A Summary of the Found Footage Genre

A look back at one of the most used sub genres of horror

Found footage movies are films where the intention is for the audience to know they are watching a film, but to suspend their disbelief and watch under the impression that the footage is real. Typically, this involves a character in the film carrying a camcorder during the incidents of the plot. Often, these movies result in all of the characters dying and the footage being “found” later by a third party, hence the name.

The earliest know example of found footage is widely accepted to be Cannibal Holocaust, and extremely controversial film from 1980 in which an expedition goes into the jungle searching for a prior group. They eventually find that the previous group has been killed by natives, but are able to recover the other expeditions film. They bring it back and review it and the remainder of the movie is the first expeditions footage. Only about half of the film is found footage style, but it left a mark.

After Cannibal Holocaust, there are only a handful of other films to use this style in some regard throughout the rest of the 80’s and into the 90’s, including Man Bites Dog and The Last Broadcast. That all changed in 1999.

In 1999, The Blair Witch Project came out and turned the horror industry on its head. Love it or hate it, The Blair Witch Project basically created viral marketing and went on to set a Guinness World Record for largest profit margin on a film, being made for under around $25k and pulling in nearly $25o million. And then Pandora’s box was opened.

Welcome to post y2k, where anyone who thinks they are a movie maker picks up a camcorder, grabs some hobos off the street, and makes a found footage movie in their back yard. The genre is literally inundated with found footage movies at this point. Some of them are good, like Behind the Mask, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, REC, and Trollhunter. And some are very, very bad like Apollo 18, Frankenstein Theory, or Devil’s Due. But they all make a profit because they are made for next to nothing and there are people who love the genre and will watch any addition to it.

But for every person who loves the genre, there is one who loath’s it. Some people can’t stand it due to the fact that the style makes them motion sick. Some just feel it is lazy and uncreative. They all have their reasons and as a result the hate the “shaky cam” style of filming.

Now, myself, I love it as long as it is well made. I work on film sets and as a result I am unable to suspend my disbelief when watching a standard film. I have seen all that goes on behind the camera and off screen and so I am always aware that it is there, even if I can’t see it. No matter how good an actor is, in the back of my mind I know there is a boom mic hanging just a foot or so over his head, just out of sight. With found footage, knowing it is a movie is the point. If there is a boom mic, you will see it. It will be held by one of the characters. There is nothing hidden. I can be aware that this is a film I am watching, and for an hour and a half I can just pretend the footage is real.


No Comment

Leave a Reply