Since the Paranormal Activity Series hit the market and paved the way for found footage films to become mainstream, it’s been hard to find films in the same genre that aren’t radically original or predictable. Found footage films follow a pretty simple formula, and when directors get lazy with thinking outside the box, the storyline isn’t executed well.
Here’s a list of found footage films that personally scared the sh*t out of me, and left just as much of an unsettling, uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as the Paranormal Series did:
The Levenger Tapes (2011) – Three students went missing, and a disturbing tape is found by detectives that show the final hours of their whereabouts before their fateful disappearance. This is probably the best cinematography work I’ve seen in an F.F. film, and it was shot in a way that made it impossible for me to predict what could come next. This movie is definitely upon the “Don’t Watch This Home Alone” list… which is a bold statement that I’m making as a self-proclaimed horror movie buff.
Butterfly Kisses (2018) A filmmaker discovers a shoebox of videotapes depicting a disturbing student film project about an urban legend known as Peeping Tom. As the filmmaker sets out to prove that the footage is real, he falls into an obsession. His film crew follows him, and his obsession slowly starts to wreak havoc on his reputation, his family and threatens his life. The synopsis isn’t exciting, and because of it, I can imagine that this movie gets overlooked quite often. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this storyline is actually pretty original, and as soon as it started to feel predictable, a plot twist came up to get me hooked into the story all over again.
Tales of Found Footage (2019) – an anthology of three stories of terror, presented in found footage style. It’s a 20-minute long film, so each story is about 7 minutes. The camera work is gimmicky, the acting is bad, and it looks like a couple of teenagers are just experimenting with video work with no previous experience. And that’s the genius part of it all. It sets the viewer up almost immediately to not take this film seriously. As I was watching this movie unfold, I didn’t realize that the director was purposefully doing this to catch me off guard, because when the jump-scares happened, it worked. It scared the daylights out of me. There was a narrator that literally didn’t fit in the film whatsoever, but surprisingly it provided some great comic relief in between stories. This definitely took some digging through mountains of terrible horror movies on the internet, but it was well worth it for this find.
Phoenix Forgotten (2016) – Strange lights lit up the sky in Phoenix, Arizona which inspired 3 teenagers to venture out in the desert with cameras to capture footage of supernatural occurrences. They never were seen again, and on the 20th anniversary of their disappearance, the unseen footage is discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition. This is surprisingly a rare taste of sci-fi found-footage horror that I thought was quite believable and left a lot of the story details to the viewer’s imagination — which is something that I personally think is incredibly underrated in the horror genre.
Creep (2015) – An American independent psychological horror film presented in found footage style. The film follows the point of view of a videographer, Aaron, & his camera who answers an ad, created by a man, Josef. As they get closer together, Aaron discovers that his client is not who he was expecting. The entire film is a slow burn that will have you on the edge of your seat for no specific reason. Any film with Mark Duplass is a must-see, but watching him play such an odd, sinister character shows just how phenomenal of an actor he really is.
Area 51 (2015) – This found-footage sci-fi horror film is centralized around 3 friends and conspiracy fanatics, that break into Area 51 with cameras in attempts to uncover the mystery of whether there is evidence of an alien life force. The consequences of their discovery unfold throughout the film.