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The Very Best Of The Found Footage Genre Part 2

#6 – Paranormal Activity (2009)

Directed by Oren Peli

The faux-documentary, “cinema verité” camera style is increasingly prevalent in horror flicks these days, mostly because it cuts down on budget-costs for genre filmmakers. Paranormal Activity is a prime example. The film is one of the most profitable movies ever made, based on return on investment. Made for an estimated $12, 000, the movie earned a total gross of $193,298,009 world wide.

Paranormal Activity successfully marked the return of the classic ghost story. For a long while, horror films were limited to slasher-style gore fests or grisly torture porn, but Peli goes back to basics with his feature debut. The frights in Paranormal Activity are subtle yet powerful because they’re very close to home. More importantly by choosing the keep the camera steady on a tripod for the majority of the film (with a valid reasoning), Paranormal becomes accessible to a larger audience – including those who easily get motion sick.

#5 – [REC 2] (2009)

Directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza

[REC]2 delivers the same nonstop thrills but adds on a new spin to the tale, taking cues from Aliens and The Exorcist with a subplot about demonic possession. This is far from your cut and dry sequel. It has enough invention and wit to keep fans happy; it’s a non stop adrenaline pumping terror ride into hell. Much like [REC], the sequel blends a clever mutation of horror standards seen in everything from Romero’s films to Outbreak to The Blair Witch Project.

As in [REC], the audience is taken on a first-person ride through the infected apartment complex, and here the possibility of the shaky-cam shots are further explored. In [REC] 2, the SWAT team is equipped with cameras on their helmets to help document the events, and in addition each agent also has a tiny camera mounted on his helmet, making the picture technically more impressive while also giving editor David Gallart more raw material to work with. The brilliant use of several cameras mounted on their helmets allows the audience to be quickly transported anywhere the action is taking place. Finally, in a brilliant turn of events, the SWAT team loses their camera feed, sending the picture to a dead halt. After thirty seconds of silence and watching a black screen we start the journey over from the very beginning through the eyes of a group of kids who enter the building through the city sewers and being documenting the mayhem within. It’s both a brilliant twist and excellent use of camera work that clearly from a technical standpoint outdoes every movie mentioned here.

listen to our review from podcast #154

#4 – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

The Blair Witch Project is an homage to sitting by the campfire and listening to urban myths and various ghost stories, something most of us can relate to. However the primary reason for it’s success is that it keeps audiences in the dark about its titular villain. Using techniques that would make the guys in Dogme 95 proud, The Blair Witch Project remembers that nothing onscreen can be as scary as your own imagination. It understands how to build anticipation and deliver the scares at precisely the right moment. Unlike most horror films, The Blair Witch Project isn’t simply designed to make you jump nor ever gross you out. It’s designed to make you feel discomfort, nausea and general panic, and people respond by saying it is the scariest film of all time simply because it feels so real.

#3 -[REC] (2007)

Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

A brilliant horror / thriller which may start slow but eventually accelerates to a fever pitch of complete and utter terror and hysteria. Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza quickly became rising stars in the Spanish horror scene with this short, stripped-down, first-person horror picture that delivers some unforgettably effective shocks while gradually building a haunting atmosphere of ever-increasing panic and despair.

Listen to our review from podcast #44

#2 – C’est arrivé près de chez vous (Man Bites Dog) (1992)

Directed by André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde

In the tradition of all desperate filmmakers who can’t afford much film stock, the trio of Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde set out to make the cheapest movie possible. Intended as a calling card, Man Bites Dog would spoof documentaries by taking a fictitious serial killer around as he exercises his craft. He expounds on art, music, nature, society, and life as he offs mailmen, pensioners, and random people. Every frame of this film is shot documentary-style in grainy black-and-white. This pseudo-realism, complete with rough uneven editing and shaky hand-held camera work, gives a frightening air of legitimacy to it’s a deeply compelling indictment of screen violence as entertainment – a critique of our crime-saturated media and violence-dominated life that we’ve seen time and time again, but not quite like this.

#1- Cloverfield (2008)

Directed by Matt Reeves

This lean, mean monster movie at only 84-minutes, and offers a fresh spin on the genre. Employing a pseudo-documentary handheld camera style, director Matt Reeves creates a remarkable and economical approach to show widespread panic in Manhattan, by blending computer-generated and real footage, and limiting our perspective to just what Hud sees through his viewfinder. Even if it’s gimmicky filmmaking, it still makes for a surprisingly gripping thriller. Think The Blair Witch Project crossed with Godzilla. Cloverfield is alarming and nothing short of terrifying – a a milestone in contemporary filmmaking.

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