There's no sub-genre in the world of horror that has had more ups and downs than that of the found footage genre. The pure concept around "found footage" has been around for years now and in spite of there being some incredibly successful hits, which ultimately turned into unstoppable franchises, it’s a genre that is plagued with copycats, lacklustre concepts, rushed efforts and downright disappointing endings. We take a look at the ever-evolving world of found footage and how many hidden gems are slipping past mainstream expectations.
One of the most successful found footage horror movies of all time is of course The Blair Witch Project. From its use of early internet marketing and its unique style it became a worldwide box office phenomenon back in the late 90’s. It may not have been the first horror movie around to use the concept of found footage, and there were certainly earlier efforts, but this low budget chiller from newcomers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez which was made for just $60,000 went on to gross more than $250 million dollars worldwide, making it, at the time, the most profitable movie in history. Even today it’s still labelled as one of the most successful independent films of all time and its legacy lives on.
The Blair Witch Project was largely improvised, created on a shoestring budget, didn’t feature expensive effects, nor did it have costly sets or big named stars. Of course when many filmmakers see how successful movies like this become they instantly see dollar signs and do everything they can to create their own found footage project expecting to hit the heights of similar success. But unless you have a unique idea, and something you think audiences will really want to see you may as well just try your luck over at Novibet UK casino instead.
The Blair Witch Project was instantly responsible for found footage formula and has influenced so much that has since become nothing more than tired horror tropes. The list of monikers ever since has been endless and only a handful of efforts have managed to keep things fresh by reinventing these tropes and taking a look at the genre from a completely different perspective.
Oren Peli’s 2007 ‘Paranormal Activity’ was met with just as must excitement and praise as The Blair Witch Project had all those years back. And whilst it dealt with a number of new ideas it lead to a string of pointless and weak sequels which time and time again decided instead to rehash things that had made the previous movies popular. The ‘Paranormal Activity’ series certainly appeared to be uneasy about breaking tradition and once part two was released it was an annual tradition for the studio to bring out sequel after sequel and this rush was all too obvious.
The found footage has touched upon most things horror has to offer. There have been found footage efforts about ghosts, serial killers, cults, bigfoot, zombies, space, aliens, pandemics, and insane grandparents. And it is its accessibility that makes it still such a popular staple for filmmakers to try out. Even big named directors like George Romero, JJ Abrams and twist-master M Night Shyamalan have all had a go at found footage.
The last decade has seen a number of significant found footage movies such as Cloverfield, the Spanish genre-twisting series ‘[REC]’, Norway’s splendid ‘Trollhunter’, ‘Creep’, ‘The Taking of Deborah Logan’, smart and solid anthology ‘V/H/S’, and even the hilarious New Zealand vampire effort ‘What We Do In The Shadows’. The reason these have stood out in amongst a huge pot of other terrible movies is they all bring something a little new and a little different to the genre. And it’s these little sparks that not only make the movie more interesting and enjoyable but it’s that unexpected quality that makes it even scarier.