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The 5 Scariest Found Footage Horror Films

Cinematic art often does its best to imitate life, representing human struggles and emotions on the silver screen in as accurate a manner as possible. But regardless of how closely a film may resemble real life and no matter how crisp and clean the camera captures its subjects, the audience are always aware of the remove between themselves and the tale unfolding onscreen, always cognisant of the dividing line between fact and fiction.

Found footage films attempt to diminish that discrepancy by presenting their recordings as authentic material that has been recovered by individuals distinct from the events it portrays. The technique lends itself superbly well to horror, closing the gap between what the audience perceives as theatrical scares and real threats – especially given that the original filmmakers almost always come to a grisly end.

While the genre has taken reputational hits due to the slew of B-movies and budget duds that have been created in its name over the past two decades, there are some excellent takes on the technique which are well worth the investment of an hour or two. Here are four of the scariest found footage horror films to have graced our screens in the last 20 years – watch them at your peril!

The Blair Witch Project, 1999

Although not the original progenitor of found footage cinema, The Blair Witch Project was certainly the first effort to achieve such mainstream success; indeed, it remains top of the pile in terms of box office receipts for the genre. The story itself concerns a trio of student filmmakers intent on documenting the urban legend of the titular witch, who has terrorised a patch of rural Maryland for centuries.

Well aware that fear of the unknown is a powerful weapon, the movie never actually reveals what the monster looks like, instead relying on handheld camera monologues and unexplained phenomenon to mine its scares. Perhaps its real success, however, was its commendably manipulative marketing campaign, which used the burgeoning popularity of the internet to propagate rumours that the footage was actually real. This created a wildly successful word-of-mouth buzz around the film and the uncertainty in cinema-goers necessary to launch it to the upper echelons of the genre.

Paranormal Activity, 2007

Another runaway success story for the genre, the Paranormal Activity franchise now comprises six films, the first three of which hold the second, third and fourth spot on that box office list mentioned above. The narrative of the original offering focuses on a young couple (Kate and Micah) who experience supernatural phenomena in their home and decide to set up cameras to record the events. While Micah is initially dismissive of the strange goings-on being documented, Kate appears genuinely perturbed and seeks psychic help, but as the frequency and intensity of the activity increases, even Micah is forced to confront the evil presence in the house.

Like The Blair Witch Project before it, the film derives much of its realism and credibility from keeping its documentation of the monster itself to a minimum and instead relying on the couple’s reaction to incidents around them to weave a gradual but irresistible sense of dread. By its squeamish climax, however, you’re guaranteed that you won’t be able to ignore the things that go bump in the night with such easy nonchalance ever again.

Paranormal Investigation, 2018

Perhaps the least known film from the batch, Paranormal Investigation is a Netflix exclusive and a triumph of the “found footage” genre. Director Franck Phelizon uses the highly relatable backdrop of a regular house in a French banlieue and a middle-class family to bring into this otherwise banal setting the paranormal. Ominously, the film starts off as the 9th instalment of a series of investigations conducted by Andrei, a ghost hunter played splendidly by Romanian first-time actor Andrei Indreies.

The paranormal investigator gets called in after a group of friends playing with a Ouija board get themselves into trouble, and one of them becomes possessed by an evil spirit. Trying to figure out what’s going on, Andrei installs CCTV cameras throughout the house, which, when played back, chart the slow unravelling of a reality we more often than not take for granted.

Paranormal Investigation will leave the audience quaking in their boots, and one can only hope Netflix will decide to turn it into a series!

As Above, So Below, 2014

Unlike the previous films on this list, As Above, So Below deals with a far more fantastical plot. It concerns Scarlett, a young alchemist intent on finding the elusive philosopher’s stone. Having discovered clues to its whereabouts on a daring escapade in Iran, she believes it must be buried underneath the streets of Paris in the city’s extensive catacombs. Assembling a crew of five others, including her ex-boyfriend and a local guide, the group descend into the subterranean caverns, only to find themselves embroiled in a helter-skelter of haunted chambers reminiscent of Dante’s seven levels of hell.

While the film does use the found footage aspect to imbue its scares with immediacy and credibility, its real strengths lie in its unexpected plot twists and thoughtful approach to metaphysical themes. As the title suggests, the depths which the group mine in search of hidden treasure are mirrored to represent episodes from their own life, forcing them to confront the darker aspects of their personalities and histories if they wish to escape back above ground.

What We Do in the Shadows, 2014

Completely different from all the other titles, What We Do in the Shadows is a horror mockumentary directed by and starring Kiwi funny-man Taika Waititi. It follows a film crew as they document the lives of four vampires of varying ages who share a house together in the New Zealand capital of Wellington. Completely out of touch with the modern world, the vampires get into all kinds of humorous scrapes, including in-house arguments over daily chores, an ongoing spat with a set of local werewolves and the never-ending search for human blood.

Whereas the other films on this list capitalise on the veneer of authenticity that the found footage genre lends to their work to heighten tensions and intensify scares, What We Do in the Shadows turns that on its head by completely subverting the tropes. With its deliberately silly plotlines and distinctively human idiosyncrasies implanted into supernatural characters, it raises belly laugh after belly laugh as we watch the bumbling undead go about their business with no more wherewithal than the living they prey upon.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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2019-06-24 18:35:21
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