The found footage sub-genre has now been a thriving cinematic niche for more than a decade. Most will argue that the Blair Witch Project truly launched the craze, and I for one wouldn’t disagree. Prior to 1999 fans weren’t subjected to many “POV” features, but thanks to a remarkable marketing campaign and the mystery surrounding TBWP, we’re now treated to multiple found footage features every year.
While some of these offerings are poor attempts crafted by indie filmmakers with little to no budget, every now and then a serious treasure emerges. Here now is a (probably predictable) list of five must see found footage features.
: This terrifying tale of a quarantined apartment complex is executed with perfection. Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza managed to create a frantic, claustrophobic, gory little film that truly raised the bar, and established a level of expected quality for the sub-genre.
For the uneducated, the primary conflict is what appears to be a rabies outbreak. While the virus initially gestates within a tenant’s dog, redents quickly become erratic and downright violent. Yep, you guessed it, the humans are becoming infected, and at an alarming rate.
A small crew of firefighters, a naive reporter and her camera man find themselves investigating the issue, only to learn they’ve been sealed in the complex. Within minutes the shocks unfold; bodies fly, blood sprays, and viewers become helpless to turn away from this priceless gem of a film.
Trollhunter: Norway has been pumping out some remarkable horror over the last few years (do not miss the Cold Prey franchise!), and Trollhunter is no exception.
The idea behind the film is unquestionably preposterous, as a small camera crew find themselves wrapped up in a legitimate search for what most locals conder nothing more than a myth, the almighty troll. It’s not long before these youngsters discover that trolls are no myth, and in fact, they’ve been running amuck in Norway for ages.
André Øvredal’s script and direction are near flawless. The pacing is wonderful, the acting is believable, the FX are absolutely top notch, and, the movie is an absolute blast! Dry humor decorates the film, and it’s admirable to see Øvredal treat his subject matter with respect, while never long the ability to laugh at the entire conundrum; it’s always an enjoyable experience when a filmmaker isn’t concerned with taking his work too serious.
If you love monster movies, and POV flicks work for you, Trollhunter is an absolute must-see!
Paranormal Activity 2: I may be panned viciously for this selection, but my choice to include this film is unwavering.
For those that caught the first PA feature, you know we’re dealing with a haunted house that seems to get a thorough kick out of terrorizing it’s inhabitants. Well, that is until the fun becomes dull, at which point, it’s time to kill of our protagonists.
PA2 follows the same formula, but the script is far more complex, and the details of the followup are hashed out wonderfully. A beautiful introduction eliminates any curioty as to how the second film ties into the first, and screenwriters Michael R. Perry, Christopher B. Landon and
Tom Pabst overlook no details while dragging viewers through more paranormal torment.
Interestingly enough it doesn’t require many gnificant additions to the already established foundation to make this sequel superior to its predecessor. The incluon of an animal and baby seem like minor plot points, but rest assured, these two new elements create a tangible fear. Being a father, it’s damn unnerving to witness a child manipulated by unseen forces; animal cruelty is never a soothing concept either.
Cloverfield: Director Matt Reeves and producer J.J. Abrams make for an amazing duo; a beefier budget than your traditional POV feature doesn’t hurt in the slightest either.
The story can be likened to Godzilla features of yesteryear, but it’s tidy in ways you won’t find in most monster invaon films. For one, the character development is excellent; screenwriter Drew Goddard creates believable, compasonate players, and as a viewer, we’re left to wonder, worry and pull for our focal crew of five. Shocks are always fun, but genuine connections tend to make things far more engaging.
The special effects really do deserve major credit. The monster itself remains shrouded in darkness for the majority of the movie, but when we do get a good look at the hulking beast, it’s damn impresve (as are those nasty critters expelled from the mammoth creature). However, what this film may always be remembered for is the amazing shot of the Statue of Liberty’s head being hurled through the busy streets of New York; it just doesn’t get much better than that.
The Blair Witch Project: Upon release, the world went insane for the Blair Witch Project. Now that we’ve been treated to numerous superior efforts, critics and fans alike choose to dismiss this film; labeling it dull and boring. I can assure you that in 1999, moviegoers weren’t panning this film, they were praing it to high heaven.
The story is all bare bones: Documentary crew heads out into the woods to investigate an urban myth about (ding ding ding!) a witch! While the pacing is a bit slow, there are some shocking moments executed utilizing mple, practical scares. There’s no need for big budget effects here, the story itself is frightening, and the execution is quite profesonal, as ironic as that may seem.
The film’s concluon, while brief, bac and otherwise unspectacular is actually extremely chilling.
If you’ve somehow missed this gem, or reached some form of preconceived negative concluons due to word-of-mouth, I recommend you take the time to judge for yourself. You may find this microbudget feature more enthralling than expected.
With countless other POV films scheduled to hit the market in the next two years, this list could see some major changes (anyone else pumped for Apollo 18??). For now, this is a fine guide to get you in touch with some high quality entertainment you may have overlooked.