The 'Found Footage' Phenomenon now has a Facebook page! Click here.

There is a genre of film that divides the cinema-going public and critics like, perhaps, no other. That genre is known as ‘found-footage’. Basically, each of these films places the viewer in the centre of the action, with the cameraman (or woman) being one of the characters in the film, rather than a dispassionate observer.

Before we continue, I'll include a list of the movies looked at here. You can click on one of them to jump to that part of the article. As new films come to light, I'll add to this list:

The Blair Witch Project
Cannibal Holocaust *UPDATE*

Zero Day
The Zombie Diaries
[REC]
Quarantine
Paranormal Activity
The Fourth Kind
Paranormal Activity 2
The Last Exorcism
Chronicles of an Exorcism

Apollo 18 *UPDATE*
Terry
Megan is Missing
Lake Mungo
The Tunnel
Re-Cut
September Tapes
Paranoid Activity 2
Grave Encounters *UPDATE*
Haunted Changi
The Brandon Corey Story
The St. Francisville Experiment
The Tapes
Paranormal Activity 3
7 Nights of Darkness

The River (TV Series)
Evidence
Apartment 143
Project X
Skew
Documenting the Grey Man
100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck *UPDATE*
Episode 50
Knock Knock 2
The Dinosaur Project

A Night in the Woods
The Bucks County Massacre
Closed Circuit Extreme
Paranormal Activity 4
The Bay
Reel Evil

V/H/S/2
The Dyatlov Pass Incident

The Vatican Exorcisms
The Slaughter Tapes
The Frankenstein Theory
POV: A Cursed Movie
Invasion
The Jungle
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Frankenstein's Army
The Realm
The Speak
The Crying Dead
The Bell Witch Haunting
The Dirties
The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill
Endless Corridor

Unidentified
Untitled
Banshee Chapter

Dead of the Nite
Strawberry Estates
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
84 Charlie MoPic
Chasing the Devil
Alien Abduction
Afflicted
Exhibit A
The Sacrament

Report 51
Delivery
Incident at Loch Ness
The Possession of Michael King
Raised by Wolves
*NEW*
The Last Broadcast
Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape
Noroi: The Curse
Diary of the Dead
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
Cloverfield
Paranormal Entity
[REC]2
The Troll Hunter
909 Experiment

Paranormal Entity 2
Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes
Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night *UPDATE*
The Haunted House Project
Home Movie
The Last Horror Movie
The Collingswood Story
World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2
Occult: The Unidentified
Atrocious
Evil Things
The Ghosts of Crowley Hall
The Wicksboro Incident
Abnormal Activity
The Amityville Haunting
The Devil Inside
Chronicle
Tape 407

338 Arletta Avenue
Alien Origin
[REC]3: Genesis
Paranormal Incident
Lovely Molly
V/H/S
The Asylum Tapes

The Lost Coast Tapes
Crowsnest

Grave Encounters 2
Welcome to the Jungle
Supernatural TV Series
Amber Alert
Shallow Creek Cult
The Inside
616: The Paranormal Incident *UPDATE*
Europa Report
Unaware
The Bigfoot Tapes
Absence
End of Watch
Eyes in the Dark
Meadowoods
Lunopolis
Lost Tapes (TV series)
The Conspiracy
Penance
Monster

Fallen Angel
Life Tracker
Naprata
Skinwalker Ranch

The Warning
The Black Water Vampire
Look

Devil's Due
Muirhouse
Children of Sorrow
The Den
The Borderlands
Evidence (2013)
Mr Jones

Alone With Her
SX_TAPE
Willow Creek
Hunting the Legend
Apocalyptic
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Found-footage films on YouTube! Click here!

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Usually, but not always, ‘found-footage’ films are a sub-section of the horror genre. Notable exceptions to this rule are Zero Day, The Poughkeepsie Tapes and Cloverfield. Another rule is that the film-makers have usually disappeared or died, leaving behind the ‘found-footage’.

They are often made on a very small budget and are as far from a Hollywood blockbuster as you can get. Quite often, though, they break box-office records and/or garner huge cult followings.

Now, I cannot claim to have seen every ‘found-footage’ film and I’m sure that there are many, many not on this list that the reader will recommend I see.

The genre was introduced to me, probably the same way as many of you reading this, by The Blair Witch Project, way back in 1999. The movie was a true phenomenon and made well over two-hundred million dollars at the box office. Not bad when it’s shooting budget was no more that twenty-five thousand dollars (the final budget, after being picked up by Artisan Entertainment for distribution, rose to around half a million dollars, due to an extensive and revolutionary PR campaign).

The story is a simple one: A group of film students go out into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about a legendary witch, allegedly responsible for numerous deaths many years earlier. They get lost and all manner of creepy stuff happens. They find bizarre artefacts in the woods, hear terrifying noises and end up running for their lives.

You never see anything and that is the secret of the film’s success. The viewer’s imagination fills in the blanks and, supported by a terrific cast, it is a tour-de-force of the genre and the blueprint for all to follow.

A sequel, Blair Witch 2: The Book of Shadows followed. It was more of a traditional horror movie, but still used the ‘found-footage’ premise at its core. It opened to generally hostile reviews, but I enjoyed it and thought it a worthy sequel that didn’t just try to emulate the original.

However, Blair Witch wasn’t the first ‘found-footage’ film. Neither was The Last Broadcast, which was released in 1998.

The Last Broadcast was similar to Blair Witch in many ways, but it was a very different movie. It was slightly more complex, in that the central story revolves around a documentary film-maker who is investigating the disappearance of another film crew who went out into the woods, searching for the fabled Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

The film has a surprising twist at the end and leaps from a first-person, ‘found-footage’ perspective to one in the third person. The transition was jarring for me and, while not ruining the film, instantly told me that this was ‘only a movie’.

The Last Broadcast, for its few faults, though, is well worth viewing.

I said a little earlier that the two films above weren’t the earliest examples of ‘found-footage’ film-making. The earliest example of which I am aware (and I’m sure I’ll be corrected here, so forgive me!) is the 1980 film, Cannibal Holocaust. Was that a shiver of trepidation I just felt?

Yep, that film! Now, I have to admit that I only saw this film once, many years ago. I have recently acquired a copy on DVD, but I haven’t had the nerve to watch it again. I know I should, if only for the purposes of this article, but my memories of the film are so wrought with tension, that I can’t bring myself to watch it again. I am also sure that when I do watch it again, I’ll probably ask myself what the fuss was about!

Anyway, the story of Cannibal Holocaust follows a journalist piecing together footage from a film crew which disappeared in South America. The film switches from third person to first person as we view the footage. We see the missing crew deliberately setting fire to a village and raping a young girl. The resultant actions of the natives are brutal and all captured on camera.

The action was so visceral that the film-makers were accused of producing a snuff movie, i.e. the deaths were real. Obviously that wasn’t so, but the sheer reality of the footage is one of the reasons I have balked at viewing the film again. As I said, though, I bet it’s not as bad as I remember. Or is it? Let me know.

UPDATE
7th July, 2011

I finally got round to watching Cannibal Holocaust again and it is as horrible and visceral as I remember. It is clear why it still causes controversy, what with the sexual violence and actual slaughtering of several animals. It is also easy to understand why, on its initial release, there were claims that people were actually viciously killed for the film. The gory effects are astonishingly realistic. Of course, the film is a commentary on modern, 'civilised' life, suggesting that we, in our lust for wealth, fame and power, will resort to anything, making us far more savage than less developed cultures, such as those depicted in the movie. By the way, it's technically only half of a 'found-footage' movie, as the first part of the film is a traditional film showing how the film canisters are retrieved from the Amazonian tribes.

Leaping forward to 1998, a little, made-for-TV movie emerged, entitled, Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape (sometimes called Incident in Lake County). This is one of my favourite films of the genre (probably due to my interest in UFOs) and it is a film that often has UFO message boards asking if it is real. Of course it isn’t real and several of the actors in the film have appeared in other movies and TV shows.

Alien Abduction tells the story of the McPherson family and what happened to them one Thanksgiving night. The men of the family investigate a power cut and stumble across a landed UFO and several aliens. The events are captured on the family camcorder by the youngest son, teenaged Tommy.

As the night progresses, the family begins to fragment as the aliens try to get at them barricaded inside the house. It’s a terrifically well-made film, in my opinion, and you see just enough of the aliens to pique your interest and go ‘oooh’.

Inspired by the terrible Columbine Massacre and with a release delayed by the tragic events of 9/11, Zero Day used the video diary concept as we follow two American teenagers as they plan an assault on their high school.

It is a chilling movie and the actors portraying Andre and Cal are terrific. We see how they acquire their weapons, how they make pipe bombs (which they don’t use in the end) and how friends begin regarding them as ‘strange’ as Zero Day approaches. The stomach-churning attack on the school is viewed through the building’s CCTV system and we hear a police dispatcher trying to get through to the boys.

Zero Day is a very disturbing movie, but worth watching as an object lesson about teenage angst, how some people can become obsessed with a single goal and the dehumanisation of society.

In 2005, Japan ventured into the ‘found-footage’ genre with the release of Noroi: The Curse. Taking a slightly different tack, The Curse is presented as a completed documentary by a paranormal researcher who disappeared shortly after completing his film. It is this factor (the disappearance of the film-maker) that places The Curse in the ‘found-footage’ field, rather than it being classed as a ‘mockumentary’, along the lines of Special Bulletin (1983), a terrific TV movie that uses the idiom of live news broadcasts, Ghostwatch (1992), which is based on a live TV investigation into the paranormal, or even the hilarious ‘rockumentary’, Spinal Tap (1984).

The Curse, as mentioned, is presented as a documentary film with the investigation of spooky occurrences around a mystery woman and her young ‘son’. As his list of interviewees begins to dwindle, due to accidental deaths, murders, suicides or disappearances, the reporter finds himself face-to-face with a demonic entity.

The Curse is a terrific movie and the sense of foreboding that permeates the film, particularly towards the climax, really knots your stomach.

The next film in the list was released in 2006, but I only saw it a few days ago. The Zombie Diaries is a British film spawned out of the bird flu worries of the last few years.

A mystery virus is spreading across England, turning people into zombies. We see the action from the viewpoints of three groups of survivors. One is a documentary film crew investigating the virus outbreak. Another is a trio just trying to survive and stay ahead of the shuffling, zombie hordes. The last is a group, holed up at a farm.

Eventually, the fates of these three groups become intertwined in an unexpected (for me anyway) and slightly shocking ending.

While not the best of the genre, Zombie Diaries is worth watching and was successful enough for a sequel to be in the works. I look forward to that.

Released a year or so later was the first foray into ‘found-footage’ by a ‘big director’. George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead continued his apocalyptic saga of a world overrun by zombies.

We follow a group of people who, when the outbreak begins, are making a low-budget horror film. They escape to a friend’s house and, as usual, it all goes pear-shaped (or zombie-shaped).

I’m a big fan of Romero’s zombie films and I enjoyed his foray into the ‘found-footage’ genre. Some of the characters from Diary of the Dead would reappear in his next film, Survival of the Dead.

Next comes one of my all-time favourite movies. [REC] is a Spanish film, released in 2007. Well, what can I say? This film (and its sequel, which we will come to later) has to be seen to be believed.

A young television presenter and her cameraman are filming for a late-night TV show at a Barcelona fire station. The firemen get a routine call and the film crew go with them to an old apartment building. Then all hell breaks loose – literally (slight spoiler for the sequel there… sorry!).

The routine call about an elderly woman who seems to be having problems while locked inside her flat, turns into a desperate fight for survival as a mystery virus spreads through the tenants. At first appearing like rabies, it is soon clear that this is something quite different and that the infected don’t stay dead.

The building is completely quarantined by the authorities and any attempts to escape are met with swift and deadly fire from rooftop snipers. The finale is an absolutely terrifying ordeal and an example of ‘how did they do that?’ make-up effects.

Seriously, watch this film now.

Curiously, the next film in the list was made by the team who would go on to give us the American remake of [REC], but more about that in a little while. The film in question is The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2008).

The Poughkeepsie Tapes centres around a string of abductions and murders by an unknown serial killer who films his crimes on videotape. Several of these tapes were found by police and what we are seeing are those tapes. We see the killer cruising around, choosing his victims and then the sadistic nature (both physical and psychological) of his crimes against them.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes had a very limited release and, as yet, is not available on DVD. Despite hardly anybody knowing about it, the film obviously caught the eye of Sony Pictures executives, who wanted John Erick Dowdle and his brother, Drew, to remake [REC]. This they did and the result was Quarantine.

Quarantine is almost a direct copy of [REC], only in English. There are some differences, but these are minor. Obviously, the story is the same as the original and the climax is identical, if less startling. That said, it is a good film and worth your time if watching a film with subtitles is not your thing.

Okay, what would a ‘found-footage’ film be like if a big Hollywood studio threw millions of dollars at it? The answer is Cloverfield.

Up to now, this genre has been made for peanuts and the special effects were adequate, if there were any at all. Cloverfield, released in 2008, is different. And good. In fact, it’s almost up there with [REC] in my list of favourites.

When a huge monster arrives in Manhattan, we see everything through a single video camera in the possession of a group of twenty-something party-goers. Imagine standing underneath a raging beast that is hundreds of feet tall as the army unleashes hell in its direction and you’ll get an idea what Cloverfield is like.

The story is about the group trying to find their friend, who is trapped in her apartment building, which has been knocked over by the monster. As they make their way across New York, they encounter not only the huge beast, but the smaller parasites it spawns.

Finally, the authorities declare Manhattan lost and prepare to destroy the entire island. Only the whisper at the end of the credits hints at a sequel: “It’s still alive.” Ooooooooh!

Reverting all the way back in budget, but wiping the floor with Cloverfield in terms of box office receipts, was Paranormal Activity.

Originally made in 2007 and released to festivals, the film caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who suggested a new ending and the release in 2009 took the world by storm. An original budget of fifteen thousand dollars saw box office returns of almost two-hundred million dollars, making it one of the most profitable films of all time.

Paranormal Activity is based in the home of Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston (the actors using their real names). There have been strange things going on, so Micah purchases a video camera in the hope of capturing the spooky happenings on tape. Beginning slowly, with footsteps and the occasional bang or slowly swinging door, the film picks up speed until the ferocious ending, setting the scene for the sequel, which would appear in late 2010.

Paranormal Activity is one of those films that makes you wish you’d thought of it first. It has become a genuine franchise, with the aforementioned sequel (which is part prequel) and another sequel due out in late 2011. Another spin-off, Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night is to be released on DVD in February, 2011.

Not to be outdone, those darlings of the ‘mockbuster’, The Asylum, released Paranormal Entity in late 2009.

An American family are frightened by spooky goings-on in their house, after the death of the father. The son, Thomas, sets up video cameras around the house (something echoed in Paranormal Activity 2) and we see what goes on when the lights are out.

We hear banging and the usual stuff, including disembodied breathing and objects moving, but the best part is the finding of ashy footprints on the ceiling. As is usual with this genre, the ending is not happy.

The Asylum are famous for making low-budget rip-offs of blockbuster films, but Paranormal Entity is, by far, their best film. It doesn’t try to outdo the big boys. It simply does the same and it almost does it just as well.

Remember when I said I was interested in UFOs earlier? Well, in 2009, a film came around that was right up my alley. The Fourth Kind is something of a hybrid. It uses ‘found-footage’, but mixes it with dramatic recreations and traditional scenes to create a strangely haunting film. Also, the main character hasn’t died or disappeared, so it might be classed as a mockumentary, rather than ‘found-footage’.

Allegedly based on a true story (it isn’t), the film focuses on Doctor Abigail Tyler, a psychiatrist living in Nome, Alaska. Several of her patients begin suffering from strange dreams, all very similar, and she suspects that there is a link.

It turns out that extra-terrestrials are visiting these people and sometimes abducting them. Occasionally, they never return.

There are some great scenes, particularly the hypnosis sections and the police camera footage of a briefly-glimpsed UFO, and the usage of the ancient Sumerian language is both inspired and somewhat creepy when the translations are revealed.

The Fourth Kind wasn’t to everybody’s taste, but those with an interest in the subject of UFOs and alien abduction generally looked favourable on the film.

Released in late 2009, [REC]2 continued the events seen in the original, the events taking place in the same apartment building. Fifteen minutes after the first movie ends, a SWAT team is sent in to survey the situation. They are joined by a ‘doctor’, who later turns out to be something else entirely. At the same time, a trio of youths sneak into the building through the sewer system.

Using the helmet cameras of the SWAT team members and the hand-held camcorder of the youths, we discover that this is not a simple virus that has infected the tenants, but something much more terrifying. The producers have amped up the action and there are numerous ‘jump-out-of-your-seat’ moments, while still retaining that [REC] feel. Apparently, a third film is in the works and, after seeing this film, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Finally, we come to Paranormal Activity 2. At three million dollars, the budget for this was, by no means large, but it dwarfed that of the original. The film acts, at first, as a prequel to the first film and then the timelines overlap.

Kristi Rey is the sister of Katie Featherston. She lives with her husband, Dan, their baby, Hunter, and Dan’s teenage daughter, Ali. After an apparent break-in (where nothing is stolen, but the house is trashed), Dan gets security cameras fitted. We see the film through the eyes of these cameras and the video camera the family use to document Hunter’s early days.

As with the original, things start out slowly – knocks, footsteps, the dog growling at nothing. Things start to get dangerous when a fire inexplicably starts and Ali is locked out of the house while babysitting. Things come to a head when Kristi is seemingly possessed, but all ends well. Then the timeline with the first film overlaps and Katie turns up…

It’s a good sequel with decent acting and some nice effects, such as the dark shape emerging from the cellar door. A third sequel is due out in late 2011 and it will be nice to see what the writers have in mind.

So, there you have it, the ‘found-footage’ phenomenon in a nutshell. If you know of any other gems of the genre, please let me know (mercuryrapids@hotmail.co.uk) and I’ll see if I can get hold of them and add them to this list. I will add my thoughts about Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night, when I get my copy at the end of February, 2011. I have also just pre-ordered a copy of Paranormal Entity 2 and I will update this page once I have given that film a viewing.

If I can gather the nerve to watch Cannibal Holocaust again, I’ll update this article with my thoughts….. if….

 

** UPDATE **

 

I have just had a real treat! I stumbled across a Norwegian movie called The Troll Hunter. This is a truly wonderful film. A trio of university film students venture out into the Norwegian wilderness in an attempt to catch a bear poacher on camera. It turns out that this poacher is, in fact, a top secret troll hunter in the employ of the government. He decides to let the students tag along and what follows is a terrific adventure as they encounter various types of troll. The special effects are magnificent and I can’t recommend this film highly enough.

 

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** UPDATE **
(17th February, 2011)

I am a complete idiot. I have left out one of the most recent offerings in the 'found-footage' genre. That is, of course, The Last Exorcism. Shot with a budget of a little under $2 million, The Last Exorcism went on to gross over $64 million worldwide.

It is the story of Cotton Marcus, an evangelical minister who becomes disillusioned with his 'job' of performing exorcisms. He decides to allow a documentary film crew accompany him to his last exorcism, where he will show all the 'tricks of the trade', proving that he is a fraud. Travelling to a small town, Marcus performs a fake exorcism on a teenage girl from a deeply religious family and they leave to a nearby motel.

The girl turns up at the motel and things start to go very wrong...

The Last Exorcism is a well-made film with some great moments. The poster is very misleading, though, and the ending is not great. While the style of the film is more 'mockumentary' than 'found-footage', the fact that (and this isn't really a spoiler) the film-makers all end up dead plants it more in the 'found-footage' oeuvre.

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** UPDATE **
(18th February, 2011)

If my head wasn't fastened on, I'd lose it. It's true. I really need to get some sort of cataloguing system for my DVD collection. I was perusing through my collection yesterday and came across two more 'found-footage' gems. Well, 'gems' might be pushing it a bit. How could I forget these two films? Well, one, they're not exactly brilliant, and, two, I'm an idiot (as mentioned earlier).

The first film is called 909 Experiment. I couldn't find a listing for this film in either Wikipedia or iMDB, but it is regarded by many as 'the first Paranormal Activity'. There are many similarities, but 909 Experiment was released almost a decade before Oren Peli's box-office smash.

The story centres on two university researchers, who are paid to spend several nights in an alleged haunted house. They carry a video camera and numerous CCTV cameras are dotted around. At first, everything seems calm, then they start hearing strange banging, taps are turned on mysteriously and the CCTV cameras pick up objects being moved by invisible hands.

It's not a great film, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is interesting and keeps you watching, despite the uneven acting.

The second film I dug out of my archive is called Chronicles of an Exorcism. Released in 2008, the film tells the story of a pair of film-makers, who are requested by the Church to document the exorcism of a young woman in a remote shack.

As I started watching this, I had my doubts and I even wondered if I had stumbled across a weird porn film! That was not to be, however, and what we have is a reasonably effective chiller with some good moments and scenes of possession. In some ways, it is more satisfying than the much more successful The Last Exorcism, which was more drama than supernatural horror. It's ultra-low budget is all too apparent, however, but the producers do well with what they have, particularly in the possession scenes.

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** UPDATE **
(21st February, 2011)

My DVD of Paranormal Entity 2 arrived today. I was intrigued to find out that the movie also goes by the name of 8213: Gacy House and it is that title that appears on iMDB and Wikipedia) Once again produced by The Asylum (listed at the end of the film as The Global Asylum), the film follows a team of seven paranormal investigators who are spending the night in the house built on the site of the former residence of serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. There are three women and four men and things begin happening almost immediately.

While I enjoyed the film (as I do 99.9% of 'found-footage' movies), Paranormal Entity 2 doesn't work quite as well as others in the genre, such as the first film and the two Paranormal Activity films. Mostly, I think, this is down to the cast. We don't really get the chance to empathise with any of them and they are a bit two-dimensional. Almost from the start, they are arguing with one another and shouting all the time. There is a psychic with the team and her only reason for being in the film, it seems, is to show off her boobs!

That said, there are some good, creepy moments in the film, with shadows moving about, a good sequence with a thermal imaging camera and some decent sound effects all adding to the brooding atmosphere. As it can be bought for peanuts from places like Amazon, it's well worth taking a look at.

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** UPDATE **
(22nd February, 2011)

A new 'found-footage' movie is due to be released on 22nd April, 2011. It is called Apollo 18 and centres around a mission to the Moon (the actual moon-landing missions finished at Apollo 17) and the discovery of aggressive aliens. I'm looking forward to this one, particularly because I wrote a couple of articles about the alleged Apollo 20 mission. Those articles can be found here and here.

** UPDATE **
(5
th September, 2011)

I saw Apollo 18 yesterday. It's a decent film and a well-made found footage addition. The acting is excellent and quite realistic, although I honestly don't think a NASA astronaut would freak out when faced with certain death as is depicted here. They are highly-trained scientists and military officers and understand the dangers of space travel. I don't think even an attack by aliens would send them over the edge. Or maybe that's just me...

Anyway, the film: Apollo 18 is shown in a documentary style and it is extremely well made. The footage from the lunar surface looks brilliant, although there isn't any dust being kicked up. Perhaps it was beyond the budget to CG moon dust in one-sixth gravity! The two astronauts that land near the Moon's southern pole stumble across a Soviet lander and its dead cosmonaut. Motion detecting cameras they set up capture what look like moving rocks. Then all hell breaks loose and the mission is lost. I might have missed this part, but I'm confused as to how the film camera footage was retrieved. Whatever, it's a small niggle. I enjoyed the film, but the Moon creatures were not exactly original. I mean Gerry Anderson did rock aliens in the Sixties, albeit on Mars.

I'm still looking forward to the DVD release, though!

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** UPDATE **
(11th March, 2011)

The Asylum has dipped its toe in the 'found-footage' genre yet again, with the release of Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes. Based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young German woman who died during an exorcism in 1976, the film uses the device of a film crew arriving at the Michel house with a pair of medical doctors. We see events unfold through video, cine and CCTV cameras with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Title cards pop up every so often telling us that we are watching footage belonging to the Bavarian government.

Incidentally, the far superior film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose was loosely based on the Anneliese Michel case.

So, the film crew starts documenting the exorcism and Anneliese does some freaky stuff. Obviously, this being a 'found-footage' movie, people end up dying, including Anneliese herself (this is based on a true story, remember). Of the eight cast members in the movie, only one is of note, and that is the actress who played Anneliese. She really throws herself into the role and there are a few genuinely creepy scenes, particularly the one where she's eating live spiders.

Technically, the film is passable, however it is hard to suspend disbelief that this is being filmed in 1976. It just doesn't 'feel' like thirty-five year old footage. But that's a minor quibble. My main gripe with the film is that frequent cuts to shaky footage of the doctor's notes, which are barely legible, don't help the story. You don't get chance to read them and the scrawl is so bad (I suppose he is a doctor, though!) that only the odd word can be made out. Then there is the use of actual audio recordings of Anneliese. While it is interesting to hear these, they tend to go on for a little too long. You can't tell what is being said (even if you could speak German or whatever language is being spoken at the time) and it seems like the clips were added just to pad out the film.

That said, though, Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes isn't a terrible film, but it isn't a great one either.

*UPDATE* Halloween 2011 saw Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes repackaged as Paranormal Entity 3. Why? God knows...

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** UPDATE **
(24th March, 2011)

A couple of new movies to talk about today. The first is called Terry and is a brutal tale of urban crime.

Filmed as a fake documentary (the cast and crew are all credited at the end), we see events unfold from the point of view of Charles, a student making a film about the life of small-time criminal, Terry Jones. We totter around London, meeting plenty of, well, scumbags and it's all very "Leave it aaart, my sahn!"

That said, it's interesting and as the film progresses, you know that 'something' is going to happen. And it does... with deadly results. The film gains its 'found-footage' status due to the proclamation that the film was handed in to police anonymously, resulting in justice being done.

Terry is worth a look and it's an interesting entry into the 'found-footage' genre.

The second addition to our list today is Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night. Apparently produced with the full backing of Oren Peli, Tokyo Night is a true sequel to Paranormal Activity.

The film begins with the arrival home in Tokyo, Japan, of Haruka Yamano after a trip to San Diego. During the trip, she had a car accident, which broke both her legs and resulted in the death of a young woman 'who had killed her boyfriend'. Confined to a wheelchair while her bones mend, it falls to her brother, Koichi, to take care of her while their father travels to Singapore on business.

Haruka tells her brother that her wheelchair keeps moving by itself and he decides to set up video cameras to catch the event. From here on, things go as expected. Objects move, doors open and close and footsteps pound. It's all very well done and the producers of this film really ratchet up the weird happenings. There is also a direct link to what is going on and Katie Featherston.

In a finale that harkens back to other J-Horror titles, such as Ring and The Grudge, Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night is a great, creepy addition to the franchise. The DVD release in the UK appears to have been delayed several times and I'm wondering if this is because of legal wranglings with Paramount Pictures. While the connection with the other films is tenuous and only talked about, it might cause problems for continuity, particularly given what was seen in Paranormal Activity 2. Or it might be something else entirely!

**UPDATE** I have just received an email from Amazon, informing me that Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night will be released on October 10th, 2011. This will bring the release just before the scheduled opening of Paranormal Activity 3.

**UPDATE** Apparently, Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night is no longer going to get a UK DVD release. I got this message from Icon Film Distribution UK via their Facebook page: "We've had a licensing issue in relation to UK rights so unfortunately we are unable to bring Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night to the UK! No news as to who or when the film will released in the UK." Bugger! :(

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** UPDATE **
(8th May, 2011)

Written and directed by Michael Goi, Megan is Missing is a powerful film about paedophilia and murder. Supposedly inspired by true events, but using fictional characters and locations, the film is the story of two 14-year-old girls, Megan Stewart and Amy Perkins. We are told from the outset that both girls have disappeared and that the film we are watching is made from webcam, telephone and camcorder footage, along with news media material. The first half of the film shows us how Megan is outgoing, going to parties, taking drugs, drinking and having sex. Amy is quiet and reserved. Megan has a fraught relationship with her mother and has been sexually abused by her stepfather. Amy's family life is stable and happy.

After meeting a boy called Josh through her computer, Megan disappears. Amy suspects Josh, but she also disappears. We see the fate of the two girls when police find Amy's camcorder in a trash bin. It's stomach-churning stuff, mostly for the fact that we are supposed to be watching two very young girls. It reminded me a little bit of The Poughkeepsie Tapes when we discover what happened to Amy and Megan. While it's not the best film in this genre, with some of the acting leaving a lot to be desired, it's worth seeing if only to remind us not to trust anybody we meet on the internet. This movie ain't Catfish!!!! The movies official website is www.meganismissing.com.

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** UPDATE **
(12th May, 2011)

A couple of additions today! First, The Haunted House Project is a 2010 found-footage film from South Korea. A documentary film crew follow a trio of young ghost hunters into a haunted location, which includes a derelict factory and the home of the former owner of the business. Local stories say that the company president, Mr Kim, had an affair with one of his employees. She disappeared and Kim's family turned up murdered, along with Mr Kim himself. Since then, there had been reports of ghostly goings-on at the site. We are told that the ghost hunters and the film crew disappeared and that a team sent to locate them only found the video cameras and tapes.

The film starts off very slowly and doesn't really get going until two-thirds of the way through. Once things do start happening, though, it's frantic and breathless. Unfortunately, much of what happens occurs in pitch darkness, so you can't really see what is going on. There is a lot of screaming and running and some genuine scares, but these are usually from people leaping into frame unexpectedly. So, while I enjoyed The Haunted House Project, it wasn't as good as, say, Paranormal Activity or Noroi: The Curse. Marks for effort, though.

The second movie, isn't really a found-footage film. It is a mockumentary, similar in tone to The Fourth Kind, albeit about the supernatural, rather than alien abduction. Lake Mungo is an Australian film from 2008 that grips from beginning to end. It tells the story of the Palmer family and their lives since the death of daughter, Alice, who drowned while the family picnicked at a local dam. Almost immediately, things start happening in the family home and Mathew, the Palmer's son, captures what appear to be images of Alice on still photographs and video tapes. Alice's parents, Russell and June, also claim to have seen Alice several times. A local psychic is brought in, but things quickly turn sour when it transpires that Mathew faked the shots of Alice and that she had visited the psychic months before her death.

It turns out that Alice had a dark secret and a series of clues lead the family to Lake Mungo, a dry-bed where Alice and her friends camped out a few months before her death. What the family find is bizarre and a little disturbing, suggesting that Alice knew she was going to die at some point in the near future. The family gain closure and Alice's presence leaves the house. As the credits roll, we see the faked shots by Mathew and in each one, hidden away in the image is a 'genuine' occurrence of Alice, peering out of the screen. Lake Mungo is terrific and is so well-made that you don't know it's not a real documentary until the cast list rolls up at the end. Apparently, it's going to be remade, but it can't be any better than the original.

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** UPDATE **
(17th May, 2011)

Adrian Pasdar of Heroes fame produced and stars in the 2008 film, Home Movie. This is the story of the Poe family (not a good start, being called Poe in a horror film!) and the events that occur when the two kids, Emily and Jack, go, well, mental. David (Pasdar) is a Lutheran minister and his wife, Clare (Cady McClane) is a psychiatrist. It is clear that there have been issues with the children before the events of the movie, as they have moved out into the countryside to a remote, yet idyllic, house. Straight away, it's obvious that something is wrong with Jack and Emily, as they barely speak to their parents, converse with each other in a made-up language and the family pets all come to gruesome ends. All of this is caught on video by David. Needless to say, nothing works out well for anybody!

While the premise is good, Home Movie doesn't quite work for me. David is annoying as hell and the twins (played by Amber and Austin Williams) just come across as very naughty and as annoying as their dad. That is if you class making goldfish sandwiches, crucifying cats and trying to kill school friends as naughty. That said, this is a genuine 'found-footage' movie and is reasonably well-made, with some genuine shocks and surprises and a suggestion that there might be something supernatural about the twins, rather than they are simply psychotic.

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** UPDATE **
(22nd May, 2011)

The Tunnel is a 2011 Australian film that shares some similarities with Lake Mungo, mostly in that it is presented as a mockumentary. It is also excellent. It's website can be found here.

A television news crew is led by its desperate producer, Natasha, into the tunnels beneath Sydney. These were built decades ago, originally intended for underground trains. During World War Two, they were utilised as air-raid shelters and in recent years, became occupied by homeless people. When stories surface about people disappearing in the tunnels, Natasha decides to investigate. She lies to her crew about obtaining permits to explore the tunnels and they delve into the darkness, unaware of what awaits them.

The Tunnel is absolutely gripping from beginning to end, with fantastic performers from all the cast. Made on a shoestring (you can buy frames of the film via the website!), this is no Cloverfield or [REC], but the creature is terrifying and more so because you can hardly see it. It actually reminded me of that old, British horror film, Deathline, in which cannibalistic humans dwell in the dark recesses of the London Tube system. Is the creature in The Tunnel human? I don't know. It definitely appears human-like at times, but there are also times it looks like something else entirely. Scary stuff.

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** UPDATE **
(23rd May, 2011)

After watching The Last Horror Movie (2003), I wasn't sure what to think about it. The premise is that you, the viewer, have rented a video cassette from your local rental store and have popped it into your VHS machine. Already alarm bells are ringing in this age of DVDs (even back in 2003!). Anyway, the film starts with opening credits and all the usual stuff of 'normal' movies. It's an American slasher flick called The Last Horror Movie. Then suddenly, we switch to an English guy, apologising for interrupting the film and informing us that we are going to follow him as he goes around murdering people. He has taken the tape from the rental store and recorded over it, you see.

So, we follow this chap, Max (Kevin Howarth), as he goes around London killing innocent people for the hell of it, listening to his clipped, public school accent, as he pretends to be somebody who videos weddings for a living. Meanwhile, his 'assistant' captures his deeds on tape.

I suppose it's meant to be a biting dig at our voyeuristic society and the film often asks us why we are still watching, seeing as 'it's all real'. It doesn't quite work, though. Sure, it is well-made and the acting is okay, if a little uneven - the 'assistant' is rubbish, but the film asks us to suspend out disbelief a little too much. Having said that, though, as the film draws to a close, it did cross my mind that if there was a knock at the door, I wouldn't answer it!

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** UPDATE **
(25th May, 2011)

In a similar vein to The Tunnel, Re-Cut sees a TV news crew following a story to their doom. In place of murky, subterranean tunnels, we are led into rural America, where two young girls were hung, allegedly by their religious father. Looking for a good story, the news crew venture to the farm of the tragic family, only to be arrested by the local sheriff. After accompanying a pair of locals back to the farm, they are strung up and tortured.

A tense chase through cornfields ensues and there are some genuine surprises and a fair amount of tension. Unfortunately, the flow of the film is spoiled by random interruptions of some poor person in a sack being beaten and stabbed, the pay-off coming at the end.

Re-Cut is an okay film and that is all. Some of the camerawork makes it hard to believe we're watching 'found footage', but the acting is generally good and I didn't see the twist coming. The Tunnel is infinitely better, though.

 

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** UPDATE **
(30th May, 2011)

I bought The Collingswood Story based on reading about it on Wikipedia. The phrase 'The Best Low Budget Movie Since The Blair Witch Project' makes it sound kinda good, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. Made in 2002 and released in the UK in 2006, The Collingswood Story focuses on Rebecca and John, a couple separated by college and work and who have to communicate via webcam. We learn that the house Rebecca is living in has a dodgy past and a visit to an online psychic results in spooky stuff happening.

Unfortunately, you get the impression that sod all is happening, except Rebecca is somehow lugging her laptop around the house and even into the attic, with it connected to the phone line by a really long lead! I'm sorry, but The Collingswood Story is awful. It may be award-winning, but I found it boring and annoying. Almost the entire film is spent looking at rubbish depictions of various PC desktop screens or trying to see what's happening in pitch-black rooms. Sure, it's an independent film, made on a micro-budget and allowances should be made, but they can only go so far. I was very, very disappointed by the film and that's all I have to say about it. The end.

 

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** UPDATE **
(6th June, 2011)

I wasn't sure what to expect from September Tapes, a 2004 'found-footage' film (spelled as Septem8er Tapes on the poster and in the film itself) about an American journalist who goes to Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden. There is a title card that tells us that the video tapes (eight of them) were found by Northern Alliance forces close to the Pakistan border. Dragging his virtually silent cameraman along with him, Lars and Sonny arrive in Kabul and meet up with their translator and guide, Wali.

Pretty soon, it is obvious that the Americans are way over their heads in this country in turmoil. Eventually, they meet with a mercenary called Babak, who is about to go on a mission to kill Bin Laden near the Pakistan border. It doesn't end well, as you may have guessed.

The movie looks amazingly authentic and is, perhaps, the best-looking found-footage film I've seen. By that, I mean that it actually does look like genuine footage in Afghanistan and the gun battles the team find themselves caught in look terrifying. The only bad part is a section near the end, which looks too much like a first-person shooter, particularly a level of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Apart from this, the film is gripping, well-acted and the special effects are outstanding, making you wonder if they are real rather than CGI. Highly recommended.

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** UPDATE **
(30th June, 2011)

As promised earlier, this week saw the release of the sequel to The Zombie Diaries. Chillingly titled World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2, the movie follows on from the first film, but is a much more ambitious production. We follow a squad of Territorial Army volunteers, who have been drafted in to help with the mystery virus outbreak that is turning the people of Britain into flesh-eating fiends.

It soon becomes apparent that their only chance of survival is to make it to the coast, where boats are ferrying people to the continent and safety... or so we are led to believe.

World of the Dead is a good film, but its use of the found-footage style doesn't quite work this time around. It feels too forced and not natural. The addition of an albeit subtle score doesn't help either. Some scenes appear to have been nabbed from other movies, such as I Spit On Your Grave or Schindler's List (even down to the red coat!). It also has a distinctly Threads feel to it, a general, all-pervading sense of doom overlaying the proceedings. That said, there are some terrific scenes, the highlight for me being the snow-covered night-time graveyard, with zombies shuffling by in the distance.

All-in-all, World of the Dead is a well-made, above average apocalyptic zombie movie, with a twist at the end that isn't really surprising, given the title of the film.

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** UPDATE **
(4th July, 2011)

This is an odd one. Paranoid Activity 2. It has a crap title, obviously attempting to cash in on Paranormal Activity. There also doesn't appear to have been a Paranoid Activity 1!!!!! There is a review on iMDB that casts the movie in a terrible light... but I liked it.

Set in Alaska, Jonzi, Vivian and Bridget have just moved into a new home. Jonzi and Vivian are a couple and Bridget is their best friend. For some bizarre reason, Jonzi hires a psychic for the housewarming party and they are told that there is something in their home. Thinking the psychic just wants money, Jonzi asks him to leave. Then things start to happen.

Pots, pans, crockery and glasses inexplicably arrange themselves on the kitchen floor. Lights flicker and, eventually, shadowy figures are seen. My favourite shot was of the creepy, six-fingered hand print.

As I said, I liked it. It is a blatant homage to Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity and it lacks the style of those films, but it worked for me. It was simple. The acting was okay. The shadow figures looked excellent. Early on, Jonzi claims his camera was a graduation gift from his father and that he's using it to make a documentary about their new home, but sometimes the scenes seem a little forced, leaving you thinking, 'Why is he filming this? Why doesn't the person being filmed tell him to get the camera out of their face?' Minor quibble, though. There is also a scene that seems to go on forever, with Jonzi using string to tie up the kitchen cupboards. It even had me saying out loud, "Come on, for God's sake!" The next scene, though, makes it worthwhile.

So, for it's faults (particularly that crappy title, I recommend Paranoid Activity 2 for fans of the found-footage genre.

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** UPDATE **
(25th July, 2011)

I would like to thank Jeff Black for recommending a film from the director of Noroi: The Curse. The film is called Occult (sometimes with the tag, The Unidentified). The story unfolds as the director, playing himself, makes a documentary about a bizarre attack at a Japanese beauty spot. As soon as he meets with the victims of the attack, strange things begin to happen and we are drawn into a supernatural world of spirits and UFOs.

The film climaxes with the ultimate example of 'found-footage' - when a camera apports from the spirit realm with video from beyond the grave!

Occult is a good movie, although the ending stretches the viewer's suspension of disbelief to breaking point. There are some genuinely creepy scenes and good use of the busy city streets. Recommended. Thanks, again, Jeff!

 

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** UPDATE **
(12th August, 2011)

I got an email from Bryan Harris (who had previously informed me of The Bay [see above]), with a couple of links for trailers for a new found-footage film called Grave Encounters. Now, I had seen a trailer for this film a while ago, but I had completely forgotten about it and couldn't remember what it was called, so big ups to Bryan! The movie is released online and ins elected US theatres on August 25th, 2011. I'll do a proper review when I've seen it.

** UPDATE **
(16th August, 2011)

As luck would have it, I managed to see Grave Encounters today. It's a very enjoyable found-footage movie, although it seems to borrow heavily from other horror movies, notably the remake of The House on Haunted Hill. We are told at the beginning that this is not a movie and we are seeing raw footage that has been 'edited for time'.

The film is about a television film crew, who are making episode six of the Grave Encounters show at an alleged haunted insane asylum. This is a reality TV show in the vein of Ghost Hunters or Most Haunted. Early on, we see that the crew are not averse to fabricating stories or exaggerating events in order to make 'good TV'. They are locked inside at 10pm and will not be allowed out until the caretaker arrives at 6am. After a slow-burn start, things begin to happen, objects move, camera equipment flickers. Eventually, all hell breaks loose and the crew find themselves literally trapped in the building - they smash open the front doors only to find it leading back inside. Also, time appears to have stopped and they end up spending days inside with no sign of the sun coming up or the caretaker appearing to free them. Bizarre. The crew get picked off one by one in various interesting ways until only the presenter remains, living in the tunnels beneath the hospital, eating rats. Several ghastly apparitions scare the bejesus out of the crew (and the viewer!) and we appear to learn at the end that the head physician performed weird demonic rites in a ghoulish, subterranean laboratory.

I enjoyed Grave Encounters and some of the effects were very well done. The story stretches the found-footage aspect to the limits of believability, but that doesn't detract from what might be the most polished film of the genre for some time.

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** UPDATE **
(19th August, 2011)

I got an email from Allessandro in Japan the other day. He gave me a short list of found-footage films in which I might be interested. Some of them are yet to be released, but two are out now and I was able to find them. Thanks, Allessandro!

First up is Atrocious. This is a Spanish/Mexican co-production and is only just over an hour in length. The Quintanilla family are murdered in their old, country home (this is no secret or plot spoiler) and we are watching the grim story unfold through the cameras of the elder son and daughter, Cristian and July. We are led to believe that there is some sort of ghostly girl haunting a forest that sits beside the house. Legend has it that if you get lost in the forest (it's something of a maze, apparently), she will appear and show you the way out. Another legend has her killing hapless wanderers.

After a slow start, things accelerate, after the family dog is killed and dumped down a well, until we are taken on a breathless chase through the forest and the farmhouse by Cristian, until he ends up in the basement and discovers the truth. Atrocious is a very good film and I recommend it.

Secondly, I watched Haunted Changi. This is a film from Singapore and, again, is quite short, coming in at around 75 minutes. It is an English language film, but, trust me, you need the English subtitles as some of the Singapore English is hard to follow. That's not a slight on the Singapore people. I'm sure most English-speaking people outside the UK (or maybe even in the UK... ha ha!) wouldn't understand my broad Yorkshire accent!

Anyway, Haunted Changi is about a young documentary film crew who get permission to film inside the Old Changi Hospital (OCH). During World War II, the hospital was occupied by the Japanese and there are stories of mass executions and torture chambers in the tunnels beneath the labyrinthine hospital. Things go well until the crew enter the hospital at night. Figures flash across the screen and we hear creepy wailing in the distance. Night vision footage shows the silhouettes of clawed hands reaching for the attractive, young presenter, Sheena.

Anyway, things come to a head when Andrew, the leader of the project, claims to have found a Chinese squatter and becomes obsessed with her. Several of the crew become ill and a final visit to OCH ends in tragedy.

I quite enjoyed Haunted Changi. The visual effects were decent and there were some good tricks used. All-in-all, a worthy addition to this list.

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** UPDATE **
(17th September, 2011)

Evil Things confused me a bit. Was this a straight up thriller with the events caught on a pair of camcorders or was this a supernatural tale of terror? Or both? Whatever it was, it was very well-made and shot. The story revolves around a group of young adults and a trip to 'Aunty's Remote House In The Middle of Nowhere in Winter'. After a genuinely gripping car journey through a snow storm and shenanigans with an idiot in a van (which comes back into play later), they arrive and everything's hunky dory. The film settles down for a while until they decide to explore some nearby caves and get lost in the woods. Then it all kicks off.

As I said, the film is nicely shot and the characters are well-drawn. I felt the introduction of a musical score towards the end was a mistake, as it reminds the viewer that you are just watching a movie. Also, to reiterate, was this a siege thriller,  with the 'family' unable to leave their house by an unknown group of random assailants or was there a supernatural element? I certainly got that impression, with the noises in the woods and the unseen foe lurking around. But it's never made clear. Perhaps that's the point.

It's certainly a good film and one I would recommend.

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** UPDATE **
(20th September, 2011)

I am going to add a couple of films that aren't necessarily 'found-footage'. They are mockumentaries or faux documentaries. Both have been out for a few years.

The first is called The Brandon Corey Story. I've known about this film for quite some time and watched it ages ago, but it never occurred to me to include it in this list until now. This is a conspiracy thriller, in which the eponymous hero is searching for an activist friend, who disappeared while investigating claims that former Vice President Dick Cheney was a shape-shifting entity. We are led by an English narrator, who interviews Corey's friend, who appears in silhouette, and we are shown covert footage captured by both Corey and his missing friend. The standout moments show a Secret Service agent with reptilian eyes and a weird ritual in a subterranean chamber.

It's a great film with some genuinely creepy moments and a nice cameo from famed conspiracy activist, David Icke. It's available all over the internet, such as Google Video and YouTube.

The second film is called The Ghosts of Crowley Hall. This is a Most Haunted-style film in which a group of paranormal investigators enter an abandoned asylum and get more than they bargained for. I have to be honest that I wasn't sure if I was watching a genuine investigation or a scripted movie and I mean that as a compliment. Things are slow to start, with the team hearing knocks, followed by a seance. My attention began to wander, I have to admit, and I thought that nothing at all was going to happen. And then it does. Cameras catch ghostly figures. Knocks and footsteps are heard and the leader of the group is attacked. The film culminates with a reluctant return to Crowley Hall, which ends badly, but not fatally.

As I said, the film has a slow start, but once things get going, this is a genuinely creepy movie with some great scenes (the shadowy figure down the hall is my favourite) and a very realistic feel.

There is a website where digital copies of the film can be downloaded (.com and .co.uk)

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** UPDATE **
(6th October, 2011)

Jeff Black got back in touch with me (he recommended The Occult a while back) and had a coupe of films for me to check out.

The first, The St. Francisville Experiment, was released not long after The Blair Witch Project took the world by storm.

Set in a colonial mansion, a group of paranormal investigators set out to prove that the building is haunted. The house had a grisly history, with slaves being experimented upon by their deranged mistress. For quite some time, nothing occurs, apart from some knocks and growls. Things really kick into high gear, though, when the team enter the attic. Shortly afterwards, they split up (bad idea) and all hell breaks loose. As each member of the group has their own, solo experiences, the tension mounts to a genuinely terrifying crescendo.

The St. Francisville Experiment is a very good found-footage film and I have to admit that the climax genuinely frightened me. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend it.

The second movie is The Wicksboro Incident. This was made in 2003 and is the story of an old man who claims to have been involved with top secret, government experiments in the 1950s. These experiments resulted in the discovery of extraterrestrials living among the human race.

A pair of documentarians take Lloyd (the old guy) on a road trip to try and find the town of Wicksboro in Texas, where the whole population mysteriously vanished in an instant, according to Lloyd. Venturing onto private land, they discover that the town has been razed to the ground and nothing remains. Later, they discover Lloyd's subterranean laboratory. Then the bad guys turn up and we find ourselves in a  chase movie.

The Wicksboro Incident is an extremely well-made faux documentary with terrific acting and genuine-looking set-pieces. The fate of the trio is alarming and, sometimes, shocking, but it is never boring and I recommend this film very highly indeed. If you like conspiracy theories, UFOs and all that stuff (I do!), then this is the film for you.

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** UPDATE **
(7th October, 2011)

As I browsed the DVD section of my local supermarket this morning, I was surprised to see a film called The Tapes. I scooped it up and paid for it... as you do.

The film tells us that three people, Gemma, Nathan and Danny, have come to sticky ends, leaving only some video tapes behind, and that some sort of cult is responsible. We see a police detective and various family members and we're told that the families have allowed 'the tapes' to be shown. Gemma is a Big Brother hopeful and talks Danny and Nathan into filming a showreel to help her get on the show. Danny is her boyfriend. God knows what she sees in him, because he's a complete prat. Nathan is clearly the strongest, most grounded member of the group.

They hear about 'swingers parties' that take place at a nearby farm and decide that it would be a good subject for Gemma's showreel. They break into the farm and wait for the 'swingers' to turn up. Unfortunately, these people are devil worshippers. You can guess what happens.

While The Tapes passed some time, it is, to be honest, a bit dull. For the vast majority of the film, we're watching Danny being an idiot, Gemma being an Essex Girl wannabe and Nathan losing his temper at Danny's antics. When the action kicks in, it's over in a flash and we mostly get shots where it's way too dark to see anything or we just see footage of the ground as our 'heroes' are legging it. But it isn't terrible. The characters are actually quite likable - except for Danny - and you don't really want to see them come to harm. I'll recommend The Tapes only because it's a cheap buy from your local Asda!

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** UPDATE **
(14th October, 2011)

This might be a first... a spoof found-footage film. Obviously a riff on Paranormal Activity, I have to admit that I haven't watched Abnormal Activity all the way through yet. I keep starting it, but get about five minutes in and switch off - which isn't good. My brother insists that it is "funny in places". Again, not good, because my brother thinks everything he watches is good! No, really...

I might get round to watching Abnormal Activity eventually, but in the meantime, I'll just add it to this list because of it's mere existence.

 

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** UPDATE **
(24th October, 2011)

Paranormal Activity 3 is upon us, folks, and, by gum, it's a great film! Usually, movies suffer from the law of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels, but the Paranormal Activity series is going from strength to strength, in my opinion.

Set in 1988, when Katie and her little sister, Kristi, are just girls, we are first shown a clip from 2005 and the 'burglary' at the home of grown-up Kristi. We learn that all that was taken was a box of VHS tapes handed down to Katie by their grandmother. Next, we see an unknown somebody begin watching the tapes and we go back to 1988.

The girls' mum, Julie, has just set up home with her videographer (handy!) boyfriend, Dennis. Julie's mother, Lois, is concerned that he is only using her for her money (they're a wealthy family, remember). It becomes apparent that Kristi has an imaginary friend, which she calls Toby. Obviously, this entity is far from imaginary and things begin happening in the house and Dennis begins setting up his cameras to catch the activity.

It might be argued that the series is stretching the found-footage genre somewhat, I mean, does everybody in California record everything on video? It seems that way. But if you try not to think about that, the film has some wonderful moments, including brilliant use of an oscillating fan (amazing how such a simple device can ramp up the tension!), a spooky duvet in the kitchen and the usual people being dragged about. I absolutely loved it and it's perhaps my favourite film of the series so far. It's successful too, taking over $80 million in its opening weekend. Not bad from a budget of $5 million.

Go see it now and get your spine tingled!

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** UPDATE **
(18th December, 2011)

The Asylum strike again with yet another found-footage horror film! This time, they have decided to place it in the famous house at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, Long Island. Yep, that house. Oddly, the house we see in The Amityville Haunting looks sod all like the real one in Amityville. Not to worry, we'll plod on.

In June of 2008, the Benson family move into the house and two people are dead by the end of the first day. Not a great start for a happy family experience! Fourteen year-old Tyler likes to film everything with his camcorder, as is normal for these flicks, and we see odd things happening. Strange figures in the background or ghostly noises. He also finds an iPhone with a video of some kids being murdered some time before the family moved in. More cameras are installed for security and we see more stuff going on and it all ends badly, as might be expected.

You know what? I really enjoyed it. Somehow, The Asylum has got the knack for making a good Paranormal Activity-style film. Sure, the acting isn't the best, but the shocks and scares are effective and it leaves you feeling satisfied by the end. I have no doubt that this film will be repackaged at Halloween 2012 as Paranormal Entity 4!

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** UPDATE **
(10th January, 2012)

For a movie made with a budget of only $5000, 7 Nights of Darkness is very impressive. A title card tells us that a group of reality TV show contestants were to spend seven nights at a haunted asylum and if they stayed the whole time and completed all their pre-assigned tasks, they would share a million dollars. We are told that the money was never paid and the show never aired.

At first, we get to know the contestants. Some are likable, some less so. There are two women and four men. Three cameras, operated by the group, catch all the action, as well as several static CCTV cameras. Things get off to a slow start, as we might expect, with small things happening (a moving bucket, the distant wailing of a baby). Then something happens to one of the women and we learn that one of the men was a plant, ordered by the TV company to scare out the others. It was he who faked some of the early occurrences. But then real things start to happen and some of them are jump-out-of-your-seat terrifying!

I really enjoyed 7 Nights of Darkness and highly recommend it. That's not to say it isn't without flaws. Some of the acting is a bit wooden (but not atrocious) and I hated the post-credits sequence, which completely ruins the found-footage aspect of the film. Aside from that, it's very well made and the special effects do what they are supposed to do.

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** UPDATE **
(26th January, 2012)

The Devil Inside is a faux-documentary about a young woman, Isabella, who decides to make a film about her mother. When Isabella was a child, her mother, Maria, murdered several priests, who were performing an exorcism upon her. She was incarcerated in a mental institution in the States before being inexplicably moved to a hospital in Rome, Italy. Isabella and her cameraman, Michael, head over to Europe to learn all about exorcisms and to see Maria.

Along the way, they meet two young priests, Father Ben and Father David, who are conducting exorcisms without permission of the Vatican. They decide to investigate Maria and, as might be expected, it all goes wrong.

The Devil Inside is a terrific film with some excellent exorcism scenes. All the actors play their roles well and some of the scares are genuinely shocking. Joints dislocate with toe-curling pops and snaps. It's all very well-made and much better than The Last Exorcism, in my opinion.

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** UPDATE **
(8th February, 2012)

A new paranormal found-footage TV series started on ABC on 7th February, 2012. The River  is the story of Dr Emmet Cole, a popular TV adventurer and naturist (played by Bruce Greenwood), who has gone missing in the Amazon jungle. His son, Lincoln, and wife, Tess, go in search of him and his ship, The Magus, aided by a band of friends. Everything is captured by numerous cameras.

The first two episodes, aired together, featured the bloodthirsty spirit of a Magus crewman and a lonely child spirit. The tram find Cole's ship, but the man himself is nowhere to be found.

It's all very well made, BUT the found-footage motif is stretched to breaking point. Produced by Paranormal Activity's Oren Peli and Steve Spielberg, it's slickly done and the acting from each character is adequate. There are just too many cameras, though. We have two main cameramen (one of which doesn't last long) and numerous CCTV cameras on board The Magus, but often you are left thinking, where the hell is this shot coming from? It feels too much like a 'regular' TV drama retro-fitted as found-footage.

That said, I enjoyed the first two episodes and look forward to what happens next. Give it a whirl.

UPDATE: Season 1 concluded in spectacular style and I have to say that I really enjoyed the series as a whole, although I maintain that a lot of the camera angles were far too contrived. I mean, how many cameras can one boat have?? I don't think a second season is on the cards, which is sad, seeing as we ended the first on a bit of a cliffhanger.

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** UPDATE **
(12th February, 2012)

Chronicle has come out of nowhere and become the surprise hit of the year so far. A found-footage superhero movie, Chronicle is the story of Andrew, matt and Steve, three high school students who stumble across a weird, underground 'something' that gives them telekinetic powers. Bullied by his father and fellow students, Andrew is clearly walking on psychological thin ice and it is up to his cousin Matt and popular Steve to keep him on the straight and narrow. They fail with devastating results. We are taken from simple tricks with Lego bricks and juggling balls to causing serious road accidents and a remarkable showdown in Seattle that is reminiscent of the Kryptonian fight in Superman II.

This is an incredible film with some astonishing effects (and some less so), but it stretches the found-footage credibility to its limits and beyond. Many of the shots appear incredibly contrived as the film makers try to keep the story moving. You shouldn't let that spoil the enjoyment factor of this movie, however. It is great stuff from beginning to end and the confrontational climax is stunningly depicted.

Rumour has it that debut director, Josh Trank, has been handed the reins for the Fantastic Four reboot and if he does half as well with that as he has done with Chronicle, then it will be something to look forward to.

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** UPDATE **
(18th March, 2012)

Made with a budget estimated at only $12,464 (a precise estimate, I know), Evidence is a stunning example of how to make a great found-footage film.

A group of friends go camping in the American countryside. I don't know where. Probably California. One of them has decided to use his video camera and record a 'documentary' about their trip. Obviously, this means he films everything! At first, it's all fun and games. They joke around, argue, the usual stuff, but then they see something weird in a ravine and the film takes a turn for the insane. Suddenly, the group is set upon by terrifying, screeching creatures with glowing eyes.

The final third of the film is heart-stopping stuff as we flee for our lives. Monsters leap out. Guns blaze. Vehicles roar around. Helicopters hover overhead. For a found-footage film, there's a surprising amount of gore, too. It's all amazing stuff, if immensely confusing. We see clues as to what's going on, but we have to work it out for ourselves.

I highly recommend Evidence, but I suspect it is one of those films that divides its audience. I loved it, though.

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** UPDATE **
(2nd May, 2012)

Tape 407 (sometimes called Area 407), is an ambitious found-footage film that tries to reach beyond its limitations. Unfortunately, it doesn't succeed. That's not to say that there isn't a lot to enjoy in this film.

The story follows a group of people who survive a plane crash (very well-staged) and end up somewhere in the Nevada desert. As they await rescue, terrifying creatures attack and they are forced to run for their lives. All this, of course, is captured by a couple of (oddly identical) cameras, owned by unrelated people. Defended by an air marshal (with an Australian accent), the group gets whittled down until only two remain to see the dawn... or do they?

While I enjoyed Tape 407 for the most part, it was a bit too much 'found-footage'. That is to say that it was very chaotic at times, with the ad-libbed dialogue overlapping and the camera shaking around a bit too much. It could be argued, though, that this makes it more realistic. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose. What we see of the creatures (not a lot, even at the terrific climax) keeps us on our toes and you actually do get a sense that these people are really scared.

So, overall, I'd recommend Tape 407 and I hail the producers' ambition, but it could have been better. Watch it yourself, though, as it could be one of those films that divides its audience (happens a lot with these films, I suspect!)

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** UPDATE **
(15th May, 2012)

Apartment 143 sees a paranormal investigation team invited to the apartment of a widower and his family. Cameras and other detection equipment is installed and we settle down to see what happens. At first, we assume that this is a traditional haunting, then it is suggested that it is a poltergeist created by the teenage daughter. Whatever is behind the bangs and howls and moving objects, we see some bizarre things and the ending is fun and shocking.

I enjoyed Apartment 143. The cast are from mainly TV backgrounds, with some familiar faces (particularly Rick Gonzales, who genre fans will recognise from the Reaper TV series), and their characters are well-portrayed. The special effects are decent, too, which make the shocks all the more believable. That said, this movie isn't as good, as Paranormal Activity or even Grave Encounters. We never really (and this is a bit of a spoiler) find out the origins of the paranormal incidents and the ending, while fun, is very contrived, from the Poltergeist-style finale to the amusing final coda. The flitting between cameras of variable quality, while perhaps more realistic of an proper investigation, is sometimes annoying. But it is still well worth viewing.

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* UPDATE **
(22nd May, 2012)

338 Arletta Avenue is less of a 'found-footage' movie and more of a 'hidden camera-peeping Tom' film. Starring Nick Stahl (Terminator 3, Sin City), we follow the downward spiral of James, a normal guy who works in advertising, has an attractive wife, Amy, and a cat. Everything we see is from cameras either secreted or operated by an unseen person.

When Amy disappears, James struggles to make believe that she is in trouble and that she has not just gone away for a few days. The unseen cameraman watches, following James as he investigates or via the many, many hidden cameras. James confronts a list of suspects and matters build to a horrific climax.

I enjoyed 338 Arletta Avenue and Nick Stahl is a terrific actor. The major gripe I have, though, is that there are far too many hidden cameras. How did the guy find the time to plant all these gadgets? They're everywhere: in James' car, in his office, in his home - everywhere! Aside from that, it's a good film that has you trying to figure out who is behind the deeds that unfold.

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** UPDATE **
(15th June, 2012)

Project X is a film about a party arranged by some school friends and all the events are filmed by another 'friend'. Obviously everything goes horribly wrong and the party gets wildly out of control and SWAT teams appear and helicopters and police etc etc.

Now, I have to admit that I haven't watched all of Project X. Why? Because I hated the characters so much. All of them really rubbed me the wrong way, particularly the loud-mouthed sweary one who is the reason everything goes wrong. I absolutely loathed him.

Also, the camerawork is very contrived and it appears everybody is walking round with hidden microphones because you can hear every word, even when they are being filmed from a distance.

Perhaps I was in a bad mood anyway on my first viewing, so perhaps I'll try and watch it again. Or maybe not...

 

Alien Origin is a new found-footage film from our chums at The Asylum and, even by their low standards, it's pretty bad, which is a shame, because it starts out pretty well.

A documentary team join a group of soldiers in Belize as they go on a routine mission to set cameras in the jungle in the hope of catching drug traffickers. Soon, they come across a boat in a field and find a camera with a memory card. We see the footage of the boat's occupants apparently being abducted by a bad CG UFO. Later, the soldiers are ordered to investigate the disappearance of some archaeologists. More cameras are found (yes, we are getting found-footage within found-footage!), but we see nothing. Eventually, it all goes awry and the film crew and soldiers come to sticky ends.

As I said, the film starts out well, with the team entering the jungle (actually filmed in Belize), but it ends up just being people walking, running, walking, shooting, running, all while shaking the camera about and not seeing anything. Even when we do see the aliens, the CG is so bad, that the picture is 'distorted' to hide them.

Terrible, terrible film.

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** UPDATE **
(6th July, 2012)

I actually stumbled across Skew when it was broadcast on The Horror Channel recently. What we have is a 'point-of-view' film disguised as found-footage. Simon is filming a road trip that he and friends, Richard and Eva, are taking to attend a wedding party. At first, things are normal: they stop off at various tourist attractions and Eva and Richard get annoyed at Simon's constant filming. It soon becomes apparent that Simon is in love with Eva, having left his own girlfriend behind.

Then, after Richard accidentally hits and kills a coyote, Simon begins to see people's faces becoming distorted in the camera viewfinder. Then those people die shortly afterwards! Not only that, but he sees 'phantoms' or zombie-like figures. On replaying the video, nothing is seen. Their trip soon descends into terror and, obviously, things don't end well. Is Simon really seeing these spectres or is he losing his mind?

I really enjoyed Skew. It was well-made, with good effects and believable characters. While it could be classed as found-footage, as we see everything via Simon's camcorder, what we are really seeing is Simon's point of view as he looks through the viewfinder or rewinds the tape to watch earlier footage. The only niggle I had was with the music that creeps into the film towards the end. I thought it was unnecessary and detracted from the vérité style of the film. Apart from that, I can highly recommend Skew (ignore the IMDB rating!!!!).

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** UPDATE **
(21st July, 2012)

[REC]3: Genesis begins like the previous films in the series ([REC]4 is on the way), with shaky camcorder footage, this time of the wedding of Clara and Koldo. Their uncle arrives with a hand wound from a dog at his vet's office and, as you can imagine, all hell breaks loose at the reception. Koldo and Clara are separated and we follow them as they try to find each other, avoiding the possessed hordes.

[REC]3 is an extremely well-made film, but the found-footage style is dropped a third of the way into the movie, with traditional film-making taking over. This allows for a more cinematic experience, of course, but some of the brutality and energy of the first two films is lost in the transition. This film is also a lot more gruesome, with the possessed 'zombies' being dispatched in various gory and/or amusing ways. The events of the film occur concurrently with those of the first two films, but this really doesn't feel like part of the same story. The possessed behave more like traditional, shuffling zombies, but perhaps that is because they don't have somebody 'in charge' as in the first two films.

So, while I really enjoyed this latest addition to the [REC] series and I look forward to the fourth instalment, I kind of wish they had stuck with the found-footage approach from beginning to end. Saying that, the filmmakers should be commended in trying to evolve the series and move it into new areas.

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** UPDATE **
(22nd July, 2012)

Documenting the Grey Man is a traditional found-footage film, with a caption explaining that a group of investigators travel to a house to look for a ghost and that they and the householders go missing. The footage is obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. Okay.

That's about it, really. The five investigators are actually fake ghost hunters and intend to dupe the poor family who believe that 'The Grey Man', a local spooky legend, is terrorising their family. They aim to set up various stunts and then create a 'behind the scenes' programme, explaining how they did what they did. Unfortunately, it all goes awry - as one might expect.

Running at a little over an hour, Documenting the Grey Man isn't a chore to watch, but it isn't a great found-footage film. The addition of eerie music completely ruins the atmosphere. This was supposed to be raw footage obtained from the police. There shouldn't be music! The footage has been badly sequenced, with some scenes seemingly edited out of order. It makes for a confusing timeline. Also, the acting leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. The saddest thing, though, is that there are some brilliant special effects! A girl floats over a bed. A guy's eyes suddenly begin to bleed. A ouija board and spirit bell react to questions. These great sequences are ruined by the rest of the film being shoddily put together. A great pity.

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** UPDATE **
(23rd July, 2012)

Browsing the DVD section of my local supermarket today, I came across Paranormal Incident. Reading the cover notes, I thought, ooh, a new found-footage film for my enjoyment. It's a pity that the film turned out to be a little disappointing, despite its ambition. Oh, and the DVD cover erroneously titled the film as 'The' Paranormal Incident. It's just Paranormal Incident. Shame on the UK distributor!

What we have is a found-footage film folded into a traditional movie. The sole survivor of a paranormal investigation is being interrogated in his hospital room as we are shown the camcorder and CCTV footage recovered from Odenbrook Sanitarium. Being the sole survivor, John is also the prime suspect in connection with the disappearances of his friends. As he tries to recall what happened, he is shown how the dark forces that prowl Odenbrook picked off his comrades one by one.

The main problem with this film is the format. Is it a normal film or is it a found-footage film? The producers are to be commended for trying to take the genre in a new direction (as Eduardo Sanchez has done with the soon-to-be-released Lovely Molly), but the ambition outreaches the filmmakers' ability, it seems. While the acting is decent and the shaky-cam footage is decent, the 'regular' movie segments are quite pointless (and the climax is, frankly, stupid). The director seems to forget how many people there are in a scene from time to time, as there are more hand-held camera shots than people. On a couple of occasions, the 'found-footage' is being filmed by nobody at all, as we see hand-held footage of attacks from a third person perspective when there is supposed to be only one person (and the ghosts/demons/whatevers) in the scene. That bug-bear of found-footage, the pointless musical score, also comes into effect on occasion.

That said, there are some good scares, but I felt that they should have simply made a traditional found-footage movie without the pointless 'traditional movie' inserts.

By the way, I just noticed that on the iMDB listing (see the link above), that this film had a budget of over $3 million! I have seen much better films made for a fraction of that amount of money!

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** UPDATE **
(25th July, 2012)

If you can rely on The Asylum for one thing, it's that they'll deliver a decent found-footage film. They've done it again with 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck. Despite the poor title, this is a great merging of the found-footage and slasher genres.

A TV crew enters the nurses' dormitory where Richard Speck tortured and raped eight women (the film says seven, but it was eight - I looked it up) in 1966. As soon as the film starts, we see people being dragged off into the shadows and blood flowing. The tension never relents! At first, the crew think that somebody is locked in the building with them, but it soon becomes clear that the spirit of Richard Speck is roaming the halls and claiming new victims.

I absolutely loved this film. A proper found-footage film that is well-made, with decent effects, good acting and a satisfying climax. There's plenty of sticking cameras in dark holes and you're just waiting for something to pop into frame! The approach of Speck's spirit is brilliantly realised, too, with his tongue clucking, as you would to pet birds (Speck kept birds in prison and was also known as Birdman - not to be confused with The Birdman of Alcatraz, that's a different bloke). The noise is actually reminiscent of the sounds made by the giant bugs in the film, Mimic. Compared with the previous film in this list, 100 Ghost Street is infinitely better and probably made on a tiny fraction of the budget.

Anyway, I highly recommend 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck and wonder if this film will be repackaged in October as Paranormal Entity 4...

*UPDATE*

As I suspected, 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck has been repackaged (in the UK at least) as Paranormal Entity 4: The Awakening.

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** UPDATE **
(4th August, 2012)

I wondered whether to include Eduardo Sanchez's Lovely Molly in this list, as it is not necessarily a found-footage film. That said, it does have found-footage elements, so what the heck...

We begin with a found-footage style intro, with Molly attempting to kill herself, but saying 'it' won't let her. Then we flashback, see Molly marrying Tim and then we're into traditional movie territory. They move into Molly's childhood home and things start going bump in the night. This, coupled with her husband being away for much of the time, leads to Molly taking drugs and it looks like she is on a downward spiral. Is what she is seeing (and recording in the film's found-footage segments) all taking place in her head?

I have to admit that as I watched Lovely Molly, I started thinking that this was going to be a 'Scooby-Doo' film, with everything being in our heroine's disturbed mind (as in Skew), but Sanchez plays with our expectations and by the end (which has a brilliant climax, I might add), we are left scratching our heads and saying: "What the...?"

Gretchen Lodge is amazing as Molly and her performance dominates this film. Surely, she will be up for some kind of award? Highly recommended.

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** UPDATE **
(8th August, 2012)

I was certain that I'd included Episode 50 in this list before, but it seems not. I'd seen it quite a while ago, but recently purchased the DVD. I can't say I recommend it, though, because Episode 50 is, frankly, rubbish.

Two groups of paranormal investigators, one sceptical, the other religious, collide in a haunted sanatorium. This is supposed to be the fiftieth episode of a television series, hence the film's title, but it all goes wrong and the footage was never broadcast until now. Ghost and demons spring out of the woodwork and then the climax shifts to an old penitentiary with some 90s special effects.

While the cinematography is pretty good and the acting, well, not bad, the main fault with Episode 50 is that it cannot decide what it is. Is it a found-footage film? Or is it a traditional horror piece? It seems like it wants to be a found-footage, hence the claims that we are seeing the footage the film crew captured, but it seems that the filmmakers forgot and kept adding shots from invisible cameras/cameramen. It completely ruins the illusion. Then there's the music, which is the bane of found-footage films. I wish these people who want to cash in on the found-footage genre would actually learn how to make them properly! Aargh!

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** UPDATE **
(8th August, 2012)

What can I say about V/H/S except "Wow!"? This is urely one of the most innovative and enjoyable found-footage films of recent years, eclipsing its rivals by several degrees of magnitude.

What we have is an anthology film (or portmanteau), similar to the ones that were popular back in the Seventies, Vault of Horror or From Beyond the Grave, for instance. Five stories are book-ended by the antics of a group of young, criminal videographers, who are hired to break into a house and steal a certain VHS tape. They find the owner of the house apparently dead and begin their search for said tape. What we then see are the stories as they check out the tapes.

The stories are titled Amateur  Night (my favourite of the bunch, despite it being the first story, and a great supernatural shocker), Second Honeymoon (a road trip thriller directed by Ti West), Tuesday the 17th (great effects in a twist on the slasher genre), The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger (all taking place via webcams and the weakest of the bunch, featuring prominently in the trailer) and 10/31/98 (a full-blown haunted house/possession roller-coaster!). The final story actually comes after the conclusion of the 'book-end', which I found odd.

Anyway, I cannot recommend V/H/S highly enough. I loved it from beginning to end. It will scare you. It will make you laugh. It will shock you. But you'll love it!

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** UPDATE **
(15th August, 2012)

A film's popped up that isn't brilliant. It's almost rubbish, but has just enough going for it to stop me saying it's a big bag of poo. That film is Knock Knock 2. Now, I haven't seen the first one, so I've no idea if that's a similar flick or not, but who cares, eh? Ooh, it's also known as 1666. The distributors must have also had the rights to the first film and thought they'd cash in and make this a sequel. Why? Dunno.

Anyhoo, Knock Knock 2 has a couple of couples checking out places in Hollywood where people died grisly deaths. They end up at a house with the number 1666. They go in (after arguing for an age) and end up disappearing. Obviously.

You know what, even though it probably cost £2.50 to make, it's not totally terrible. The camerawork sucks, but that just gives it authenticity. I suppose. The things that save it are the one or two genuine scares that occur in the film. The acting is not to bad, either. I know this film will not be everybody's cup of tea, but you have to give them marks for trying and for not making a completely unwatchable horror flick.

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** UPDATE **
(27th August, 2012)

I bought a new found-footage film from my local supermarket today. I'd never heard of The Asylum Tapes (aka Graystone, Graystone Park and Secret Stone) and I wasn't expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised.

Apparently loosely based on a dinner conversation, the film is directed by and starring Sean Stone (son of famed director, Oliver Stone, who also appears in the film). A group of friends decide to break into an old mental hospital and film what they find there. Obviously, it all goes wrong and they are being stalked by an unseen menace.

Perhaps because I wasn't expecting much, I quite enjoyed The Asylum Tapes. The characters are likeable for the most part and the camerawork and special effects are pretty good. The flickering lights get annoying, though, and sometimes it's hard to make out what's going on in the film's 'shakiest' segments. After a slow build, the film kicks into high gear and things and people fly through the air, figures emerge from shadows and the climax in a bizarre chapel is chilling. Give it a whirl!

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** UPDATE **
(31st August, 2012)

The Dinosaur Project is an ambitious British found-footage film that, for the most part, pulls it off. Next to Cloverfield, it easily has the best visual effects of any found-footage film and the story moves along at a decent pace.

Luke Marchant's dad is a world famous cryptozoologist and has spent more of the young man's life in some remote corner of the world, rather than with his family. His latest expedition is to travel deep into the jungles of the Congo and find evidence for Mokele Mbembe, living, breathing dinosaurs. Luke stows away on the helicopter and, after it crashes, father and son must reconcile their differences and get the team out of the dinosaur infested jungle.

I really enjoyed The Dinosaur Project, but that's not to say it is perfect by any means, but it is one of the most highly-polished found-footage films yet released. That said, the film does sometimes forget that it is a found-footage film, with several instances of framing being too good and the dreaded 'extra cameraman' (where you're thinking 'Which of the crew are supposed to be filming this bit?'). These are minor niggles, really. What we have is a good, old-fashioned, family fantasy adventure, in the vein of The Lost World or The Land That Time Forgot, but in the found-footage genre. The film is also less about the dinosaurs we meet along the way and more about the relationships between the team, the father-son dynamic and the inevitable 'heel turn' (to use pro-wrestling parlance) of one of the cast.

It's out on DVD and well worth a punt.

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** UPDATE **
(6th September, 2012)

My brother told me about The Lost Coast Tapes and I started watching it with low expectations. Guess what? Yeah, it's excellent! Thanks, bro!

A TV crew travel into the forests of California's 'Lost Coast' in an attempt to debunk the claims of an alleged Bigfoot hunter, who says he has the body of a juvenile sasquatch. Almost as soon as they meet up with the man, it is clear that things are going to go badly wrong. And they do. Trapped deep in the forest, with every exit blocked, the team find that their scepticism is pushed to its limit and the climax is nerve-jangling stuff.

I loved The Lost Coast Tapes. The characters are very likeable, even though they are assholes for the most part. The main character, played by Drew Rausch, reminded me of an older Shia LeBeouf, while the most famous face is that of Dryback, the Bigfoot hunter played by Frank Ashmore, probably most famous to genre fans for his portrayal of the Visitor Martin in the original V television series. The effects are used sparingly, but very effectively. By the time you get to the end of the film, you might think you know what's going on, but the conclusion will have you scratching your head. Just what happened to those people?

The Lost Coast Tapes is available to buy on DVD and I highly recommend it to found-footage fans.

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** UPDATE **
(10th September, 2012)

A Night in the Woods is promoted with the words 'Makes The Blair Witch Project look like a teddy bear's picnic'. Yeah, they wish! The DVD cover proclaims that the film is from 'The Makers of Bronson and Monsters'. Well, one of the main characters is Scoot McNairy from Monsters and one of the producers worked on Bronson. Don't let all these big ups fool you, though, because A Night in the Woods sucks.

The story focuses on a love triangle between Brody (McNairy), Kerry (Anna Skellern) and Leo (Andrew Hawley). They all go on a camping trip to Dartmoor, argue, swear a lot and look at the greenery. There's a bit of running and screaming, some flashback footage, and a little bit of violence too. That's pretty much it, though

A Night in the Woods could have been a very good found-footage film, but the film-makers seemingly kept forgetting it was a found-footage film and the viewer is left constantly scratching his head. Why is this bit being filmed? How big is the battery in that camera that has apparently been recording for hours? Why is the camera still running at all? We are told that the reason everything is being recorded is because of Brody's paranoia, but that just seems like a weak cop-out. At least have the characters explaining why they are recording what is happening! Three quarters of the film (probably more) is spent with the three (unlikeable) cast members hating each other. So when the 'action' starts, you don't care about them anyway!

The only decent parts of the film are when Kelly is running through the woods, either looking for Brody and/or Leo or running from some unseen menace. I could go on, but, frankly, I can't be bothered. If you like films with three people shouting at one another, using night vision in the daytime and then not caring that they come to sticky ends on Dartmoor, then A Night in the Woods is the film for you. Personally, I'd rather have watched something else.

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** UPDATE **
(24th September, 2012)

Well, this film caught me completely by surprise! Crowsnest is a terrific, traditional found-footage film and it works brilliantly. Forget the nonsense of A Night in the Woods because Crowsnest really does make Blair Witch look like a teddy bear's picnic!

Five people head out into the woods for a weekend at a remote cabin. On the way, the happen upon a spooky ghost town and a gory 'animal' corpse by the side of the road. Soon, they are literally running for their lives as RV-driving maniacs hunt them down. Imagine Duel crossed with Wrong Turn and filmed with a single camera and that's pretty much Crowsnest.

It's a simple storyline, but it works very well. The characters are well-realised and the special effects are surprisingly good. Sometimes the camerawork gets a little too shaky for too long, but that is a minor niggle, given that the rest of the film is so good. I have to admit that, at first, I was thinking that we were going to get yet another zero-budget non-event film, but once the action starts, it is a breathless chase right to the end. The gore is shocking, too, and that's probably where the vast majority of the budget went...

Highly recommended!

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** UPDATE **
(5th October, 2012)

My brother struck again, telling me about The Bucks County Massacre. His over-riding impression was that the women were too hysterical, but more on that in a tick.

A group of friends meet at a remote country house for a birthday party. When one girl goes outside to make a phone call and does not return, a night of terror begins as the partygoers are stalked by something from the woods, something thirsting for human flesh. Bwwaahaahaarrr!

Although, it's super-clichéd, I actually enjoyed The Bucks County Massacre very much. It's a good, old-fashioned found footage film with lots of running around in the woods or prowling around a dark house with night-vision. The 'things' that attack the group aren't particularly scary, though, and just look like scruffy blokes in jeans. The iMDB listing says they are vampires, but I didn't really get that from watching the film. The film is quite well-paced, though and the acting is pretty good. I do agree with my bruv, though, in that the hysterical screaming does have you actually telling the TV to shut up! Despite this, though, I can recommend The Bucks County Massacre.

 

Remember Grave Encounters? Course you do! It was a decent found-footage film with an interesting twist. Well, a sequel appeared this week and it's absolutely phenomenal!

Grave Encounters 2 tells us that the events in the first film were real, although the producers spiced up the genuine footage with some CGI effects. A group of college students decide to find out what really happened and head off to the shooting location of the first film. Finding more than ghosts, the team end up running for their lives, but can they escape the spooky halls of the old asylum?

Grave Encounters 2 is my favourite found-footage film since Cloverfield! It takes the genre in a new direction, breaking the fourth wall and drawing the viewer into the action with more success than any other film I've watched. That's not to say that it's a perfect film by any means and one scene of shonky CGI in particular pretty much shatters your suspension of disbelief. The interview at the end of the film, though, telling us that it's all fake is a nice touch, leaving us with the notion that the distributors again touched up the movie with bad CGI. The acting is terrific and you genuinely care for what happens to them and their demises are very affecting. The special effects are good (except for the sequence just mentioned) and the story is astonishingly good. The return of a cast member from the original film is well-realised, although you don't really believe that this character survived for nine years alone, living on rats. It's a great performance, though. I suspect this film will win a sackful of awards and it would be deserved.

I cannot recommend Grave Encounters 2 highly enough!

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** UPDATE **
(6th October, 2012)

I picked up Closed Circuit Extreme for £8 from my local supermarket. One of those impulse buy things, you know. Anyway, while it's not the greatest film ever made, it just about kept me watching right to the end.

A young couple in Rome, Claudia and Daniele, suspect their neighbour in the disappearance of their friend, but nothing gets done about it, so they decide to break into his house and hide motion-sensing cameras in various locations. The footage they capture confirms their worst fears and costs them dearly, with one of the couple falling prey to the mild-mannered serial killer.

The film is set in Rome, yet everybody is speaking undubbed English, as far as I can tell. Sometimes, it seems as though they ran the script through Google Translate, but I suppose the movie is more about what we see rather than what we hear. The acting isn't the greatest, either, but it's not terrible. The sound effect for the changing camera view grows annoying quickly. I almost reached for the remote, as watching a middle-aged man walk round his house in his underpants for an hour isn't my idea of entertainment, but then the 'action' kicks in and there are some good, nerve-jangling scenes, for instance, when Claudia is trapped in the house and the killer has only to look around and see her cowering in a corner.

The story, though, is scarily plausible and the film is often uncomfortable to watch, the voyeuristic cameras recording the depraved acts of 'David De Santis' without emotion. There isn't any gore to speak off, apart from a pair of severed heads, which don't look very realistic, anyway. The film's saving grace is the creepy, genial manner in which De Santis goes about his business, raping and murdering as though it is perfectly normal. It's quite a performance.

So not the best found-footage film in the world, but it, somehow, keeps you watching. I can't see me watching it again, though...

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** UPDATE **
(9th October, 2012)

This Welcome to the Jungle isn't the slightly crap action film starring The Rock. Noooo, this film (which I discovered quite by accident when it broadcast on The Horror Channel here in the UK last night) is a loose remake, released in 2007, of that found-footage pioneer movie, Cannibal Holocaust. Unfortunately, it's a very weak, diluted remake, but not without a few good scenes.

Two couples holidaying in Fiji decide, for some bizarre reason, to take a boat to New Guinea and search for Michael Rockefeller, the son of the US Vice-President who vanished in 1961. They hope that finding him will net them a million dollars from the press and Rockefeller family. So, off they go and before the end encounter a tribe of cannibals. You know the rest...

While Welcome to the Jungle is a decent found-footage film, with good acting and some spectacular scenery in the jungles of New Guinea, it never comes close to matching Cannibal Holocaust's sense of unease, despair or, importantly, gruesome, cannibalistic rites. The vast majority of the film sees us travelling with the couples, who end up falling out big time, and for much of the time, I was thinking 'Who's carrying all of this booze they seem to be drinking?' There seemed to be gallons of the stuff! There are some good moments, though, such as the encounter with Guinean bandits and a tense time with a gun-toting border guard.

When the gore arrives, it's done more subtly than gratuitously and it is done well, but you never feel that these are real cannibals. They're actors pretending to be cannibals. This film would never be mistaken for genuine footage. That said, I did enjoy it and can recommend it as a solid addition to this list.

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** UPDATE **
(25th October, 2012)

There's going to be a Paranormal Activity 5 next year! Well, I hope they try something different, because Paranormal Activity 4 is just more of the same. Good, entertaining, with some nice scares, but really the same as the previous outings.

It is November, 2011, and a single mum and her young son, Robbie, have moved in across the street from the family of 15-year-old Alex Nelson. Robbie is a bit odd and Alex and her boyfriend, Ben, keep finding him in and around her house. Eventually, he moves in with them for a short while, as his mother is apparently taken ill. Robbie begins to have a bad influence on Alex's young, adopted brother, Wyatt. Obviously, the poop hits the fan and the cult from the previous films rears its head.

While I enjoyed Paranormal Activity 4 and the series is still the benchmark for found-footage horror, as each film is made, the justification for the found-footage style becomes less and less believable. This time, the footage is captured from laptops, cameras, Xbox Kinects, all seemingly recording constantly! The story never seems to progress very much either. Who are this cult and why are they grooming young boys for the demon?

The series needs a shake-up before the release of the next film in October 2013. Perhaps even move away from the found-footage format, or do what [REC]3: Genesis did and begin as found-footage and transition into a traditional movie. Or perhaps have a regular horror film with found-footage elements, like Lovely Molly. Whatever they decide, I'll still be back next year for more! :)

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** UPDATE **
(27th October, 2012)

At least one episode in each season of Supernatural tries to do something a little different, be it flipping the main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, into the 'real world' or whatever. The fourth episode of season eight has a stab at found-footage and it doesn't do a bad job at it.

Using the Chronicle formula, our heroes stumble across footage recorded by a trio of college students who trifle with a werewolf. As one of the kids struggles with his newfound taste for human hearts, his wimpy friend wants that power for himself and goes to great lengths to get what he wants, seeking out the creature that bit his friend.

It's a good episode that has a decent stab at found-footage, but it's plainly a cash-in and a 'filler' episode before the Winchesters get back to the season's main story arc.

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** UPDATE **
(5th November, 2012)

Back in April, 2011, Bryan Harris sent me an email, telling me about a found-footage film in production by an Oscar-winning director. Finally, that film is here.

The Bay is bound to be classed as a found-footage film, yet it is more of a fake exposé or faux documentary. Despite some minor niggles, though, it is very good. With probably the highest profile director of any film in the genre, Barry Levinson, and produced by the omni-present Orin Peli, it has a sterling pedigree, yet it often stumbles and, to be honest drags a little bit, despite only being around 90 minutes in length.

Anyhoo, the plot: A small Maryland town on the Chesapeake Bay is suddenly overrun with a kind of plague and the populace begin dropping like flies. We see events from various sources, CCTV cameras, a local TV reporter (who also acts as the film's narrator), camcorder footage, video from phones etc. It's all very ambitious. As the local authorities struggle to cope, it becomes clear that the town is doomed and the government wants it covering up.

As I said at the beginning, The Bay is very good. The acting is terrific, the make-up effects are nice and yucky and the CGI is seamless. There are some great jump scares as well. I think the problems with the film (and there are one or two) lie with a director who is used to traditional film-making. Some of the shots seem very contrived (a common occurrence, I know, and one that is becoming more prevalent in the genre) and you can't help but think of the 'director's eye' getting in on some of the shots (the aerial shot of the dead fish, for instance). There's also that bug-bear of mine in these films, music. There isn't much in The Bay, and what there is is understated, but it just shouldn't be there. We're supposed to be watching a young reporter spilling the beans about a tragedy. There shouldn't be music. Period.

Despite my moaning, I recommend The Bay and think it is one of the better contributions to this list.

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** UPDATE **
(4th January, 2013)

Reel Evil is a traditional found-footage film and it's refreshingly simple and enjoyable.

A trio of budding documentary makers are forced to endure the divas of a low budget horror film shoot in an abandoned mental institution as they are hired to film a 'Making Of...' for the film's (probably straight to) DVD release. Tiring of the behaviour of their employers, the crew go off exploring and find that there's more hiding in the dark recesses of the hospital than rusty bedpans and solitary wheelchairs. Obviously everything goes wrong and the body count soon begins to rise.

I really enjoyed this film. As I said at the beginning, it was refreshingly simple, yet some of the special effects were excellent and there are some good scares and decent gore, not to mention a generous helping of boobs. Reel Evil doesn't advance the genre, but it does what it's supposed to and that's all that matters.

Recommended.

Completely at the other end of the found-footage spectrum is Amber Alert. Recommended to me by Joseph Khawam, Amber Alert tells the story of a pair of best friends, Michael and Samantha, as they film an audition tape for a reality TV show. Sam's younger brother does most of the actual filming and we hear his voice occasionally.

They set out on a road trip and take note of an amber alert sign over the freeway which describes a child abduction and gives a license number and model of car. They soon stumble across this car and decide to follow it. You can guess what might happen when the opening caption tells you that the video became police evidence.

While Amber Alert is excellent for the most part, with good acting and tense editing, what really annoyed me was the character of Samantha. Yes, she is trying to save a small child, but the hysterics she goes through really grates. Apart from that, the film is really good with a nerve-jangling climax.

Recommended.

** UPDATE **
(8th June, 2013)

I apologise for not updating the page recently. I've been busy with other stuff. I've seen quite  a few new found-footage films recently, but have been remiss in not including them in this list. You know what? I can't remember most of them. The quality was that low!

JeTi Films' Shallow Creek Cult  is an enjoyable film following a pair of men on the seemingly simple task of scattering a relative's ashes. Things go from bad to worse and they end up fighting for their lives against weird pig-man things.

There are some genuine shocking moments and the film-makers have made good use of what they have to work with. I look forward to seeing what these guys can do with a bigger budget.

 

V/H/S was one of the better entries into the found-footage market. It made the portmanteau genre cool again and the stories it told were exciting, shocking and, above all, entertaining.

Unfortunately, V/H/S/2 does not continue that trend. What we have here are a group of stories, linked (as in the original) with somebody watching the tapes in a spooky, seemingly deserted, house into which they have broken. While each segment is well-made and well-acted, it's the stories themselves that are the let-down. The producers have gone for a 'more-is-more' approach and most of the tales have an apocalyptic feel to them. We have demons (badly-realised ones), ghosts, zombies and aliens, yet none of it is really shocking or surprising. Actually, sometimes, they are annoying (particularly the aliens).

Give it a whirl, but, to be honest, just watch the first film again.

 

The Inside is set in Ireland and follows a group of young revellers being terrorised by a gang of vagrants. As the tension mounts, it emerges that not only are the youths in danger from the vagrants, but another force is stalking them in the tunnels beneath Dublin.

The Inside isn't terrible, but it isn't that good, either. While it is interesting and there are some tense moments, the supernatural aspect is a bit of a letdown. I think it's supposed to be some sort of demonic presence, yet all we see is a distorted man snarling and growling as the camera goes doolally.

I picked up my copy for a few quid from Asda, and it was just about worth that. Ooh, harsh...

 

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** UPDATE **
(2nd July, 2013)

A hatful of films this time. I won't go into great detail, so here they are:


616: The Paranormal Incident is a bizarre romp that has the lot: spooks, demons, government conspiracy and boobs. Mental, but enjoyable lunacy.

*UPDATE* Arrow Films in the UK has repackaged this film for DVD, entitling it Paranormal Incident 2.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident is a glossy entry into the genre, directed by Renny Harlin. It starts as expected and the finale is exciting, if a little CGI-heavy.

Europa Report is another extremely well-made example with startlingly realistic effects and a terrific climax.

The Vatican Exorcisms begins well, with a film crew uncovering weird goings-on in The Vatican, but it drags and I found it, frankly, boring.

Unaware has been a long time coming and of the entries listed today, it is the most 'pure' found-footage film. Well acted and edited with a killer ending.

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** UPDATE **
(3rd July, 2013)

I've actually had The Slaughter Tapes on my shelf for a few months. Just got round to watching it. Not great. A documentary crew sets off to make a film about the porn industry and it goes wrong. Mixes found-footage with traditional narrative. Doesn't really work. Not totally terrible, though.

 

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** UPDATE **
(4th July, 2013)

I had read some very unfavourable reviews about The Bigfoot Tapes (aka Bigfoot County), so I was unsure whether or not to view it. I am glad I finally did because it's actually pretty good. In 2009, a trio of filmmakers venture into California's forests in search of Bigfoot and end up running for their lives. It's well-acted, quite well shot (for a found-footage film) and it has a very unsettling climax, which is offset by a last second cameo. You might find it in your supermarket for a few quid, so give it a shot.

 

 

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** UPDATE **
(17th July, 2013)

I just remembered that I watched a found-footage film a while back and forgot to add it to this list! Durrrrr!!!! Anyhoo, the film is The Frankenstein Theory and there's a reason why I forgot about it - it's quite forgettable.

Basically, the main character reckons he's a direct descendant of the real Baron Frankenstein, the guy upon whom Mary Shelley based her famous novel. Talking a film crew into joining him, he sets off to find The Monster, who he believes still lives in the wilds of northern Canada. Obviously it all goes wrong and death and chaos ensue...

The Frankenstein Theory is an okay film, but, honestly, not enough happens in it. The best bit is where you catch a glimpse of something moving through some distant trees. Really. Even when they find said monster (and that's not a spoiler, to be honest), it's a bit of a let down. Having moaned, though, it's quite well acted and filmed and there are some tense moments. Give it a whirl.

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** UPDATE **
(18th July, 2013)

I just watched Absence! I didn't even realise it was a found-footage film until it started and, boy, is it a great movie!!

When Liz and Rick suffer the loss of their unborn child, they head off to a remote cabin to 'get away from it all'. In tow is Liz's brother, Evan. He is a film student and Liz has agreed to let him keep his camera rolling at all times to document her recuperation for his school project. Of course, things start happening to them and events reach a terrifying climax.

I absolutely loved Absence! All of the characters are excellent. Evan is a dick, but a lovable one. Liz loves her little brother dearly and ex-soldier Rick puts up with him, even though he gets teased mercilessly. I didn't see the twist coming (I suppose I should have, but I didn't, having walked into the film cold) and when we realise what's going on, the tension ramps up to hysterical levels. Watch this movie now!

POV: A Cursed Movie is your typical J-horror ghost story, but made as found-footage with a bizarre twist at the end.

Making a TV programme, a film crew discover that the old school of one of the presenters is haunted and they go to try and dispel the spirits. Naturally, things do not go as planned and everybody's running for their lives before very long. But all is not as it seems and by the end of the movie, you're wondering if the film has a life of its own...

Being Japanese, POV has a nonsensical plot and clunky dialogue, but great visuals and a degree of flair and ingenuity you rarely find in this genre. I enjoyed every minute of it!

 

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** UPDATE **
(19th July, 2013)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star in End of Watch, a cop thriller that tries to blend found-footage and traditional narrative.

Two hero street cops, Taylor and Zavara, find themselves falling foul of drug cartels in Los Angeles.  As they try to lead normal lives, their dangerous careers make it clear that all will not end well...

While it's a fabulous film, the flicking between styles is jarring. Every single actor is amazing and the action is terrifying and frenetic. I think, though the film makers should have decided on a style and stuck with it. Either have all the footage from the cameras that Taylor is using for his law school project and other 'amateur' and CCTV sources or just have a traditional movie. The mix didn't work for me. That said, it really is a great film with a very emotional climax.

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** UPDATE **
(20th July, 2013)

Well, that was intriguing! Invasion is a 2005 film about parasitic aliens invading a small California town. The entire film (apart from a grainy news report bookend) is one continuous shot from the dashboard camera of a police car.

Officer Bardo answers a routine call and heads out into the countryside, expecting to find nothing. Instead he becomes a part of a sinister invasion by extra-terrestrial organisms. Escaping an attack, Cheryl steals Bardo's car and she drives up and down the same road for an hour, trying to evade the infected...

For a low budget effort, Invasion isn't half bad. The acting's not great and the FX are wonky (except for the ear worms, which look cool), but I thought it was pretty good. It gets a bit confusing towards the end, with 'ghosts' appearing, but it kept me watching for the whole 60-odd minutes (with over 15 minutes of credits to fill it out to about 80 minutes!!!!!!!!!!!). Alas, the dreaded musical score spoiled parts of the film. It was not only pointless, but often completely inappropriate.

How come some movies that are absolute garbage get massive distribution deals and some get left behind to be forgotten? Eyes in the Dark deserves to get worldwide circulation right now and make the guys who created it gazillionaires! Yes, it's that good!

When a group of students head out into the Cascade Mountains for a weekend of fun and frolics, little do they know that they will raise the wrath of vengeful and bloodthirsty supernatural forest beasts.

That write-up is pretty much all the story is about, but it's the way that the film is put together that sets it apart from most other movies in this genre. We are told that we are viewing secret FBI video evidence found at numerous sites in the vicinity of the lodge where the kids are staying. It's all very well made and when the creatures finally make their appearances, they do not disappoint, even if we don't see much of them. That probably works in the movie's favour. In fact, I wonder if the producers of British sci-fi horror film Attack the Block got some of their ideas from this film?

I cannot stress how much I loved this movie and I wish it was easily available to buy on DVD without having to order from the United States. Thanks to Mike James Gorman for furnishing me info about the film!

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** UPDATE **
(22nd July, 2013)

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began watching The Jungle, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this Australian found-footage film.

A wildlife expert, Larry, takes his cameraman brother, Ben, deep into the Indonesian jungle to find and verify the existence of rumoured Indonesian leopards. With a pair of nervous locals acting as reluctant guides, it soon becomes apparent that something larger and more fierce is stalking them.

The Jungle is exceptionally well-made and acted. The tropical setting is intensely claustrophobic with leaves and branches forming a green labyrinth which our heroes must negotiate. While there is some gore, it's not particularly gruesome. This is a film about fear of the unknown, not blood splatter.  I don't want to spoil any surprises, suffice to say that the special effects are adequate to their purpose. Recommended.

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** UPDATE **
(23rd July, 2013)

Meadowoods is a little bit like that other found-footage film, Zero Day, in that some school kids decide to commit murder.

Whereas in the latter film, the boys wanted to take out a whole school, in Meadowoods, a trio of disgruntled teenagers choose a single victim and plan her death meticulously. They plan to kidnap Kayla Pruett and bury her alive, while cameras in the coffin will watch her slowly suffocate. Their plan begins to fall apart, though, when one of the trio begins to have second thoughts...

Meadowoods is not a bad film, but it does seem to drag a little, despite being only 90 minutes long. There are some great performances and each of the main players are convincing, from devil-may-care Travis to brooding and cold Stephanie. The climax is intensely claustrophobic and I have to admit that it was almost too much for me to bear. Stick with it, though, because Meadowoods is a decent addition to this list.

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** UPDATE **
(24th July, 2013)

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is an entertaining hybrid film - two-thirds found-footage and one-third slasher film!

A film crew begins documenting the preparations made by Leslie Mancuso as he picks out a set of victims he intends to kill in the style of slasher film villains, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. He initially claims to be Leslie Vernon, a boy who was believed to be murdered by townsfolk after a killing spree twenty years earlier. As his meticulous plans come to fruition, the crew realise with horror, that he intends to go through with his sinister plan.

This is a highly entertaining film, with some nice appearances from Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), Robert Englund (A Night mare on Elm Street) and Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist). There's even a cameo from Kane Hodder, who played Jason Voorhees in some of the Friday the 13th films. Of course, this isn't a traditional found-footage film, but it's a hoot and worth watching. It could do with a tad more gore, though... heh heh.

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** UPDATE **
(30th July, 2013)

Lunopolis is a faux documentary released in 2009, but set in 2012 (kind of ruins the documentary aspect if you watched it before 2012, though!).

A film crew investigates the story that people from the Moon live among us and have a sinister plan to reset history. As they delve deeper, it becomes apparent that their lives are in danger from a mysterious cult called The Church of Lunology.

I quite enjoyed Lunopolis, but never for an instant did it achieve 'suspension of disbelief'. The ludicrous plot was entertaining, though, and I'd recommend it for anybody interested in not only found-footage, but also conspiracy theories.

Thanks to Mike James Gorman and Sarah Hines for pointing me in the direction of this film.

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** UPDATE **
(2nd August, 2013)

When I got Frankenstein's Army, I had no idea that it was a found-footage film. Well, it is and it's a hugely entertaining gorefest!

A Soviet cameraman and his assistant are tasked with documenting the mission of a Red Army platoon as they drive into Germany at the end of World War II. On investigating a distress call from trapped comrades, they find a village overrun with bizarre, undead soldiers.

Frankenstein's Army is great fun. The creatures are imaginative and the gore is splashed around vigorously. The found-footage style is dealt with adequately, with the 'film canisters' being changed regularly, although not for a moment does it look like it was actually shot on film. Great fun, though, and quite scary in places.

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** UPDATE **
(4th August, 2013)

Between 2008 and 2010, Discovery Channel's Animal Planet ran three seasons of Lost Tapes. These were half-hour shows using the found-footage style to tell stories of mysterious, usually dangerous creatures from around the world (but usually in the USA). The creatures ranged from Bigfoot to vampires and werewolves to aliens to lake and sea monsters. The stories were fictionalised accounts of allegedly true stories, with informational segments inserted between the found-footage sequences.

The first season consisted of 14 episodes where unsuspecting people encountered barely-glimpsed creatures. Sometimes they lived to tell the tell, more often than not, they either vanished or their bodies were found. Seasons two and three only had ten episodes each, but they upped the gore and action quotient and we saw more of the creatures.

Mike James Gorman told me about Lost Tapes and I really enjoyed watching the show on YouTube, although the third season is hard to find for some reason. DVDs might be found on Amazon or eBay.

The Realm is a decent found-footage film that tries to do something a little different and, for the most part, it succeeds.

A group of friends try out a Ouija board and contact three spirits - a little girl, her mother and an older man. Falling foul of the rules f the board, the group soon find themselves haunted by the entities and in deadly peril.

I really enjoyed The Realm, but it's not without problems. Most of these are overcome by a very likeable cast and a terrific final act that has some unexpectedly cool FX and a laugh-out-loud final shot. Well, it made me laugh! The main problem is a segment that is in the form of a traditional narrative, where we learn how the three spirits died. It really takes you out of the movie, but it is still quite well done and a little bit heart-breaking. All-in-all, I recommend this film as a fun addition to this list.

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** UPDATE **
(9th August, 2013)

Like a melding of the fictional Brandon Corey Story and the real-life incursion into Bohemian Grove by American radio host, Alex Jones, The Conspiracy is a faux documentary that had me enthralled from beginning to end.

Beginning as an insight into conspiracy theorists, particularly one called Terrance G, events unfold that sees one of the crew become convinced that there is a huge conspiracy focussed on a secretive group called The Tarsus Club. They hatch a scheme to infiltrate the group, but things don't go as planned.

Being something of a conspiracy nut myself, I absolutely invested in the story of The Conspiracy. It is a great fictional narrative, but also look at the real information included. They are not simply plot devices. I have no idea whether or not the producers and writers believe such things as 9/11 Truth or The Bilderberg Group, but it's all in here and more.

Watch this film now, but look at it as more than a simple story of two men getting into something over their heads.

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** UPDATE **
(11th August, 2013)

The Speak is a 'by-the-numbers' found-footage film set in a haunted hotel.

A desperate director promises to pay a group of technicians, along with an astoundingly attractive Native American shaman, to investigate a haunted hotel for the night. The owner, in a weird cameo from Tom Sizemore (maybe he was just in town for the day, I don't know), warns them not to go in, but the director insists and in they go. Just for good measure, a ritual is performed to summon the spirits of the hotel. Oh-oh...

I say it's by-the-numbers, but, to be honest, I quite enjoyed The Speak. The cast do their jobs adequately and there are some nice effects and spooky moments with shadowy figures and blink-an-you-miss-them ghosts. The ending is awful, however, completely ripping you out of the found-footage 'realism'. It's worth giving it a go, though, for the many good moments on offer.

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** UPDATE **
(5th September, 2013)

A brace of films to add to the list this week!

The first one I watched, Penance, was truly terrible and I only got about halfway through before turning it off. A young mum becomes a stripper and ends up being captured by some ex-military nutter who tortures her and some other ensnared dancing girls. Despite the presences of Tony Todd and Michael Rooker, this is an awful film that shouldn't even be a found-footage film. The use of the device makes no sense.

Secondly is The Crying Dead. This is a Grave Encounters-style film that I quite enjoyed. A film crew breaks into a haunted hospital after they are refused permission to spend the night. Obviously it all goes awry. A good cast and some decent (with some not so good, it has to be said) effects make this one to watch.

Finally, finally saw The Asylum's Monster, after it was aired on SyFy in the UK. An obvious rip-off of Cloverfield, we follow two sisters who travel to Tokyo to make a documentary about global warming. While there, a tentacled beast begins ravaging the city. Enjoyable guff, with some good scenes and effects, interspersed with too many over-shaky, boring scenes where you can't tell what is being said or is overlaid with terrible, generic 'interference' filters. Worth a punt, though.

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** UPDATE **
(12th September, 2013)

Our chums at The Asylum have a new found-footage flick out! The Bell Witch Haunting is a decent stab at a traditional found-footage piece and pretty much what we'd expect from the guys that have brought us more in this genre than anybody else. Probably...

Moving into a new house, a family is terrorised by a malevolent spirit. This spook turns out to be the ghost of The Bell Witch, a sorceress who was murdered centuries earlier. At first things are well in the household, but the paranormal incidents (heh) increase until the family are running for their lives.

While I enjoyed The Bell Witch Haunting, the film was let down by unforgivable errors in the text captions ("21th January", for instance!) and a muddled ending that just leaves you scratching your head. Apart from that, it's worth a shot, as there are some great scenes and a few good scares and interesting special effects. The Bell Witch Haunting will be released on November 5th, 2013.

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** UPDATE **
(9th October, 2013)

Apparently, the Eastern European nation of Serbia hasn't dipped its cinematic toe into the found-footage waters until now. Writer/director Marko Marinkovic sent me a copy of Fallen Angel for review and I'm happy to say it's a decent stab at the genre.

A group of young people filming a hip-hop video become locked in a theatre, unaware of its grisly paranormal history. When a young woman in white mysteriously appears, things go from bad to worse. As the group run for their lives, trapped in the haunted theatre, they must face eerie ghouls, Nazi spectres and a bloodthirsty demon.

I enjoyed Fallen Angel and think this team of young filmmakers have done a great job with limited resources. The characters are likeable and the location is well-used (although I don't know why they just didn't shout out of the window for somebody to get help). The dialogue is in Serbian with sometimes wonky English subtitles, but you get the gist of what's going on. Book-ended by interviews performed by the director, giving it a nice found-footage grounding, Fallen Angel is well worth watching. The film is currently on the festival circuit and will be available online at a later date.

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** UPDATE **
(11th October, 2013)

The Dirties shares some similarities with Zero Day, in that a pair of high school students plan to film a massacre at their school. Backed by Clerks demi-god Kevin Smith, The Dirties has more humour than its darker cousin and is a much more glossy affair.

Owen and Matt are a pair of high school nerds. They love movies and decide to make a film about a gang at their school called The Dirties. This gang constantly bully our heroes, often physically attacking them. After their teacher forces them to 'water down' their finished film, Matt decides that they should really kill The Dirties and capture that on video. Owen begins to become increasingly concerned with his friend's rapid descent into madness.

The Dirties is an excellent film with some sparkling dialogue, but it often left me scratching my head. We never see the cameraman (sometimes there seems to be more than one), despite the cast often referring to them, but never by name. Some of the camera set-ups are clearly complex affairs and not in the style of the found-footage genre. Despite this, though, the film works and deserves to be seen. Call me a gore-aholic, though, but I did want to see more bloodshed at the end... What?!

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** UPDATE **
(18th October, 2013)

Life Tracker is a faux documentary that has a similar feel to The Conspiracy or Lunopolis.

Dillon is a filmmaker, and a bit of a loser, who decides to make a documentary about a company called Life Tracker Ltd. This company claims it can read a person's DNA and make predictions based on the reading, such as if you are going to break a bone, what your kids are going to be like and, most importantly, on what day you are going to die. As the company grows, it becomes clear that a huge number of people are predicted to die on the same day in 2015. Is this going to be the end of the world?

Running at a little under 2 hours, Life Tracker is about twenty minutes too long and it sags severely in the middle, but the second half is excellent. The film deals not only with looming worldwide disaster, but with the effect this has on personal relationships. Dillon transitions from a loser to being one of 'The Chosen' (somebody predicted to live beyond Doomsday) and how that provokes fear and resentment. Some of the acting sucks, frankly, but the subject matter draws you in so that you quickly forget the crummy acting of the previous scene. So, while it could have done with a little editorial trimming, I can recommend Life Tracker as a good addition to the faux documentary sub-genre.

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** UPDATE **
(20th October, 2013)

I saw The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill on my local supermarket shelf and thought I'd give it a go. Thank goodness I did because it's an excellent film!

A film crew spend a weekend at a haunted church in Bedfordshire, England, not realising that events would unfold in a terrifying manner. Occult rituals and spooky apparitions have the crew looking over their shoulders and worrying if what they have seen has followed them home.

Filmed in a documentary style, Clophill has a brilliantly authentic feel and I have to admit that I had to check online to make sure it wasn't a genuine documentary. In fairness, most of the footage from the weekend in question are genuinely as they happened and there are interviews with actual witnesses to paranormal events and local residents and experts in the supernatural. The climax, however is pure found-footage horror - and very well done at that. For most of the film, very little actually happens, but the wait is worth it. The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill is an excellent example of Blair Witch-style film-making from the UK and a must for any fan of the genre.

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** UPDATE **
(25th October, 2013)

Serbian found-footage films must be like buses. You wait ages for one and two come along at once. Ha ha. Just kidding. Hot on the heels of Fallen Angel comes Naprata, and it's excellent stuff.

A TV crew from Belgrade travel to a rural village to film a report about violence against women. While there, they learn about a local historical vampire, which, in turn, leads to them filming a ritual intended to summon a demon. Needless to say, things go awry...

I really enjoyed watching Naprata. The cast are all very good and have great chemistry (Ivana could cheer up a bit, though) and each of the interviewees appear authentic on camera. With a running time of only 64 minutes, the film gets to the point quite quickly, but we have to wait for the appearance of the Naprata, the water demon. It is worth the wait, with some eerie shots of the spooky creature, but, to be honest, I would have liked to have seen just a little bit more. The movie premiered in Serbia recently and has already won two awards. The movie will likely be released on DVD sometime in 2014 and I look forward to that.
 

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** UPDATE **
(31st October, 2013)

Endless Corridor is another found-footage film from Serbia. It's a short film, with a running time of only about 45 minutes, but in that time, it packs a punch.

When a group of young people explore an abandoned mansion, they awaken the restless spirits that haunt the dark halls. Unable to hide from the vengeful ghosts of Serbia's dark past, can they find a way out before it is too late?

Endless Corridor won the award for Best Found Footage Film at the Festival of Serbian Fantastic Film. It is very well made and acted, despite having no budget and being filmed in in the space of a week. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the house and the single camera work very well and you just know something is going to appear out of the darkness. You still jump when it does!

 

Loosely based on the events at the real-life Gorman Ranch in Utah, Skinwalker Ranch has instantly leaped right up in my top found-footage films of recent times!

When a rancher's son disappears in a literal flash of light (caught on video), a research team is dispatched to the scene. Setting up sensors and cameras, the crew find more than they bargained for and what started as a scientific endeavour turns into a fight for survival.

What can I say about Skinwalker Ranch except "Wow!"? I know this film might not be everybody's cup of tea and it is far from perfect, but having a interest in UFOs and the paranormal and having read the excellent book by George Knapp and Colm Kelleher, I enjoyed the film immensely. It has everything: spooky apparitions, weird creatures, aliens, UFOs and a message from the past. I loved it! The only down sdie for me was that, as often happens with ambitious found-footage movies, the filmmakers often seem to forget that the cameraman is part of the cast as well as capturing events on video. That aside, I can't recommend Skinwalker Ranch highly enough.

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** UPDATE **
(1st November, 2013)

What's better than watching a really good found-footage film? Buying a DVD and not realising it was a really good found-footage film until you started watching it... that's what! I mean, look at the DVD cover! It bears little relation to what actually happens in the film!

Unidentified is the story of four friends who head out on a 'traditional' road trip to Las Vegas. Jodie, a super nerd, films the entire event for his YouTube channel (really, he is filming because his sister asked him to record Nick's gambling problem). Losing all their money and escaping from a hulking gangster, they head out into the deserts of Nevada. Then their car is struck by otherworldy lightning...

I've been lucky this week. First I watched Skinwalker Ranch, which was excellent. Then Unidentified appeared out of nowhere! With a hilarious script, great acting and some decent effects, I loved this film from beginning to end. I laughed out loud at the gang's antics and when things turn serious towards the climax, it is also handled well. I picked it up at my local supermarket for next to nothing, so you could do worse than picking up a copy. You won't regret it!

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** UPDATE **
(31st December, 2013)

The Warning is a British found-footage film with lofty ambitions... and those ambitions are met!

Set mostly in a partially-closed hospital, the film follows a police detective and his team (one of which is documenting events on camera) as they search for a missing baby after a nurse inexplicably commits suicide by leaping to her death through a window. As the date of 21st December, 2012 looms, things take a turn for the decidedly weird...

I really enjoyed The Warning! Despite a confusing intro card and pointless 'If you have any information' card (RIGHT BEFORE THE CREDITS!), what we have is a really well-made found footage film that makes good use of a single hand-held camera and numerous CCTV cameras dotted around the hospital. The acting is pretty good for the most part and there are some great scenes with decent spooky effects. I enjoyed trying to spot the shadowy hooded figure that often lurked in the background. Highly recommended, but as a note to the producers, lose or rewrite the opening and end info cards (or credits!).

 

 

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** UPDATE **
(23rd January, 2014)

A brace of films today!

First up is Untitled. Thanks to Sarah Welton for telling me about this, as I'd not heard of it. A British found-footage film in the traditional style: a group of people investigate a haunted location in Wales and things go badly wrong.

I thought Untitled was excellent. The small cast were genuinely good in their respective roles and there were just enough incidents to keep you interested for the 100 minute running time. After a typical slow-burn start where we get to know the characters and their trip from London to the Welsh countryside and the remote cottage where they intend to spend a Halloween weekend making a documentary about the tragic and occult history of the dwelling, things begin to happen. Objects move, doors swing open, one of the cast goes through a character transformation and, seemingly unheard by the group, but picked up by the cameras, a baby can be heard crying. The culmination is a brilliant set-piece that has them fleeing the cottage, only to find the car 'out of petrol'.

I loved Untitled and recommend it highly. The best thing is that it can be viewed on YouTube for free!! Hit this link and enjoy



The second film is called Banshee Chapter and is one of those hybrid films that can't make up its mind what it is.

Investigative journalist, Anne Roland (Sleepy Hollow's Katia Winter), sets out to find a friend who took a drug that was created during the CIA's MKUltra experiments in the 1970s. After ingesting the weird blue stuff, he vanished, leaving behind a camcorder with footage that appears to show something paranormal occurring. After enlisting the aid of literary nutjob, Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine), they find the location of the experiments and the horror that lurks within.

Yeah. Loosely based on the works of HP Lovecraft, in particular From Beyond, Banshee Chapter begins as a traditional found footage film and all is great with a great jump scare to lead us into the opening titles. Then it all kind of goes wrong. It's as though the film-makers forgot that they should be making a found-footage film/ faux documentary (Anne even begins with a voiceover explaining that she is making a documentary about her search) and kind auto-piloted into a traditional narrative (see Chernobyl Diaries for another example of this). This also bizarrely occurs in one of the segments where we are being shown footage taken during the experiments in 1973!

Moaning aside, Banshee Chapter is a decent low budget sci-fi horror film with some decent characters and some good scares. The ending (even though you know what's coming) will still have you peeling yourself from the ceiling. So give it a whirl, but be prepared to gnash your teeth when the found-footage gearbox slips into Hollywood automatic.

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** UPDATE **
(25th January, 2014)

Two more films to add to the list. Been busy lately hasn't it?!

The Black Water Vampire recounts the story of a documentary film crew's exploits as they delve into the midwinter snow of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The leader of the team intends to somehow show that a man found guilty of four grisly murders is innocent, but what they find is more terrifying than they can imagine.

This is a highly enjoyable found-footage movie. To say it borrows heavily from The Blair Witch Project (and, in one scene, [REC]) is an understatement. It's practically a remake, with more action and creatures chucked in at the end. That's not a criticism, by the way, because it works and bloody well, too. The cast are likeable and when they get lost in the freezing wilderness, with only a tent to protect them at night, the tension is palpable. It's no secret that they encounter an actual vampire (it's face is splashed on the poster, unfortunately) and it's a great monster which seems to enjoy leaping out of the darkness, gnashing teeth and screeching. The ending is pure 70s/80s downbeat horror gold dust.

The Black Water Vampire is highly recommended with a great monster, if not an entirely original execution.


Dead of the Nite (no idea why it's spelled that way) is another hybrid film which combines traditional narrative with found-footage storytelling. This British production features horror icon Tony Todd and, frankly, his brief presence is a boon.

An extremely unlikeable police detective investigates the murders of a five person ghost hunting team at Jericho Manor. The lead suspect is the mysterious caretaker (Todd), but as the detective watches the tapes they left behind, it becomes clear that something else is at play in the spooky halls.

Yet again we have a found-footage film that tries to be more. The scenes filmed in the traditional style are all well and good, but when we are shown the footage retrieved from the ghost hunters' cameras, both hand-held and CCTV, it doesn't quite work. Some of the shots are clearly filmed by the actors or from static CCTV cameras, but more than a few are obviously staged scenes with careful camera placement and it pulls you away from the found-footage experience. That aside, Dead of the Nite (aargh!) is an enjoyable thriller with a nice twist at the end. It's a shame, though, that the supernatural aspect of the story seems to be forgotten quite quickly after a spooky ouija board scene. Some of the fight scenes are a bit goofy, but fun.

Despite its flaws, this is an enjoyable romp with a decent cast (except for the lead police detective, who annoyed the hell out of me) and the added fillip of Tony Todd.

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** UPDATE **
(2nd February, 2014)

Mike Gorman told me about this film called Look. So I just had to have a, er, look.

Technically not a found-footage film, Look, released in 2007, uses surveillance cameras (CCTV etc.) to tell the stories of several people whose lives intertwine. These stories are variously comical, frightening and tragic. Whether you are a gas station attendant, a nerdish office worker or a respected teacher or lawyer, this film shows us how everybody has a hidden story.

I absolutely loved this film. The use of the cameras is perfect (although I doubt the average CCTV camera has such good audio capabilities, but what the heck) and each character has a good story arc. Some of these stories end happily, some end with extreme tragedy. In fact the only story to remain unresolved is the most tragic of all and I found that quite upsetting and not a little bit disturbing, but I believe that was the filmmakers' point. There isn't always a happy ending. Or sometimes there is a happy ending, but for the wrong reasons.

Anyway, find a copy of this film if you can, sit back and enjoy 100 minutes of pure voyeurism.

 

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** UPDATE **
(8th February, 2014)

Strawberry Estates (sometimes titled Red File 66-095: Strawberry Estates) was allegedly filmed in 1997, two years before The Blair Witch Project, but was not release until 2001. My DVD says 2004. Whatever. It's not very good anyway!

We follow a group of paranormal researchers as they delve into a former lunatic asylum nicknamed Strawberry Estates. As the evening drags on (and it drags, believe me), they encounter naughty kids and possessing spirits.

Where do I start with this film? It is genuinely awful. Not good awful, wherein it is so bad that you can forgive it and simply enjoy, it is just terrible. The acting is hopeless (except for one segment at the beginning where one of the lead character's friends tells a spooky story - best bit of the film), the camera work is shoddy (but it is a found-footage film, after all, I suppose), the script is actually not bad, but, as I said, the actors do it no favours, and did I mention the terrible acting? The simple fact is that 'Strawberry Estates' is boring. It is half an hour too long, the characters are annoying, there is far too much exposition and when the end comes, it is a blessed relief to eject the disc and consign it to the back of the shelf.

I don't like dissing movies and I'm sure the filmmakers are wonderful people, but Strawberry Estates should be a film they omit from their respective resumes.

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** UPDATE **
(9th February, 2014)

Devil's Due can be classed as a big budget found-footage film, up there with the likes of Cloverfield and Chronicle, but it has received a generally negative reception from critics and punters. I don't know why because I enjoyed it immensely.

Zach and Sam visit the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon, where they are taken to a mysterious 'nightclub' by a jovial taxi driver. While there, 'something' happens and when they return home, Sam finds that she is pregnant. Over the course of the pregnancy, it seems that all is not well with the baby and the couple find themselves in the centre of a conspiracy to bring about the birth of the Anti-Christ.

With a budget of $7 million, Devil's Due is a very slick affair. With an excellent cast (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller as the newly-weds are extremely likeable) and some good effects, this is how a 'studio FF film' should be made. It is not all great, though, and there is one sequence (some kids in the woods that just happen to have a video camera with them) that grated a little, even though it ended up being a big set-piece that brought a smile to my face. Highly recommended.

 

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** UPDATE **
(11th February, 2014)

I finally got round to seeing Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and I'm happy to say that it is a fine return to form for the franchise. In fact, I dare say it is the best of the series so far!

In Oxnard, California (a hundred or so miles from San Diego and Carlsbad, where the first two films took place), Jesse and Hector are high school graduates and best friends. They enjoy performing 'Jackass-style' stunts and filming them for the internet (where the excuse for found-footage comes in). When a neighbour is murdered, the curious friends stumble into the affairs of the coven that featured in the latest films. As Jesse descends into the pit of demonic possession, Hector and Jesse's family try to save him.

As I said at the beginning, I think this may be the best film of the series to date. The new characters are very well portrayed and there are hilarious scenes as Jesse believes he is developing super powers. The action is well-staged and there are some good effects and stunts. There are also some nice nods to the earlier films, with Ali Rey making an appearance, along with series regular, Katie Featherston and a few others. The climax is heart-pounding stuff and satisfying. I only hope Paranormal Activity 5, due out in October, 2014, continues this upward trend. Highly Recommended!

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** UPDATE **
(15th February, 2014)

Muirhouse is an Australian faux documentary/found-footage film set in a real-life haunted house (not called Muirhouse!).

Philip Muirhouse (Iain PF McDonald) is a paranormal author whose next book features haunted homesteads of Australia. The book will feature a DVD documentary filmed in Australia's most haunted house, The Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee, New South Wales. The first time we see Philip, however, is the morning after. He is apprehended by police, covered with blood and wielding a blood-soaked hammer. Apparently, he has murdered his three companions. What follows, is the story of what occurs in the house on that fateful night.

I absolutely loved Muirhouse. It is exceptionally well-made and the use of the actual Monte Cristo house, its genuine history and photos of alleged ghosts taken in the house raises this above more high profile found-footage films. Iain McDonald is hugely charismatic and believable as Philip Muirhouse and his reactions as he hears knocks and footsteps appear genuine. My only problem with the film is the aspect of the story that has Muirhouse murdering his companions. Firstly, we don't see this happen (it is alluded to in captions at the beginning and audio from a phone call to police played over the end credits) and it is not really explained why and how this comes about in the film itself. Sure, the house is supposed to be the home of bad spirits, but (aside from a cat being and a maid being chucked over a balcony) there is no history people being possessed to commit murder. Perhaps I'm nitpicking, because the rest of the film is wonderful. What is better, though, is the director's commentary on the DVD. Tanzeal Rahim tells us how the film is made, which is interesting, but his stories of genuine spooky events are, perhaps, more interesting than what happens in the film itself!

Buy this film now!

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** UPDATE **
(21st February, 2014)

Mike Gorman told me about 84 Charlie MoPic, so I checked it out.

MoPic is the title character in this 1989 faux documentary set during the Vietnam War. He is a Motion Picture Specialist (hence his nickname) assigned, along with a green lieutenant, to a reconnaissance patrol. As they head into the war zone, a routine mission goes horribly wrong.

While 84 Charlie MoPic is an interesting film and kept my attention from beginning to end, it's by no means gripping. Most of the film is simply the soldiers talking to one another or Mopic's camera. Thankfully, the dialogue is well-written and the characters are well-portrayed, from the tough sergeant to the joking radioman. The climax, however, is exciting and well-staged. We hardly ever see the enemy, but the feeling is that they are never far away and, indeed, firefights occasionally erupt spontaneously.

All-in-all 84 Charlie MoPic is a good, early addition to the found-footage genre and worth watching.

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** UPDATE **
(7th March, 2014)

Children of Sorrow is a thriller that uses the found-footage style to show us the chilling goings-on in a remote cult compound.

Ellen travels to Mexico to find out what happened to her sister, who died while staying with psychopathic cult leader, Father Simon Leach. As her time in the compound goes on, she becomes brainwashed by Leach and, along with her 'brothers and sisters' must take the final journey to 'transition'.

Children of Sorrow is deeply chilling, showing us how vulnerable people can be manipulated by charismatic maniacs. Bill Oberst Jr. is outstanding as Simon Leach, but we never really understand why he does what he does. Sure, he seems to be psychotic and we are taken, step-by-step, through his plan for his followers, but, aside from that, why does he go to all this trouble time after time? That aside, this is a gripping film with some great performances and some disturbing imagery. Recommended.
Thanks to Vas Gábor for telling me about it.

 

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** UPDATE **
(14th March, 2014)

Chasing the Devil is a 2014 found-footage/faux documentary in which a grieving brother goes in search of answers after his sister commits suicide.

Patrick McCord teams up with a TV paranormal group called ParaShooters and begin investigating why his sister would attack a Pope, spout Latin and then, after a lengthy stay in a psychiatric hospital, hang herself from a ceiling fan, after cutting occult symbols into her flesh. As they dive headlong into the case, it becomes apparent that this isn't simply about one girl's descent into madness. The whole world is at risk...

Now then, this is a weird one. I thoroughly enjoyed Chasing the Devil, but it kind of promises much more than it delivers. The acting is a bit hit and miss and some of the situations are, frankly, ridiculous, but it's all done with such energy that I found it easy to forgive the film's shortcomings. There are some entertaining set-pieces (including a great scene set in the world's largest, spookiest basement!) and some cool special effects, some of which are nice and gruesome, but it all builds to a finale that simply fizzles out. But, as I said, I enjoyed it a great deal. Chasing the Devil is one to watch if you get the chance, as it is really quite good.

Thanks to Sarah Welton for the update.

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** UPDATE **
(27th March, 2014)

The Den is a film told through webcams and mobile phones (cell phones). It is also completely terrifying!

Elizabeth Benton receives a grant to perform a study on a social networking site called 'The Den'. This is her dream job and she can't wait to get started. At first she encounters the usual internet loons doing oddball or lewd things. Some of her interactions are with genuine, friendly people. Then things take a dark turn as she seemingly witnesses a savage murder. With the authorities apparently unable to do very much, due to the anonymous nature of the internet, Elizabeth takes matters into her own hands, but the killer has other plans.

The Den is absolutely stunning. All the cast give stellar performances and there are lots of shocking moments, both in terms of brutality and things to make you jump out of your skin, as well as some scenes that will make you laugh out loud. The film starts of strongly, when we are acting as internet voyeurs. My stomach was in knots because I genuinely didn't know what Elizabeth was going to see next. When things become more physical, the movie seems to lose a little bit of tension (for me at least), but the climax is thrilling and deliberately appalling, almost like a found-footage version of Hostel.

I cannot recommend The Den highly enough. It is a must-see film, so seek it out and prepare to be gruesomely entertained. Thanks go to Sarah Welton and Vas Gábor for telling me about The Den.

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** UPDATE **
(6th April, 2014)

A couple of new additions, both good examples of the found-footage genre.

Alien Abduction tells the story of a family on a camping trip to a place called Brown Mountain in North Carolina. A series of news clips tells us that the area is famous for UFO sightings, which have been dubbed The Brown Mountain Lights. The family's fate is captured by the camcorder of the 11-year old autistic son. After witnessing lights in the night sky, the family lose their way on the winding roads of the area. They find a tunnel filled with abandoned cars and the alien menace reveals itself and only the generosity of bravery of a local redneck can save them...

Alien Abduction is an excellent film, but, in my opinion, this kind of story has been done better before. Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape, Unaware and Unidentified, in my opinion, were all better films. That is not to say that this movie should be avoided. It is well-acted with some great sequences, particularly the tunnel scene (the highlight of the film). My only gripe is with the appearances of the aliens. The lights and blaring horns, frankly, got on my nerves. The Predator-esque noises made by the creatures was clichéd and made me roll my eyes. I also never really believed that everything was being captured by an 11-year old boy. He would often linger on the faces of his family rather than what was going on in front of them. Now, I have an autistic son and I know for a fact that he would have the camera pointed at the aliens all the time! Actually, he'd be out there talking to them and wanting hugs, if I am completely honest. Oh, and I want one of the cameras he has because they seem to be indestructible!

Whinges aside, I can recommend Alien Abduction quite highly, so give it a whirl.

Imagine The Stone Tape given a splash of Lair of the White Worm and wrapped in a Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows blanket and you have The Borderlands, a brilliant, British found-footage film set somewhere in the backwaters of the English countryside (apparently, we still have them).

A trio of Vatican investigators are sent to delve into claims of miracles at a newly-reopened, yet dilapidated church. Intent with uncovering evidence of fraud, the team set cameras all around the church and the cottage in which they are staying. What they find is both deadly and terrifying.

The Borderlands is, simply put, the best found-footage film to come out of the UK. The cast is fantastic, from the tired lead investigator to the comedic equipment tech and the slightly creepy church priest. This isn't some Paranormal Activity clone, however, with objects moving by themselves in the dead of night. Incidents are more subtle, with barely heard voices and noises caught by the numerous cameras. One of the key lines in the film is: "Don't believe all that you see." Remember this as you watch the film and you might spot things changing from camera to camera or as cameras pan back and forth. For instance, there's a scene with a gravestone that made me grin from ear to ear. I'm sure that there's a lot of things I missed and I can't wait to get back into the film and scour every shot! The climax of the film is pure nerve-shredding claustrophobia as the team descend into tunnels beneath the church. It does make you wonder, though, about what happens next.

The Borderlands is released on DVD on Monday April 7th, 2014 and is an essential purchase!

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** UPDATE **
(12th April, 2014)

Sarah Welton tipped me off about Afflicted. I went into this movie completely blind, not knowing anything about it and i was blown away. It is up there with the best found-footage films I've seen. Here's the plot without any spoilers:

Derek and Clif are lifelong friends and set off on a round-the-world trip that will take them a whole year. Derek is diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain disorder shortly before they depart, but decide to go ahead anyway. Clif is a film-maker and they decide to document their trip and Clif uploads regular video blogs to the internet. Barely a week into their trip and Derek is assaulted and succumbs to a mysterious condition that threatens to ruin not only the trip, but their friendship as well.

Afflicted is truly awesome. I really don't want to spoil the film by giving away any of the plot. I will just say that the way Derek's condition is handled is amazing, if a little reminiscent of another popular found-footage film. I liked this film more, however, as the two main characters are very well rendered and what happens seems very genuine. This is a really well-made movie and one that you should seek out and watch without hesitation. Then tell your friends all about it! Without spoilers, of course...

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** UPDATE **
(23rd April, 2014)

Evidence takes found-footage and splices the clips into a traditional narrative. Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi (The Fourth Kind), it is an excellent film that tries something a little different with the genre.

After a stunning introductory sequence where we explore a blazing and bloody crime scene and the discovery of several cameras and mobile phones, we end up in the suite of a forensic video lab, where detectives try to piece together what happened at the murder scene outside of Las Vegas. A group of aspirational youths are heading to the city to make their fortune, but after the shuttle bus crashes, they find themselves stalked by a blowtorch wielding maniac in a deserted ghost town. Will the footage reveal the killer?

Evidence is a slick, glossy example of the found-footage genre. This is no thrashed-together hamfest, but a carefully-worked thriller that uses the genre style to have us guessing who the killer is. It does so wonderfully, although you might figure who the killer is early on, but this shouldn't be a distraction, as there is so much fun to be had watching screaming victims being sliced, gored and burned by the welding masked villain. My only gripe was with a section that had a news channel broadcasting graphic violence, something that I honestly don't think would be allowed, even in these desensitized times.

Anyway, Evidence is available to buy on DVD now and it is well worth your time to buy and watch. Thanks to Mike Gorman for telling me about this excellent film.

p.s.
This film should not be confused with the equally-excellent, yet infinitely smaller budget film of the same name, reviewed here.

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** UPDATE **
(26th April, 2014)

Exhibit A is a British found-footage film set in the northern city of Leeds. It is disturbing, funny, but also very, very good.

The Kings are an average Yorkshire family living average lives. Teenager Judith loves using her new camcorder and records all of her thoughts and feelings, even her love for neighbour, Claire. Dad, Andy, is a funny, happy-go-lucky type and his single goal in life is to make his family happy. Mum, Sheila, and eldest child, Joe, finish off the family quartet. When Andy says he has got a big promotion and they can sell up and move to the coast, everybody is happy (except Judith), but soon things start to go wrong...

Exhibit A is extremely well-made and acted (although to a Yorkshireman, some of the lines seem a little forced, but I suppose having the cast speaking broad Yorkshire would make it unintelligible!). The Kings are a family you can really empathise with and watching Andy's downward spiral is heartbreaking at times. The misery is wonderfully balanced by some great funny scenes, with Andy messing about with his family. He is a natural joker, which makes his breakdown all the more sad. The climax is disturbing, mostly because it is so drawn out.

Thanks to Mike Gorman for recommending this very good film.

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** UPDATE **
(4th May, 2014)

Mr Jones tells the story of a young couple who decide to live in a remote cabin for a year, while recording their lives on camera for a documentary. Their experiences take a turn for the weird when they happen upon another house, apparently occupied by a reclusive artist known only as Mr Jones. In an attempt to learn more about him, they soon find that there is more to his sculptures than meets the eye.

This is a classy found-footage film that has just one problem: the last act isn't found-footage! For some reason, the film-makers switch to a traditional viewpoint as the bizarre climax looms. That said, this is a really enjoyable film, well-made and well-acted and one I can definitely recommend.


The Sacrament is the latest film from acclaimed horror director, Ti West. Following his turn in V/H/S, Ti obviously got a taste for found-footage and The Sacrament is a terrific example of the genre.

A film crew head to a compound set up by a secretive cult, controlled by the seemingly jovial and much-loved 'Father'. However, as might be expected, all is not as it seems and not everybody is there of their own free will.

This is a great film and very well made. West goes to great pains to try and keep the found-footage style intact, although it does occasionally feel as though there are more than one or two cameras filming the action. Never mind, this is a film that is well worth viewing and yet another home run from one of today's most talented young directors.



Alone With Her stars Colin Hanks as a stalker whose obsession with a young woman evolves from voyeurism to murder.

This is a really good film and Hanks is excellent as Doug, the man so obsessed with Amy, he sets up numerous hidden cameras to watch her day and night. As the story unfolds, we see how Doug deals with Amy's suspicious friends and occasional technical problems. The climax is expected, yet still disturbing and sad.

Thanks to Mike Gorman for reminding me about this 2006 film that I can highly recommend.

 

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** UPDATE **
(16th May, 2014)

It took me two attempts to watch Report 51, but, in the final analysis, it was pretty good, albeit completely baffling and half an hour too long.

A group of young people head out into the countryside (what else?), recording everything on video, obviously. What follows is over 100 minutes of screaming, running, aliens, UFOs and a bonkers reveal at the end...

As I said, it took me two tries to get through this film. The first time, I managed about twenty minutes before the almost unintelligible dialogue (Italians speaking decent English, but often very quietly) and super-loud audio effects had me reaching for the STOP button. I'm glad I gave this film a second chance, though, because, in fairness, it isn't bad. There are some terrific special effects (the aliens in particular and a great scene with UFOs over a city at night) and some genuinely creepy scenes. The script, though, is completely baffling (to me, at least) and I gave up trying to fathom it out and simply enjoy an alien invasion film with people running through woods and deserted streets and dingy tunnels and dark corridors. Early in the film, it is suggested that we can only see the aliens when the video camera is looking at the screen of a phone camera, but later, that angle is dropped entirely without explanation. The second half of the film could have been edited down by half because it is too repetitive and the aliens leaping out of the darkness does get a little annoying eventually. And then we come to the big reveal at the end. It's done through text cards that I won't spoil, but it's a big WTF moment and made me laugh out loud.

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** UPDATE **
(17th May, 2014)

SX_TAPE is the latest film from acclaimed director, Bernard Rose. Unfortunately, it is a by-the-numbers found-footage film that just isn't very good.

Adam and Colette decide to check out an abandoned hospital in the hope that they can rent the place to exhibit her paintings. They sneak in and decide to film a sex tape instead. Unfortunately, the spirits of the hospital have other plans for them...

SX_TAPE isn't a terrible film and there are some good scenes. The problem is that the found-footage style isn't really explored as you might expect from a director of Rose's stature. I found the characters to be very unlikeable, even the cameraman, Adam, who is supposed to be 'the voice of reason', and I felt nothing for any of them. The ghosts of the hospital (which appears to be the real-life haunted Linda Vista Hospital in Los Angeles) are sparsely used and when we do see them, their appearance is spoiled by ugly 'interference'. The grimy hospital location is well used, however, and there is a good scene with Adam watching oddly-functional CCTV screens. There is a fair amount of sex, as expected from the title, and the final shot is supposed to shock us, but it just made me laugh at its pointless inclusion.

So, while I can't really recommend SX_TAPE, it's not the worst found-footage film out there, but I expected more from a director of the quality of Bernard Rose.

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** UPDATE **
(19th May, 2014)

Delivery (sometimes titles Delivery: The Beast Within) is a film that adds a nice new spin on the found-footage/faux documentary style. One of the best of the genre so far this year it is much, much better than the similarly-themed Devil's Due.

Rachel and Kyle Massey had been trying for a child for a while and when she finally becomes pregnant, they agree to participate in a reality television show called Delivery. This will follow them around, documenting their lives from the earliest stages of pregnancy to the birth of their child. As filming commences, it becomes apparent that there is more to Rachel's baby than meets the eye...

I absolutely loved Delivery, from the opening twenty minutes, which is essentially the unaired pilot episode for the TV series (with credits and everything!) to the unbelievably shocking climax. This is how these kinds of films should be made. All of the characters are realistically portrayed, from the very likable young couple to the series producer, Rick. This isn't a film of special effects (although there are some, but they are low-key and my favourite needn't have been in the film at all!) or set-pieces, it's about the people involved and what they endure as Rachel's pregnancy affects her mental state. Having the first act of the movie being the unaired pilot is a stroke of genius, in my opinion, with the rest of the film edited from unused footage. We never forget that there is a camera crew following Rachel and Kyle around and there are some nice scenes where they lose their tempers and throw the film crew out. As for the supernatural aspect of the film, we are left with more questions than answers. was there a paranormal force at play or was Rachel simply losing her mind, unable to cope with the changes in her body? Were the things caught on camera equipment malfunctions? Were some of the physical incidents created by producer Rick? Or was Rachel actual giving birth to a demon called Alastor?

Go out and buy this film today!

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** UPDATE **
(27th May, 2014)

Willow Creek is a found-footage film directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, more famous for his comedy roles in films such as Scrooged and the Police Academy movies. Here, he displays a talent for the genre as he sends a young couple in search of the legendary Bigfoot.

Kelly and Jim are young and in love. Jim has been fascinated by Bigfoot since childhood and he is delighted when Kelly agrees to help him make a documentary about the famous Patterson/Gimlin film, from Bluff Creek, California in 1967. They head out to the site, near the town of Willow Creek, camera in hand, in the hope of catching the elusive man-beast on film...

Willow Creek is excellent! Jim and Kelly are extremely well-portrayed, as are the various locals they encounter, some nice and some overtly aggressive. As is the norm with found-footage films, it takes a very long time for 'things; to happen and it isn't until the final part of the film that the tension really mounts. There is a brilliant, extended scene with Jim and Kelly sitting in their tent, listening to noises outside. It seems to go on forever, and I actually found myself holding my breath, listening for the slightest noises! My only problem with the film is the ending. I was a little disappointed, but I suppose the film didn't have the budget to finish with a huge reveal. That said, the climax is exciting and abrupt.

There have been a few found-footage films that explore the Bigfoot legend, notably The Lost Coast Tapes (my personal fave) and The Bigfoot Tapes, but I can also recommend Willow Creek, which is out on DVD in the UK now.

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** UPDATE **
(1st June, 2014)

There is a sub-genre of found-footage that is generally called 'the mockumentary'. I don't like that term, as it suggests some kind of send-up or spoof. I prefer the term faux documentary... probably because I'm a repressed pseudo-intellectual snob! (winks) There are several entries in this list of the faux documentary, such as Lake Mungo and The Tunnel. They usually differ from your average found-footage film in that often interviews are included with 'the survivors' or 'experts'. Why am I rattling on about this now, even after I've mentioned more than one faux documentary already? Well, last night, I saw what might be my very favourite example of this sub-genre. It's not a new film and I don't know how it passed me by. That film is 2004's Incident at Loch Ness.

A film crew follow acclaimed director, Werner Herzog, around as they collect footage for a documentary called Herzog in Wonderland. We watch as Herzog prepares for his latest film, a documentary about the mythology surrounding the Loch Ness Monster. Produced by award-winning screenwriter, Zak Penn, the film soon finds something large swimming in the murky waters of Scotland's most famous body of water...

I absolutely adored this film. It is equally hilarious, cringe-inducing and exciting. There are some good effects, albeit used sparingly, and the cast are having a great time. Speaking of the cast, they are mostly composed of the actual people they say they are, such as Herzog himself, Penn (who directed the actual film and who portrays himself as your typical Hollywood egotist/idiot!), cinematographer and sound man and, of course, a model in the form of the gorgeous Kitana Baker, playing herself, playing the boat's sonar operator! The one actual actor is Michael Karnow, who plays the crew's excitable cryptozoologist.

The fights between Penn and Herzog are great as Penn tries to 'sex-up' the film (Kitana bravely leaps into the freezing waters in a stars and stripes bikini), much to Werner's chagrin. Herzog point-blank refuses to wear the jumpsuits provided by Penn, pointing out that even the 'EXPEDITITION CREW' badges are spelled incorrectly. Of course, things go badly wrong and not all the crew make it to the end and recriminations fly, mostly in the direction of Penn, who seems oblivious to any wrong-doing on his part.

I highly recommend this film, if you can find it! There's a Region 1 DVD available, but no sign of Region 2. Bah!

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** UPDATE **
(19th July, 2014)

Found-footage films about Bigfoot seem to be in vogue and Hunting the Legend is one of the better examples.

Five years after Chris' dad is apparently killed by a Bigfoot during a hunting trip, the angry young man organises an expedition to find proof that the elusive beast exists. Hiring a film crew and a tracking dog, buying a pair of rifles and the help of his girlfriend and best friend, the team set out into the woods, but will they find the elusive beasts?

Hunting the Legend is a really good example of a found-footage film. It doesn't try to be flashy or experimental. It simply gets on with the story, following the team and documenting their exploits. Obviously, being a super-low-budget film [SLIGHT SPOILER], we don't see a great deal of the titular beastie, but that doesn't matter. Less is often more and we see and hear enough to satisfy. The climax is the usual stuff of found-footage films: a lot of running and screaming. It's all done very well, though, and the ending is reasonably satisfying. The characters are quite well-drawn and the acting is decent, particularly from the German Shepherd!

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** UPDATE **
(21st August, 2014)

The Possession of Michael King follows a recently-bereaved husband as he tries to disprove the existence of supernatural forces. Unfortunately, the opposite appears to be the case and his cameras document the final, terrifying days of Michael King.

While this was a well-made film and as found-footage it worked reasonably well (despite some dodgy, non-FF camerawork), I didn't particularly enjoy it. Even though it lasted under 90 minutes, the movie seemed to drag on and I kept checking the time to see how long it had to go, which is never a good sign. This is a shame because, as I said, it's a technically good film, with quite a few familiar faces. There are some great scenes, some making me cringe in a 'nails on the chalkboard' fashion. Shane Johnson played a good role as Michael King and he is put through the wringer as his body is abused by whatever is possessing him, forcing him to injure himself and carry out obscene and murderous tasks. That said, I never felt much for him from the start (such as I never felt anything for Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining, Michael King seems a little unhinged from the get-go).

Despite not particularly liking this film on a personal level, I think it is still worth viewing.

 

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** UPDATE **
(18th September, 2014)

Apocalyptic is another example of how our Antipodean cousins seem to be much better at found-footage than the rest of the world!

Following a reporter and her cameraman as they investigate a remote cult in Australia, Apocalyptic builds tension until a chilling finale when a dire prophecy is said to come to pass.

While similarities may be drawn to Ti West's The Sacrament (and there are similarities), Apocalyptic is a very different beast. It is much more low-key and subtle. The cult is more akin to Shyamalan's The Village than West's Jim Jones compound, all pre-industrial and somewhat naive. The actors are believable and there are some terrific performances, particularly from the children, who are somehow cute and sinister at the same time. The cult leader is all smiles, but in that 'is he really crazy' way. The group are completely under his spell and this, of course, creates conflict with the outsiders. When the crew make a shocking discovery, the tension ratchets up a notch and we end up with a sadly clichéd finale where we are running through the woods, but the ending is satisfying and it left a smile on my face.

I can recommend Apocalyptic without hesitation.


Raised by Wolves doesn't have any lupine wolves in it. There, that's got that out of the way. What it does have is a pretty good story about a skateboarding gang (the 'Wolves' of the title) who drive out to a remote house where, legend has it, a cult leader (popular, aren't they?) committed heinous crimes in the 1970s. Of course, the house is said to be haunted.

The gang get to the house (after a few scenes of skateboarding accompanied by loud American Punk music) and find an empty swimming pool perfect for performing stunts. Then things start happening. Figures appear on the camera, only to vanish on replay, people become possessed, and dark figures with glowing eyes lurk in the night.

After a slow start, the action comes thick and fast and there are some great scenes (the thing in the attic, bloody handprints etc.). The cast a realistic, from the nerd recording everything with his camera, to the tough gang leader who is always itching for a fight. I enjoyed Raised by Wolves and can recommend it as a fine addition to the list.

© Steve JC Johnson - 2011-2014

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Found-footage Films on YouTube
There are quite a few found-footage films (probably mostly made by amateur film-makers)
that can only be viewed online i.e. YouTube.
Here we'll look at those that catch our interweb eye:

The Ghost Footage follows Jason Greenwood as he tries to come to terms with spooky goings-on in his home. It's actually pretty good with decent performances and some nice moments. The ending isn't the best, though. Top marks for effort, though! A sequel, The Ghost Footage 2, ups the stakes and has a spooky, black figure following Jason around wherever he goes. This would have been excellent were it not for the "Where's Spooky?" inserts showing the dark figure standing in various locations. I think it's supposed to represent the demon searching for Jason after he flees his home. Worth a watch, though!
Thanks to Mike James Gorman for finding these.

The Slender Man is a Kickstarter-funded movie that was released for free online. If this is an example of what crowd funding can bring us, then more films should be made this way, because The Slender Man is excellent! A brother and sister stumble across their late dad's research into missing children and by the end of the film, they must face the terror of The Slender Man face-to-face. Obviously made on a micro-budget, the movie gets round creating elaborate visual effects by making the screen break up whenever The Slender Man is around. It works well and there are some terrific scares in the film. The only thing that jarred me was the odd occasional incidental mood music and the fact that all the main characters just happen to be walking around filming everything they do! That aside, this is great fun and free to watch!

Now, there is another film also called The Slender Man that is also on YouTube, but I haven't watched that one yet. I will update here when I've seen it with my views.

Haunted Poland follows Ewelyn and Pau and they return to Ewelyn's home town in Poland to visit her family. Soon spooky things are going on, all captured on Pau's ever rolling video camera. It's okay, if a bit too long. There are some good moments and the actors are believable. I like that, although none of the cast are English (Pau is Spanish), the couple speak it to each other, as it is a tongue they both understand.

The Aztec Box is a found-footage film that can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube or purchased on DVD from the film's website, www.aztecbox.com.

When police investigate what appears to be a multiple homicide done in a ritual style, they find footage recorded as part of a college project. We learn that four college chums rent a house and unearth a strange, wooden box that appears to be of Aztec origins. Almost immediately strange things begin to happen in the house, all captured by the CCTV cameras and camcorders used by the group as part of a college film class project. As activity escalates, it becomes clear that the box needs a human sacrifice in order to open a portal to the Underworld.

I really enjoyed The Aztec Box. Despite some occasional ropey acting, the cast throw themselves into their roles and the film generates its own momentum, keeping you watching to the end. The sparse special effects are well-executed, particularly when one of the cast becomes possessed and we see some cool, shifting features on the face. It's all very subtle, but well done.

So, check out the website and the YouTube link and enjoy The Aztec Box. Thanks go to Mike Gorman for the heads-up.

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Found footage films recommended by friends.
These are films that I may not have personally viewed, but are
recommended to this website.

 

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Found-footage films that are still in production or awaiting general release

It looks like [REC]4: Apocalypse has dumped the found-footageness and gone all traditional.
Still looks awesome, though.
Click here for the trailer, as the video won't embed for some bizarre annoying reason!

Eduardo 'Blair Witch Project' Sanchez talks about his upcoming found-footage film, Exists.

Another haunted house gets the FF treatment in 21 Days

A third V/H/S film is on the way!

The Parisian catacombs get explored in As Above, So Below.


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Updated 18th September, 2014