One of the hardest tasks given to any filmmaker is having to persuade your audience to suspend their belief in reality and accept the fictional world they have created. To convince the minds of the viewers to accept the narrative entirely is always the goal and it is easier said than done on most occasions. But one genre sticks out as giving the viewers a realistic experience of what is actually happening on screen. The practice of Found Footage cinema is the art of taking the final moments of some poor soul and putting it together in a way that makes moviegoers feel as if they were actually there. With that being said, it is important to point out that this particular genre isn’t for everyone and those that get dizzy easily may want to sit these films out.
Found Footage movies can be described as several steps down from virtual reality, but a few steps up from those home movies people used to tape on VHS. This popular form of cinema has put out several famous films that resonated well with audiences, despite all the negativity these flicks tend to get from the haters. This trend started with The Blair Witch Project, and the party kept going with such other fan favorites as Quarantine and the hugely successful Paranormal Activity franchise that spawned a total of six motion pictures. But there are more hidden gems that will captivate those watching and leave them terrified from what they’ve just seen. Of all the greatness the Found Footage genre has to offer, these are ten of the most frightening titles that will make sleeping with the lights on the best idea ever.
As Above, So Below (2014)
The thing a Found Footage filmmaker wants to accomplish is to give the audience something they have never experienced. This includes the setting. Thinking outside the box is the way to go so when considering famous tourist attractions, the more mysterious, the better. Something familiar is always good, but it is better when one throws in ancient ruins, curses, and dead bodies. The catacombs that exist beneath Paris are an ideal choice when looking to complete the creepy location objective. And the one film from this genre that takes viewers deeper into these death-defying underground tunnels than any member of the public has ever been is, of course, As Above, So Below.
This scare-fest follows a group of young thrill seekers and explorers traversing into the mysterious catacombs beneath the streets of Paris in search of the Philosophers Stone. But in their attempts at locating this mysterious artifact, they end up in what can only be described as a living hell. Their journey somewhat resembles that of Dante’s Inferno, and audiences get to go to the devil’s homestead without worrying about eternal damnation. As Above, So below is a wild ride with a deep story full of twists that will leave the viewer pleasantly satisfied and equally terrified.
Area 51 (2015)
By now everyone pretty much knows the deal with Area 51. On paper, it looks like an ordinary military base in the middle of nowhere. But the speculation surrounding this special spot seems like it is straight out of a science fiction novel. Alien sightings and secret experiments are the hot gossips when it comes to the 51st Area belonging to the US government. So it makes sense that a seasoned Found Footage filmmaker like Oren Pell, who just happened to create the Paranormal Activity franchise, gives audiences a glimpse of what it would be like to break into this super secret facility and the results are out of this world.
Ever since the alleged UFO Roswell crash in 1947, people have been dying to see what’s locked away behind the gates of Area 51. Well, in this Found Footage flick, a group of individuals goes to extreme lengths to infiltrate the base. This includes pumping freon into their suits to avoid thermal cameras and taking pills to get passed their ammonia detectors. This leads them into the heart of Area 51 where they have several close encounters that will leave viewers knowing we are not alone in the universe and wishing that wasn’t the case.
Alien Abduction (2014)
Family vacations are horrifying enough on their own. Family camping trips are what some would even consider cruel and unusual punishment. But throw in the fact that Extraterrestrials are hunting this family in the woods while on a vacation that happens to be a camping trip and see how much that experience traumatizes a person. In the Found Footage movie Alien Abduction, a young boy, who refuses to put down the camera because he uses it as a coping mechanism, attempts to capture all the terrifying event of being stalked by little green men.
This film takes the existing paranoia of aliens and combines it with the real world rumors of abduction happening at Brown Mountain in North Carolina. It doesn’t stray too far from reality which keeps the viewers on the edge of their seat and brings the terror of leaving this world against ones will front and center. The ending will shock whoever sees it to their core and the questions they are left with will haunt them for many days afterward.
Travel blogs are everywhere online. It seems nowadays you don’t really have to go anywhere you can just read about other people’s experiences and watch their videos. While that sounds like a horrible day to experience, there actually is a terrifying tale involving an interesting twist within the realm of Found footage. 2014’s Afflicted not only takes its audience on a first class international voyage but throws in plenty of scares along the way to make it a very memorable occasion.
When Derek finds out he’s dying of an incurable disease and doesn’t have much time left on this planet, his best friend Clif decides they should see the world and document it so that Derek’s last days can inspire others. Things start off good but after a night with a mysterious lady goes awry, Derek begins to change. He starts to do the impossible and things only get weirder from there. It ends up being a really unique and innovating take on a classic horror trope that ends with a very satisfying conclusion. Checking out Afflicted is just what the doctor ordered when the prescription is a terrifying time watching a movie.
Phoenix Forgotten (2017)
Some of the best horror movies are based on strange events that happened in reality. But some creative minds like to take a mysterious occurrence that has no reasoning and throw them into a world of horror. Providing answers, no matter how fictitious, allows a person’s mind to easily relate to the narrative and get taken in to fully embrace the experience. Taking the familiar and coating it with a terrifying tale can really help get a reaction from moviegoers. The 2017 film produced by filmmaker Ridley Scott’s company Phoenix Forgotten proves that not every story ends the way one thinks it should.
The plot centers on the infamous ’97 Lights over Phoenix incident that has still gone unexplained to this day. Some think it was aliens while others swear it was all just a military exercise. Well, one young man becomes obsessed with uncovering its secrets and sets out to find answers in the desert with his camera. This one plays out like a missing person TV special and then switches into the dark final moments of the unsuspecting three kids that went missing trying to find out what made the lights so bright. This is one close encounter people will never see coming.
The Gracefield Incident (2017)
Camera placement is an intricate part of any film production. But when it comes to the beautiful world of Found Footage films, this is everything. Not only do you have to sell the amateur-style realism while driving the narrative forward but you also have to do it in a way that the viewer believes would have been done by a run of the mill videographer. So figuring out why someone would still be filming if a demon or monster were chasing them is not something that comes naturally to most. But for those who dare to dream the truth is out there. The Gracefield Incident does a great job selling the story and the location of the lens in a very intriguing manner.
The film follows Mathew Donovan, whom after losing his eye in a car accident decides to fit his prosthetic replacement with a camera. He does this to capture all the fun from a getaway with all his friends. But then something falls from the sky and the creature after it may have followed them home. This one starts off feeling recycled but quickly carves its path to a very satisfying conclusion. When one relives the incident that occurred at Gracefield, it would be best to expect the unexpected and keep your eyes peeled, or you may miss something.
The Visit (2015)
Sleepovers at the grandparent’s house are probably what some would come to recall as pleasant memories. The food was the best and bedtimes were always pushed to their limit. But not everyone’s experience in this department is the same. And if M. Night Shamylan’s The Visit is any indication, sometimes it can be a living nightmare. Some peoples grandma and grandpa might be worse than others but the two senior citizens in this one are the type to make you run in the opposite direction very, very fast.
After their mother hears from her estranged parents, she sends her two kids off for a visit and of course, this wouldn’t be a Found Footage film if they weren’t documenting it with some sort of camcorder. This pleasant family friendly home movie begins to slowly spiral out of control as something clearly is not right with the grand-folks. Strange movements at night and spontaneous erratic behavior make the two children afraid for their life and they must find a way to survive the trip. When a filmmaker can make your sweet old granny completely terrifying, it is definitely something worth checking out, if you dare.
The Bay (2012)
The Bay plays out much different from most films in this genre. Instead of relying on a camera and cam op for the entirety of the story, this one takes from different sources allowing to better display the spread of evil that is vividly illustrated in horrific fashion throughout the narrative. It utilizes a method of relaying information that is so familiar with audiences that it enhances the terrifying experience. In the end, it feels like all the horrible occurrences actually happened to make the threat seem more real.
The found footage film from 2012 shows what happened on July 4th, 2009 when an unexplained event occurred in Claridge, MD. A mysterious viral outbreak begins to eat away at the unsuspecting citizens from the inside out. The government confiscated all the video evidence until one savvy reporter who witnessed it all compiled all the footage and presented us with this glimpse of this strange disaster. The Bay’s unique spin offers a mix of a cell phone, dash cam, CCTV, and other forms of recordings all put together like it was a documentary of a real-life tragedy. The final product is a fresh take, and the result is a lot of sleepless nights for some and reliable new addition to the horror collection for others.
Willow Creek (2013)
Hundreds of people disappear in the woods every year. Often the bodies of these poor souls are never recovered. There is no database kept on these losses, so their final moments are a mystery to this day. Well, not every disappearance story goes unsolved as the fate of a young couple camping in the woods that goes terribly wrong gets caught on camera, and it is safe to assume from watching what ensues, they will never be heard from again. Willow Creek takes the final days of these innocent lovebirds and turns it into one tension-filled terror experience all wrapped up in a solid Found Footage film.
In an attempt to get firsthand evidence of Bigfoot, Jim and Kelly take advantage of their couples weekend plans to traverse into the wilderness to accomplish the goal of seeing a Sasquatch. After the cliche weirdo’s and townies attempt to scare them away, the two crazy kids venture where they are not supposed to go as most people do in these situations. Then the real fun begins. Willow Creek does a fantastic job of bringing the idea that something as trivial as Bigfoot could actually be a menacing threat. Audiences leave this one thinking maybe it is a good idea that no one has ever come in contact with Bigfoot, or at least it makes sense why no one has ever lived to talk about it.
Chernobyl Diaries (2012)
What happens when you take something called extreme tourism and a nuclear disaster? You get one truly unique Found Footage experience. This one takes full advantage of the fact that in 1986 radiation was worse than 400 atomic bombs after the fame incident at Chernobyl. While it isn’t usually on everyone tourist destination list, it is hard to pass up any opportunity when overseas. So it is not surprising at all when a few unsuspecting innocent tourists are looking to get that exclusive vacation experience end up pushing the limits only to find themselves lost in the empty wasteland that is Chernobyl. The video diary of this terrifying detour is truly the stuff nightmares are made of.
During this unsanctioned visit, the car stalls only to find out it has been sabotaged, and their desire to make it out before dark goes away along with the feeling of safety. As they make a move to escape they notice that they are not alone. It was thought that the contaminated Russian City was evacuated in its entirety. But from what these sorry souls go through, it seems some people may have stuck around good old Chernobyl, and the side effects are cringe-worthy, to say the least. If anyone has ever wanted to experience the fallout from one of the worlds worst disasters in a very horrific manner, Chernobyl Diaries needs to be seen.