“Jason had his machete. Freddy had his glove. Charlie has his noose.” – The Gallows is set to hit cinemas nationwide this Friday with the current TV spot promoting a hybrid slasher / found footage horror. However, with the film bringing the found footage “genre” back into the public eye, what films have existed before now that make essential viewing?
Marketed primarily by a website containing mythology and police reports, The Blair Witch Project stands as one of the most profitable films of all time. When three students vanish after filming a documentary in a Maryland forest, home of the Blair Witch legend, the found footage depicts the terrifying occurrences of their final days. Never seeing the entity that the whole film is based around, The Blair Witch Project truly proves that less is more. You’re constantly forced into painting a picture with your own mind, therefore creating something a lot scarier than the filmmakers could ever show. With woodland crafts appearing overnight and the sound of twigs snapping in isolated areas, the simplicity of Blair Witch is admirably creepy. By far, one of the most authentic US horror films to bless our screens with a solid cast of believable actors.
Realist horror at its finest with lashings of jet black humour, Man Bites Dog follows a Belgian film crew as they document the day-to-day life of Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde), a psychopathic murderer with no moral standing. Released the same year as Reservoir Dogs, the film tops Tarantino’s hyperviolent feature and went on to win the Special Award of the Youth at the Cannes Film Festival 1992. Whilst deserving of its cult status, Man Bites Dog remains to be highly underrated; a real shame when the film acts as masterclass in fine filmmaking. Arguably the most important addition to the found footage “genre” since Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog is a must watch.
Norway’s answer to a rural Cloverfield, the surprisingly brilliant Troll Hunter focuses on a group of students who investigate a series of strange bear killings, leading them to the mysterious Hans (Otto Jespersen) who happens to be a hunter of some kind… Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish, the only thing holding this film back is a conclusion more abrupt than Landis’ An American Werewolf in London. This aside, everything is brilliant from the cast through to our monsters who happen to be engaging and regrettably lovable. Naturally Troll Hunter is in the pipeline for a Hollywood remake but for now, and probably the distant future, stick to André Øvredal’s tremendous addition to Norwegian cinema.
One of the most controversial films ever made, the BBFC still won’t allow us to see the uncut version. Part cinematic, part found footage, Cannibal Holocaust is often considered to be the film that created the found footage “genre”. When a University professor is sent on a rescue mission to the Amazon rainforest, he returns with the footage shot by a documentary crew who were killed by a local cannibalistic tribe. Simply put, Cannibal Holocaust is grim. The former video nasty has horror down to a fine form with significantly uncomfortable scenes of murder, sexual violence and animal cruelty that’ll unnerve even the bravest of viewers. Following false allegations that Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff film upon release, director Ruggero Deodato was arrested; it didn’t help that he made his actors sign contracts to keep them out of the public eye! Though the film is horrible in its goings-on, what’s most remarkable is that it simply acts as a commentary on Western civilisation against non-western culture. To quote Professor Harold Monroe’s concluding line: “I wonder who the real cannibals are.”
Released the same year as Paranormal Activity, [Rec] helped to encourage a boom of found footage films from 2007 onwards. The film follows TV reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman as they become quarantined in an infected apartment building whilst filming two emergency workers. By far, this is the most intense addition to our list; starting off light-hearted, [Rec] builds up to deliver a truly scary concluding half hour. The film masters realism with a perfect cast and when it comes to gore, everything is conducted tastefully and not to unnecessary excess. It’s really quite amazing how Angela’s cameraman Pablo becomes such a well established character without ever being seen. Steer clear of the US remake Quarantine because this Spanish gem is zombie perfection!
Do you agree with the list? What films would you have taken out and added?
Comment with your thoughts.