A lot of movie fans regard The Blair Witch Project to be the first found footage horror film to shake up the big screen. However, the cult horror film, Cannibal Holocaust, is often claimed to be the first such movie in the horror genre while the 1961 film, Connection, is claimed to be the first found footage film that is not a horror. This movie genre found a whole new generation of fans with the aforementioned The Blair Witch Project and later on, the release of the hugely popular Paranormal Activity.
On this list are some interesting tidbits that surround found footage films, that you may not have heard of before. Potential spoilers ahead.
10 The Gallows—2015
The Gallows seemingly wasn’t very popular with both audiences and critics, but it still made a very decent profit of $43 million off its ‘meagre’ budget of $100,000. The movie centers around a tragedy that occurred at a high school during an on-stage performance of “The Gallows” when an accident led to the hanging of student Charlie Grimille and the ensuing commemoration of the anniversary of the tragedy.
The movie is based on a story, told to filmmaker Chris Lofing by his father, about a teen who died on stage. According to Lofing’s fellow filmmaker, Travis Cluff, several other creepy events took place throughout and after production of The Gallows, including more accidental hangings not just in Beatrice, Nebraska where the film is set, but also around the world.
9 The Devil Inside – 2012
This found footage horror focuses on a woman who finds herself entangled in a series of exorcisms as she tries to figure out what really happened to her mother. Her mother, having been possessed by a demon, murdered three members of the clergy. The movie was a commercial success, but received mainly negative reviews from critics, in large part because of its very controversial ending.
The movie culminates with the reveal that the mother is possessed by several demons who proceed to possess the daughter and the people helping her. The man helping the daughter film a documentary about what is happening with her mother, is also possessed and ends up swerving into oncoming traffic as he and the daughter are driving to see an exorcism expert. Cue a title card that reads “The facts surrounding the Rossi case remain unresolved. For more information about the ongoing investigation visit www.TheRossiFiles.com.”
Critics and movie-goers alike were unimpressed with this abrupt ending, with some calling it the worst and most-hated ending in movie history.
REC is an unsettling documentary-style, mostly soundtrack-less Spanish film about a news reporter and her cameraman covering a firefighter intervention in Barcelona when it becomes apparent that a virus is spreading among the occupants, turning them into zombies. The movie was a success, leading to the release of three sequels. An American version, Quarantine, also saw the light in 2008.
The first film in the series was shot without a set script and the actors didn’t know beforehand what they would be filming each day. By the time the last movie was released, the franchise also had its own comic book titled REC Historias Ineditas which is comprised of 5 stories and explains the origins of the virus that kicked off the first movie.
While most found footage films are of the horror genre, there are some that break out of the mould. Trollhunter is a Norwegian dark fantasy film shot as a found footage mockumentary. The movie features giant trolls that become frozen in stone when exposed to sunlight, and centers around bear killings and a troll hunter.
Writer-director André Øvredal said during an interview that he always loved the images of trolls in a fairytale book his parent used to read to him and used this as inspiration for the trolls seen in the movie. A large chunk of the financing for the film came from the Norwegian government and at the time of the interview in 2011, plans for an American remake was in the works.
6 Unfriended – 2014
Unfriended is not exactly ‘found footage’ but more ‘online video chatting’- type of footage. The movie explores the consequences of cyber-bullying in a terrifying way. During a press conference in 2015 the filmmakers shared some behind-the-scenes facts about the movie, including that it was shot almost like a play and in a single take. The script continuously changed as improvisation happened during shooting and the infamous ‘Never Have I Ever’ game was written the day before it was shot.
Fans of the movie became convinced that it was based on a true story, to the extent that debunking website, Snopes, posted an article to declare the rumors as being false. Screenwriter Nelson Greaves confirmed that the movie was based on an idea of producer Timur Bekmambetov who wanted to “make a movie that’s just on the computer.”
5 The Taking of Deborah Logan – 2014
The Taking of Deborah Logan is a much-underrated Netflix gem that focuses on the relationship between an ailing mother and her daughter. It tells the story of a film crew documenting a woman (the abovementioned mother, Deborah) who suffers from Alzheimer’s and discovers something evil lurking in the shadows.
By the end of the film Deborah’s dementia is out of control and she kidnaps a cancer patient with the goal of sacrificing her. Deborah at this point has been possessed by an evil spirit who is steering her towards completing the sacrifice so that it can gain immortality. A shocking scene sees Deborah trying to devour the young cancer patient, Cara, like a snake leaving her daughter, Sarah, with no choice but to shoot her mother. Deborah doesn’t die however and is comforted by Sarah as the movie ends.
Cara is then shown, months after her kidnapping, celebrating her tenth birthday and her cancer remission status. Her creepy smile however, led moviegoers to believe that she had been possessed by the spirit that had once been inside Deborah. Fans of the movie also believe that the serpent symbolism is a metaphor for the changes happening in Deborah as she spits venom and bites while possessed.
The film’s director, Adam Robitel, has said that he’s always been terrified of Alzheimer’s and that the disease is ‘a pretty organic metaphor for possession.’
4 Jeruzalem – 2015
This supernatural found footage Israeli horror film opens with a Talmud quote saying there are three gates that lead to hell: one in the sea, one in the desert, and one in Jerusalem. The movie focuses on a zombie apocalypse in the Old City and was filmed there as well. The zombies in the movie are somewhat different to your ordinary zombies, as these ones bite and scratch at humans to turn them into demons. Also, what some viewers may not have noticed when they watched the film, is that a Skyrim steel sword was used in a scene where a zombie is stabbed.
Jeruzalem was inspired by the Talmud, hence the opening quote, and had a budget of only $160,000 of which most was raised by the producers themselves. Doron Paz and Yoav Paz sold the film to multiple countries including the UK, US, Japan and the Philippines and announced in 2016 that a sequel would be filmed that takes places 10 years after the events of the first movie.
3 Megan is Missing – 2011
This disturbing film details the events during the days leading up to the disappearance of Megan Steward, played by Rachel Quinn. The movie is based on the occurrence of several real-life child abduction cases and was endorsed by Marc Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas who was kidnapped and murdered in 1993.
Megan is Missing was very controversial upon its release and eventually banned in New Zealand after being marketed as an education film. It was heavily criticized by critics for its oversexualization of adolescents and confrontational violence.
Writer/director Michael Goi knew the theme of the film would upset many and ensured that the parents of the young cast were on set during shooting, so that they would be aware of what would happen in the controversial scenes. Goi wrote the script in a mere 10 days and filmed it within 7 days. It earned the moniker of ‘2011’s scariest horror film’ in no time.
2 The Possession of Michael King—2014
The Possession of Michael King tells the story of a widower who doesn’t believe in the existence of supernatural forces, but offers himself as a vessel to be possessed by demons after his wife dies following crappy advice from a medium. He does this to prove that there is no such thing as demons, angels, God or the devil. Of course, terrifying scenes ensue.
One of the scenes sees Michael sitting next to a television so that he can see his own image on the screen while being filmed by a camera. He asks himself questions and when he turns away from the TV, his onscreen image appears to be turning to face him.
For the timing of this scene to be perfect, actor Shane Johnson pre-taped a section of the scene and then it was played back so that he could match his previous performance up to a point and then stop. From the stopping point, his performance on the TV screen would keep going, making the face appear as if it was separating from Shane’s as it ‘turned to look at him.’
1 As Above, So Below – 2014
As Above, So Below doesn’t claim to be based on a true story, but there is a terrifying story attached to the location the film was shot in.
In the early 90s, a man decided to explore The Catacombs of Paris by himself. He never returned, but his camcorder and its cassette were eventually retrieved. The footage on the camcorder sees the man freak out when he glimpses ‘something’ and then starts to run. At one point he drops the camcorder which continues to film, while the man just disappears. The incident was aired as a special documentary on ABC Family in which it is claimed that the man disappeared at the entrance to the “Gates of Hell.”
The movie takes viewers deep into The Catacombs which are believed to have been built for religious practices. These underground ossuaries hold the remains of more than six million people and was largely forgotten until it became the location of choice for parties and other events during the nineteenth century. Director, John Erick, called the catacombs “an extremely creepy place” and said “It really tweaks at the mind.”