So, what’s the deal with all these found footage films? If that question sounds like the set up to a bad joke, it is. I’m not saying all found footage films are bad jokes; clearly it’s not the case if I’m bothering to write about them (trust me, I would not write about something I totally hate, that’s weird and non-productive). See, the interesting thing with found footage films is that they are technically not hard to make. You could use a crappy camcorder and if your story is good, and you embrace the tools, and the audience believes the footage found is “real,” then you got yourself a neat project. However, that’s very rare and most times because found footage is not hard to produce you get too many gimmicky films that suck. Essentially, a “found footage” film is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s usually a film edited to appear as if all or part of the footage has just been discovered. It’s considered to be a genre now, but I don’t really see it that way, it’s more a technique, a method that if used properly and to its fullest potential works remarkably well. In this case I’m choosing the best 5 found footage films (with number 1 being the best ever) in my opinion, and I encourage anyone to disagree or agree or discuss in general.
5. The Troll Hunter (2010), Directed by André Øvredal
Literally. This Norwegian documentary style thriller is just a fun ride. The story follows a group of college students making a news piece about the recent attacks on local bears. Someone is hunting bears and they want the scoop, turns out that the guy hunting the bears, Hans, is not actually hunting bears, but instead he is hunting real live trolls. The bear thing is just a cover formed by the government. Trolls are real and the Norwegian government apparently does not want us to know so they hire Hans, and possibly other people, to keep the troll situation under check. Part of the reason I love this movie so much is because instead of constant surprising twists, everything is obvious in the best kind of way. Trolls obviously live near bridges and the government is obviously is an evil bureaucratic system determined to hide the truth from the public. It’s a quirky mix of fun and serious. Plus troll farts and a troll-proof-mobile are great things to see.
4. Cloverfield (2008), Directed by Matt Reeves
Cloverfield is the type of found footage film that makes you sick, in a really good way. I think the sickness has to do with the constant shaky camera effect, which I think is great. If a film can make anyone experience sensory feelings, well, that’s just cool. As far as story goes, it’s definitely not the most original (Manhattan is attacked by a giant unknown creature), but because this is found footage the focus is strictly on a specific group of friends who just want a way out and to survive. I thought the film was structurally sound, and I was never bored. Also, this is the only movie on the list that I actually saw in theaters, which speaks volumes about the promotion and viral marketing for the film. In other words, it was perfect. There was literally no information about the movie (the website for the movie had a couple of Polaroids of random scenes) and it worked.
3. Chronicle (2012), Directed Josh Trank
The thing about Chronicle is that it’s a really bad found footage film but a great movie and superhero origin story. Now, to be honest it’s not like the story is new or anything, three kids find crystals that give them super powers, but the manner in which the characters grow and tackle their new found abilities feels renewed and fresh. The characters are dynamic and mesh together well. The movie is a bad found footage film because it’s visually, a well-shot movie, and that defeats the purpose of the hand held camcorder, but everything else about the movie is so great that it doesn’t even matter. The writing by Max Landis was insanely enjoyable. I like to think we read and watch superhero stories for the awesome things that happen, but also to understand and relate to the human emotions that ultimately drive all of our actions and thoughts. Instead of giving a clip or trailer I’m going to show you guys a video of Max Landis getting drunk and talking about Superman, because it’s hilarious. Watch Chronicle.
2. REC (2007), Directed by Jaume Balaguerò & Paco Plaza
This is the second foreign film on my list. I’m not sure that means anything I just noticed it. REC does something really cool, it sets the standard for found footage horror movies ridiculously high. The beginning has a perfect setup and it gets to the dirty/scary stuff right away, which is awesome. A lot of other found footage films decide to build up the tension yet provide no real pay-off. In this situation the movie is scary because there is no build up, you don’t have time to catch your breath, you are experiencing what the people on the film are experiencing. You are looking at footage that was discovered and has not been edited; it’s raw and right and the definition of found footage. The twist ending is also great, and not to mention the use of the camera. I love when the camera is utilized and it’s part of the situation. I have not seen REC 2, which is the continuation to the first film, but I’ve heard that it’s pretty excellent as well.
1. Diary of the Dead (2007), Directed by George A. Romero
Diary of the Dead is not the best movie in Romero’s “Dead” franchise, but I think it’s a great movie in the found footage world. The script is hilarious and it’s essentially a movie about the process of filmmaking, which is always really neat. Oh and an Amish guy throwing TNT at zombies is top-notch. I really enjoy the set up of this movie, cause in the end it comes full circle. It’s kind of like a prequel but not really, it takes the audience back to the start of the zombie apocalypse and creates a great conflict between the tools we used to communicate with each other and how they fit in a state of actual crisis. What happens when we are no longer bound together by our cellphones or televisions or cameras? It’s Romero doing what he does best, allowing the audience a glimpse into a bigger social commentary, while simultaneously feeding our need for gruesome zombie kills.
- Paranormal Activity 1
- The Blair Witch Project
- The War Game
- Man Bites Dog