Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Top Six Best Found Footage Horror Films

Found footage films are the darling of the horror industry. The roots of the style can be traced all the way back to "Cannibal Holocaust"-- a mockumentary (i.e. fake documentary) that featured the real slaying of animals on screen.

In the 1990s the found footage film really started to make its mark with made for TV productions such as BBC's "Ghostwatch" and "Alien Abduction: The Incident in Lake County." Shortly thereafter, "The Blair Witch Project" appeared in theaters, and horror has never been the same since.

With so many found footage films being pumped out by studios nowadays (mainly because they are so cheap to make) we have many examples of movies that are really freaking scary, and ones that are so bad that they're boring to watch.

Here's a list of the best found footage horror films of all times.

The Top Six Best Found Footage Horror Films

6."Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night"

There are two camps of thought when it comes to the Paranormal Activity series. Those who think it's the next best thing since sliced bread, and those that think that it's a boring yawn fest and hate it. I'm one of the latter individuals.

It's no big secret that I don't like the Paranormal Activity series. I think that it is trite and boring. I'd rather go to the zoo and stick my hand in the tiger cage than sit through another PA movie.

That being said, "Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night" is the only PA movie that I like, mainly because it has a different cultural influence than the others, and it's actually scary.

Haruka Yamano has come back home to Tokyo after a disastrous trip in America, where she was hit by a car and had both of her legs broken. Wheelchair bound, she is forced to ask her brother and father for help. After her father leaves for a business trip, Haruka starts to experience strange things.After her wheelchair moves by itself in the middle of the night, her brother investigates her room to ensure that no one has broken in through the windows. When he doesn't find anything, he tells her that a spirit must've moved the wheelchair, so he pours a mound of salt on the floor to ward off any ghosts.

The salt is spread, blown away by an invisible force. As they continue to investigate, strange things keep happening, each one a little more scary than the previous, in a brilliant build up of tension as radios and TVs start turning themselves on, crucifixes are burned with no visible cause and so on. After they call a Shinto priest to purify the house, they believe that the terror is over, but it's just beginning.

This lesser known Paranormal Activity movie by our pals over seas is by far the superior installment of the franchise. A must-see for found footage film lovers, and anyone who likes a good scary ghost story.

5. "The St. Francisville Experiment"

In  "The St. Francisville Experiments" five college kids are hired to go to the haunted mansion of Madam LaLaurie in New Orleans and investigate it.

Madam LaLaurie is an infamous boogeyman of the south. She kept slaves chained in rooms, imprisoned them in dog cage in the attic, and performed wicked vivisection and other types of torture on them. (This of course, is all urban legend and cannot be verified). But that doesn't matter. The cultural weight of the urban legend is palpable in this paranormal investigation movie.

"The St. Francisville Experiments" followed on the heels of "The Blair Witch Project" and went straight to video. While the movie does have a few silly and cheap scares early on, it does a great job of building up the tension by creating  interpersonal conflicts, and forcing the group to split up at crucial moments in the plot.

The best scenes are of course, closest to the end. My favorite, and the most terrifying, is when one of the team members has to go back up to the attic to say a "prayer of cleansing" and he's standing there by himself, shaking as he tries to read it when the ghost attacks.

This found footage film is one of the most underrated horror movies I have ever seen. Watch it in the dark, alone, for the best scares possible.

4. "The Blair Witch Project"

"The Blair Witch Project" is the grand daddy of all modern found footage horror films, from the late 1990s to  the present. The beginning of the movie is rather slow, but it is necessary as it sets up the background of the Blair Witch myth, and ultimately serves to help create terror in the viewer's mind once the shocking ending gets into full swing.

This movie was filmed with the actors being thrown into an environment that they are completely unfamiliar with, and letting them improvise after giving them a slips of paper each day as to what their characters do. It is rather effective, as the terror is raw and genuinely felt by the actors as they are pursued through the woods by the witch.

 Definitely a must see, if not for the horror, than for the fact that it is an important installment in horror movie history.

A little known fact: 
Prior to "The Blair Witch Project" these types of movies were called mockumentaries. Afterward, they became found footage films, thanks to the wording on the poster above. The same text that appears at the beginning of the movie.

3. "Alien Abduction: The Incident in Lake County"

Ah, those poor McPhersons. All they wanted to do was enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. But instead, they have some uninvited guests that totally ruin their holiday plans. Stupid aliens.

"Alien Abduction: The Incident in Lake County" is a made for TV movie was based on "The McPherson Tape;" a video that "mysteriously" disappeared from the Internet shortly after it was discovered.

While it is not chock-a-block full of special effects, the tension and suspense that  "Alien Abduction: The Incident in Lake County" manages to create is just phenomenal. Even if you're not into alien movies, this found footage film has a lot of really good scares. The scene where the grey aliens enter the kitchen gives me goosebumps every time I see it.

What I really loved about this found footage film is that it really allows the viewers to suspend their disbelief and become fully immersed in the horror that unfolds. Of course, watching the movie at night, alone, helps to increase the fear and paranoia that an alien is about to enter your room and spirit you away to God knows where. Just don't look out your windows after watching this. You'll be glad you didn't.

2. "Atrocious"

This Spanish found footage film is one of those movies that a lot of critics hated, for some strange reason. I'm not sure why. "Atrocious" is brilliant and intensely scary. Maybe those people don't like hedge mazes...

In "Atrocious" Cristian and his sister July are working on a paranormal investigation Internet video series. The movie starts out with them heading over to their family's summer home during Easter vacation, where they are going to investigate the ghost of Melinda, a girl that haunts the nearby woods.

After coming upon a well in the hedge maze, strange things start happening, and Cristian makes sure that they get it all on film. But all is not what it appears to be, and it is soon made apparent that it's not a ghost that is terrorizing their family, but someone close to them.

"Atrocious" builds up incredible suspense and fear, with a believable and stunning conclusion that was absolutely perfect.

1. "[REC]"

When I first saw [REC], I was absolutely blown away. This Spanish found footage film proves just how scary and intense a movie from that genre can be. It holds nothing back for a pulse-pounding, nail-biting thrill ride of a movie going experience.

Angela Vidal is a news reporter for the TV series "While You're Asleep." She is joined by her camera man, Pablo. They are recording the night shift of a local fire station in Barcelona. Angela goofs around a little in the station before the men are called out to help police carry out an old woman who has fallen ill in her apartment. It's a routine call, or at least, it should have been.

At the apartment, you can immediately sense that something is horribly wrong. The firemen join the police that are already on scene and they go up to the apartment and knock down the door. Inside they find the old woman, on the floor.  She is making strange animalistic sounds and attacks a policeman when he gets near her. Panicked, Angela and Pablo run out of the apartment and down to the lobby, where they learn that the apartment building has been sealed off and placed under quarantine by the military.

A disease is rapidly spreading through the complex. The virus turns people into ravenous, blood-thirsty monsters that only have one thing on their minds, to kill whatever is standing before them, and each attack adds another screaming undead person to their ranks.

Angela and Pablo are chased through the building, and wind up in the attic in an attempt to escape. There, Angela encounters the nightmare that started the outbreak, and it's far worse than anyone could've imagined.

"[REC]" gives us not only the best found footage horror film, but one of the most unique takes on the origin of a zombie outbreak, that of demonic possession (and no it's not the same as the Deadites from "Evil Dead.").  It is a must see that is far better than the American version, "Quarantine." If you haven't seen it, you need to go to your local video store and rent it as soon as possible. You won't regret it.


  1. Good list. Atrocious is very deserving of the number 2 slot and it's good to finally see some love for Incident in Lake County. Nobody ever seems to give it any props in the found footage community. Sure it's cheesy but it's effective.

    Since you clearly appreciate the more subtle type of films, have you ever seen The Wicksboro Incident? Really impressive command of suspense and atmosphere in that one.

  2. Thanks Tenzin! I do in fact appreciate the more subtle types of films. I find that a lot of the horror movies I like tend to be slow burners that work to create a wonderfully scary atmosphere, other than strictly relying on loud sound jumps to startle the viewer.

    I've never heard of "The Wicksboro Incident." Thank you for telling me about it! I'm totally going to check that one out. :) It sounds really interesting.