My Top 5 Found Footage Films, What’s Yours?
Found footage, mockumentaries, reality movies, POV films, whatever you want to call them, are a style of filmmaking that will always be here. They are presented with most of the film and storytelling shown through the camera lens from one (or more) of the characters or by surveillance footage from multiple sources. Often the footage is found after the fact, when the characters are presumed missing or dead and the footage/movie is played back for the audience. Sometimes it is not “found” but being seen in real time. Sometimes they are set up as a news-story gone wrong. The success of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project birthed the modern popularity of FF films. There were a few previous to that date, most notably, Cannibal Holocaust, but the availability of affordable digital video cameras in recent years makes films like this more plausible. They are sometimes marketed as ‘true’ or ‘actual footage’ and true stories.
Like them or hate them, they are a permanent fixture in the horror movie genre. Some directors can make better FF films than others. Some of the films are total garbage. But get used to seeing them, they are not going to be removed from the film industry’s repertoire any time soon.
These are my Top 5 Found Footage/ Mock-documentary horror/sci-fi films.
1) Quarantine / REC. (2008/2007)
Yes, I list these both together because, although they are basically the same movie, there are parts of both that make me like them for different reasons. If I had to pick just one, I would pick Quarantine, mainly because I don’t have to read the subtitles and because I like Jennifer Carpenter in this role. There are a few scenes that I like better in the Ameri-version, also. The scene with the CDC inspecting the bodies in the back room was one that I thought ramped up the tension more in the American version than the Spanish version.
2) The Last Exorcism (2010)
I know there’s a split in opinion about this one but I think the character of Preacher, Marcus Cotton, was fleshed out nicely and was the main reason I liked the film. The main story is about the preacher, not the exorcism and the girl. There are some creepy as hell parts at the farmhouse and the realization of Cotton, about what is going on, was a well-planned mystery. I even like the ending and if you think of the film as a story about Cotton, it makes perfect sense. The sequel was terrible. Avoid it like the plague. See my full review, here: The Last Exorcism
3) Cloverfield (2008)
The fact that this is a giant monster movie but completely filmed from street level is what makes this film so great. You never get a clear view of what the whole monster looks like and I think that works well for this movie. The going away party/drama at the start of the film is so dull, it feels like real life. Just when you think you can’t take no more, the sh*t hits the fan. That scene with the head of the Statue of Liberty rocketing over the character’s heads and crashing into the street behind them is jaw dropping. A couple of scenes may remind you of 911. I think sometimes it is good to be reminded. The characters feel real and in turn the situation feels real – you can’t help but root for the small band of friends to survive. More on Cloverfield here: Cloverfield
4) Apartment 143 (2011)
4th place was a toss up between this and Paranormal Activity. I think Apartment 143 won solely because it didn’t have a line of sequels, therefore, we didn’t see the same gags repeated four times. Strange things happen in a small apartment. A single father struggles to raise two children. His daughter hates him and we slowly learn the reason for such disgust. Watch it around Halloween with the lights off. Read my full review here: Apartment 143
5) Paranormal Activity (2009)
The 1st of the series is no doubt the best. Small nuances in their apartment cause Micah and Katie to set up surveillance cameras in their home. What the lens captures escalates into terrifying footage. Some of the creepiest parts are Katie getting up in the middle of the night and just standing there, staring at the bed. The film realistically follows how a paranormal event progresses, starting off with very minor incidents. It successfully creates atmosphere and tension. The dialogue between the couple sounds natural adding to the believability of the film.
I would consider the Top 5 as ‘5 star’ rating in the subcategory of FF films.
(0 stars = unwatchable, 3 stars = good movie, 5 stars = best in class)
Considerations and my star ratings (0-5)
The Bay – 4 stars
As Above, So Below – 4 stars
Chronicle– 3 stars
The Possession of Michael King – 2.5 stars
Alien Abduction – 3.5 stars
Apollo 18- 4 stars
The Fourth Kind– 4 stars
The Blair Witch Project- 1 stars
Buried Alive – 3 stars
Legend of Boggy Creek- 0 stars
Paranormal Activity 2- 2 stars
Paranormal Activity 3- 4 stars
Paranormal Activity 4– 1 stars
The Devil Inside- 1 stars
Rec. 2- 4 stars
Diary of the Dead- 3 stars
Death of a Ghost Hunter– 1 stars
Monsters – 3 stars
Monster- 1 stars
Evil Things- 0 stars
The Troll Hunter– 4 stars
Grave Encounters– 3 stars
Grave Encounters 2- 1 stars
VHS– 3 stars
VHS II – 4 stars
VHS Viral – 2.5 stars
Behind the Mask:the Rise of Leslie Vernon– 4 stars
Hollow – 0 stars
The Last Horror Movie- 2 stars
Cannibal Holocaust- 3 stars
The Curse- —
The Frankenstein Theory- 1 star
The Dinosaur Project- 0 stars
The Last Exorcism part II -0 stars
The Amityville Haunting– 0 stars
Paranormal Entity- 0 stars
Amber Alert- —-
District 9- 3 stars
Lake Mungo – ——
The Tunnel – ——
Chernobyl Diaries – ——
Greystone Park- —–
In Search of Lovecraft – 0 stars
Noroi – —–
Ghostwatch – —–
If I missed anything please let me know…
Still want to see:
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
War of the Worlds, the True Story
Mermaids: The Body Found (2012) Discovery Channel
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives (2013) Discovery Channel
What’s Your Top 5 Found Footage films?
List them below in the comments
You’ve covered them all. Now this makes me want to watch a bunch of horror!
I also liked Preacher in The Last Exorcism. I liked the film and didn’t find much wrong with it except the end was a little flat.
Apartment 143 was pretty good too. I liked the confusion that it created in me. Watched it twice to see if I’d missed something.
I keep meaning to watch REC I Really liked Quarantine and should watch this foreign version.. Seems like that’s why I’ve avoided it. Have to be in the right mood.
Only 8 or 9 weeks until Halloween, nothing wrong with starting early 🙂
Poughkeepsie tapes is a good watch, creepy as hell. I’d have Rec & Rec 2 as my #’s 1 & 2 though 🙂
Tyson loves REC 3. With a passion!
swap loves with hate and you’d be spot on 😉
I heard ‘Rec 3’ wasn’t an FF film after the 1st 5 minutes…
I can see Rec and Rec 2 as top spots ; ) I just needed a little variety in my list.
Great post! The wife will be home soon so I will be off doing other things. It would take me some deep thought to figure this out but, quickly, I REALLY liked PA 4 – it really worked for me while the others didn’t. I also liked Lake Mungo and The Tunnel. I’d have to think longer.
LOL @ Evil Things. What a JOKE of a movie. I liked Apartment 143 too. Amber Alert is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’ll have to put Lake Mungo and The Tunnel on my list. Haven’t seen either, are they horror or sci-fi?
They’re both labeled horror although neither are truly scary – but they’re good. Maybe thrillers? Both are worth watching.
Yeah, I put ’em up… even ‘Chunnel’ 😉
I agree Quarantine and REC are both excellent and would be at a loss to assign first or second place. I slightly prefer REC because it was the original.
You didn’t have The Chernobyl Diaries in your list. Maybe I missed it, but no loss: I didn’t think it was very good.
I’ll have to put Chernobyl Diaries on the list, forgot about that one 🙂
What about The Hamiltons. Anybody seen it?
Haven’t seen that one.
I found it on Netflix. The Hamilton’s seem like the perfect family next door. It has it’s own little twist that I enjoyed. Was surprised by it and really liked it. It’s dark from the get go.
I like Noroi and Lake Mungo a whole lot, and I liked The Last Broadcast right up til the WTF ending. REC was pretty good. Grave Encounters was okay, but the ghosts were ridiculous looking. Oh, and I almost forgot Ghostwatch; that one is awesome.
Thanks WC, I have to add a few of these to my list. Never saw Noroi or Ghostwatch – I’ll check for them on Netflix.
Besides Blair Witch, my two favorite FF/POV films are Shiraishi Koji’s brilliant “Noroi,” which features some excellent characters (hard to do in FF films), and the British TV mockumentary “Ghostwatch,” which is sometimes credited as the first major FF horror film, and which caused widespread panic when it originally aired in the UK, leading to the BBC banning it for a long time.
Yeah, I’d like to see Ghostwatch, for sure.
I can’t watch a whole movie filled with that stuff, but i like the bit in “Alien” where they’re exploring the alien spacecraft…
This is a great list, and a timely reminder that I need to actually get around to watching REC… also, I’d never heard of Apartment 143 before. Plenty of found-footage films to check out!
Apt. 143 is definitely a well-made FF film – you should click the link to read the full review (no spoilers).
Will do! Cheers
I’ve passed by Apt 143 on Netflix because, well, I’ve been burned so many times. Horror movie fans are the most abused in media! And the most resilient and hopeful. Now that I’ve heard so much about Apt. 143 here (they should have chosen a better title), I’m going to give a shot. Thanks!
Love Cloverfield and REC, Chronicle is better on a second viewing.
I was actually debating about putting Cloverfield at number 1 or 2 🙂
I’ve never gotten into the found footage thing, but I’ve heard really good things about Cloverfield. I actually queued Apartment 143 on Netflix but no, I will not watch it in the dark around Halloween :P. Thats just asking for 2 weeks (or more) of insomnia.
If you watch Quarrantine or REC you’ll be awake for a month 😉
The trailer made me stay awake for a night..so I figured it’d be bad. Thanks for the heads up, because I think REC is one of the newer recommendations that I’ve had *shivers*
Your tranquil dreams will fly out off the window…
LOL! I did it for a week (or two) last year for my Halloween marathon 😛 Thats why I’m changing the scope of that marathon a little this year…
But hey, always nice to have a little adrenaline rush 😉
Nice list. The first Paranormal Activity is great. The idea of what might be happening when we’re asleep is creepy. Also Chronicle is another surprisingly good movie.
Great post, Michael! I love your choices and I need to finish Apartment 143 asap. I may have to think on my top 5 a bit…but I feel it may mirror yours for the most part.
I did like The Bay and The Fourth Kind, too. Good picks for your considerations.
THE LAST BROADCAST has been called ‘the FIRST found footage film’ (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0122143/ / http://www.thelastbroadcastmovie.com/), and I have a kind of love/hate relationship with it. I do have a bit more appreciation for it since rewatching it a few months ago.
I have to disagree with rest of the world on The Blair Witch Project – I absolutely LOVE it, cheese, snot, and all!! It is sad to know that the guy who directed the Paradise Lost documentaries (Damien Echols / WM3) filmed a ‘mockumentary’ and THAT is his “Best known for…” claim to fame With that being said… HOW EXCITED AM I FOR THE UPCOMING BLAIR WITCH 2016?! ::insert fangirl squee here:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=girSv9UH_V8
If you’re not opposed to a little internet movie piracy… here is the link for The Poughkeepsie Tapes on Putlocker – http://putlocker.is/watch-the-poughkeepsie-tapes-online-free-putlocker.html
What’s my favorite FF book?
Why, that would have to be JOURNALS OF HORROR, thank you for asking.
Yeah, Blair Witch just didn’t sit right with me (maybe cause I saw it in theaters and got dizzy) but I don’t deny it’s impact or impression on others. I’ve heard of The Last Broadcast but never seen it. Also, something could be said for Legend of Boggy Creek being a docu-drama and an early FF film (although it’s a chore to watch in this day and age.) And what about Cannibal Holocaust? Thanks for the link, I’ve been wanting to see P Tapes for ever… 🙂