someone used it to chilling effect. ‘Home Movie’ seems uneventful for the first act, but underneath all the fun and games that the family is having there is a sinister undertone that you just know something is going on. It’s a slow-build but a very interesting story that ends up in a very shocking finale. It's an original and well-constructed horror movie that will definitely satisfy your horror bug even you're patient enough with it.
And ladies and gentleman, here is what I believe to be the undiscovered champion of all found-footage films. ‘Noroi: The Curse’ is a Japanese found-footage film that almost no one has seen thanks to distribution woes. But let me tell you this – it’s one of the scariest and creepiest films I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve seen a whole lot of them. There’s no film that has been able to inherently freak me out the way this does. The film follows a Japanese director out to make a documentary on seemingly unconnected paranormal events that all hint towards an ancient demon by the name of ‘Kagutaba’. Unlike other found-footage movies, there’s dozens of characters and quite a few subplots here which may put you off at first but it all comes together in brilliant fashion. It’s atmospheric, packed with subtle scares and builds to a terrifying twist ending of a finale. It’s one of the best horror movies I’ve seen and blows Hollywood horror out of the water at times. If you can ever manage to find it, this one is a must-see for any horror fan out there. It truly is the best found-footage horror movie you’ve never seen.
List according to Faisal Hashimi http://me.ign.com/en/movies-movies/