Ten Deep 8.16.12: Top Ten Found Footage Films
Posted by Mike Gorman on 08.16.2012
From Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield to The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, Project X and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the top 10 found footage films of all time!
" Top Ten Found Footage Films"
So you may be wondering exactly what is a "found footage" film? These are the films that present themselves as discovered or "found" footage of events that have occurred that are now being reconstructed. They traditionally incorporate the camera's point of view into the actual story as one or more characters carrying cameras. Often this occurs for valid reasons and at other times it is a plot device that sticks out like a sore thumb but is necessary to meet the restrictions of the genre. I should admit that I am a definite fan of the found footage films. I buy into them and the experience hook, line and sinker. Does this love shade the list you are about to dive into? Possibly, but it's really too late for you to escape now… Needless to say, there are many spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the films listed and want to with a pure vision, skip the descriptions! You have been warned!
10. Apollo 18
This film proposes that the cancelled Apollo 18 mission was relaunched as a secret Department of Defense project alleging to be about missile safety. It turns out that there is something much more sinister going on up on the moon. Check out this spooky flick and believe that you will never see a rolling stone as just a rumbling pebble again.
9. Project X
Most found footage films are based firmly in the world of suspense and horror, and effectively so. With Project X the genre explores a much different subject, a high school party that gets out of control. The film is most successful in the moments where it captures the main characters experiencing the escalation of the adventure. Things get wildly out of control and lucky for us it was all caught on film.
8. Paranormal Activity
Let's be honest, Paranormal Activity is far from a perfect film, but there are a lot of things about it that make it pretty special in my opinion. One of the biggest things I loved about this film and its subsequent sequels is the deep "mythology" of the film put in place. They construct a universe that you come to know well with levels of character interconnectedness that for me generate a rich palate for the stories told. And yes, there are several "jump out of your seat moment" scares too!
7. Diary of the Dead
Speaking of fantastic mythology, is there any more well known franchise to horror fans at the moment than the world of George Romero's zombie films? This entry in that series examines what happens to a group of college students (and one of their professors) when they are off in the woods making a movie and the zombie apocalypse begins. The result is pretty fascinating to me.
6. Home Movie
This one was released in 2008 but I only recently discovered it. In fact, catching a viewing of Home Movie on IFC was actually the impetus for this week's topic. Home Movie is a series of home movies featuring a family made up of an over eager dad, a therapist mother, and two very odd children. The children are the focal point of the story as we are presented with glimpses of their descent into true madness. This film keeps you guessing about what exactly is happening up until the very end. I will admit that I kept my fingers over my eyes during the last five minutes. I had no idea what was coming up around each corner and I loved it.
REC tells the story of a reporter and her cameraman who get trapped within an apartment building when an outbreak of some kind occurs. Sound familiar? That is because this film was the basis of the American remake, Quarantine. But where Quarantine often veers off into the realm of the silly and unbelievable, REC uses the camera to build some truly effective scares.
4. The Troll Hunter
The fantastical becomes real when you check out the Norwegian film Trolljegeren aka The Troll Hunter. A group of students stumble upon the secret existence of monstrous trolls and the government appointed people that hunt them. This one is not only a suspenseful romp but a lot of fun.
If Diary of the Dead's inclusion didn't make a slew of you want to behead me on film, I am pretty sure that this one will. Finally I can openly admit that I really did love Cloverfield, seriously. From the moment the first peep about Cloverfield appeared on the net I was excited. There was so much speculation about what this movie would turn out to be, as a film lover and reviewer it was a blast to sit back and watch people argue about it. My favorite theory was that JJ Abrams was bringing us a live action Voltron film. There was such mystery and anticipation surrounding this one that I think it was easy for viewers to be disappointed, myself included, by what we were given. At least that was what I felt after my first viewing but when I went back to the movie with a more relaxed perspective I really enjoyed it and got into the many twists and turns it took. Even if you disliked where the film went eventually, you have to admit that the head of the Statue of Liberty crashing down the street was a very cool movie moment.
One of the things I really enjoy about the found footage genre is that at its core it is really about how actual people would react to the wild circumstances they are finding themselves in. In no film on this list is this more evident than in the "super hero" film, Chronicle. What would happen if three teenagers did suddenly find themselves possessing super powers? Would they put on costumes and fight for truth, justice, and the American Way or would they act as teens often do, in their own best interests regardless of the consequences? Chronicle takes the answer to the question all the way from conception to tragic ending. I hear there is a sequel in the works, and I am excited.
1. Blair Witch Project
And that brings us to number one… Yes. I am serious. I truly believe that the Blair Witch Project is very deserving of this place on the list for a wide variety of reasons. First, the viral marketing campaign that accompanied this film ended up defining for us all what the impact of a movie's viral marketing could be. People believed this movie was real when they were heading into it. Maybe you didn't, and that is ok, but you have to be impressed by this impact. The film itself delivered on the premise. It was found footage, so not every moment was exciting or plot filled, it lagged and dragged in ways that made many people upset. For me, I saw those moments as part of the film's "reality." They served to heighten the intensity of thrills and scares when they did happen. If you haven't seen it in years and you were disappointed the first time around, I encourage you to turn the lights off some night soon and give it another chance. And if you're not willing to do that, at least check out this spot on spoof from our friends, the Muppets.
What about you? Do you buy into the found footage fun or is something you can't stand? Tell me about it!
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