Since Halloween is coming up this weekend and I’ve already done my Halloween Horror Movie Recommendations for this year and with the success of Paranormal Activity this past weekend, I thought I would make another horror movie type post related to the Point-of-View (P.O.V.) / First Person / Found Footage type movies out there. Many people seem to believe that The Blair Witch Project was the first movie to successfully use this style to captivate, scare or straight up terrify an audience, but little do they know that there were others that came before it, most notably Cannibal Holocaust which was the inspiration for The Blair Witch Project film style.
So I thought I’d take the time to put together a decent list of other (mostly horror) movies that were shot in the same style of the current phenomenon that is Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project. I have personally seen all of these except the last 2, which are currently on my Netflix list and I hope to see them as soon as I can. If there are any other movies in this style that I missed, horror or not, please let me know in the comments.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – As far as I am aware (please correct me if I’m wrong) this is the first movie to utilize the idea of “found footage” that shows the main characters’ point of view as they experience something truly terrifying. In this case “An anthropologist heads a rescue party into the South American jungle to find a missing film team making a documentary on cannibal tribes but can only return with their footage, which reveals their crueler intentions.” The first part of the movie follows the normal film style as this anthropologist goes out to South America to find the film crew, but once he returns with only their footage the movie jumps to that very footage for almost the full remainder of the film. This movie has been highly criticized since the day it was released. After the screening in Italy the film maker was promptly arrested until he could prove that the actors in the movie were actually still alive and that he didn’t just create a snuff film to show to audiences. Despite being released and not charged after proving the actors were still alive many counties opted to ban the movie entirely due to it’s depiction of violence and gore, not to mention the actual slaughtering of animals on camera. And actually, because of the slaughterings on the latest release of the DVD there is a PETA friendly version that does not contain the killings. This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, I own the DVD and it is probably 1 of 2 movies that I will never watch again due to how disturbing and real some of the scenes are. (IMDB)
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The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Probably the most well known movie that uses this style of film making, The Blair Witch Project took the world by storm when it came out in 1999. Mainly in part to a viral marketing campaign that was launched on the internet by the film makers, the movie swept the nation and is one of the most (if not the most) profitable movies of all time (possibly dethroned by Paranormal Activity). The movie follows 3 friends that travel to Burkittesville Maryland in search of evidence of The Blair Witch, a legend in the town. When the group disappears in the woods, a search party is sent in after them. After scouring the woods for the group all that they come away with is the footage from the 3 friends’ cameras and the film is this exact footage. When the movie came out it was hyped beyond belief, it was billed the scariest movie ever and combined with the fact that the internet viral marketing campaign made people believe that the story was real, it went on to be a huge success. Either you love it or you hate it, but there’s no denying that The Blair Witch was quite original for the time and even though it borrowed the idea from Cannibal Holocaust, it definitely had the entire world talking about it when it first came out. Although the hype may have been the movie’s downfall as many people were quite disappointed after seeing it as it plays on the fear of the unknown and the fact that we never really see anything was kind of a let down to some people, and on top of that, the movie is not very conducive to repeat viewings. (IMDB)
[REC]/Quarantine (2007/2008) – I’m going to combine [REC] and Quarantine into one group here because essentially they are the same movie, Quarantine is the US remake of the Spanish movie [REC] and while people will argue that [REC] is a far superior movie, it’s still the same plot and execution so there’s no need for me to write the same thing twice. So these movies follow a reporter from the local news station who, along with her camera man, are doing a report on what happens at night with the local fire department. The entire movie is shown through the camera man’s view and the reporter is our main character. The first part of the movie follows them around the fire station showing the typical things you would expect at a fire house, it isn’t until the station gets a call that the story really gets going. As the fire fighters and reporter get to the scene of the call they find an old woman in her apartment who won’t come out. As the fire fighters gain entrance to the apartment they find that the woman has been infected with some disease and has turned into a “zombie” (and I use zombie loosely, think 28 days later “rage” infected people). As the situation starts to get tense they try to get the other people out of the building only to find that the whole building has been zoned off and quarantined by the “CDC” (or Spanish equivalent). The disease then begins to spread to more and more people as you would imagine, leading to some pretty intense scenes. I thought both movies were very good. They are both very similar to each other, only slight differences that I could notice, but in a way I enjoyed Quarantine more only because I could pay attention to the fast pace of what was going on, on screen as opposed to having to catch subtitles and then glance back at the picture. Quarantine was probably one of my favorite horror movies of last year and I recommend checking it out. [REC]2 should be out in Spanish theaters early next year so keep an eye out for a US sequel as well. (IMDB)
Cloverfield (2008) – J.J. Abrams and company decide that the US needs their own “monster” ala Godzilla and decide to shoot it in the “found footage” point of view. The movie follows a group of friends who find themselves in the middle of a huge monster attack on New York City. There is no back story to the monster’s origins in the movie itself and there are really no explanations to anything. All we see is what these people experienced for a few hours on the night that this creature attacked the city. Now I’m a bit partial to Cloverfield as the viral marketing hooked me from the very first trailer in front of Transformers. I even went so far as to start a website dedicated to the movie and it’s viral marketing which did very well for me. While I thought the movie itself was actually quite good, I thought the viral marketing was absolutely brilliant. Maybe had I actually followed along with the marketing for The Blair Witch I would have been a little less awe struck by the Cloverfield marketing, but the things that this group wove together in order to give us a secret, kind of backstory to the movie and the creature were amazing. This was the first major release that utilized the 1st person point of view since The Blair Witch (Quarantine was released after Cloverfield in 2008, [REC] wasn’t a major release in the US) and since it had a larger budget, we actually got to see what was attacking the characters instead of just being afraid of what we couldn’t see and I thought the movie pulled it off pretty well. (IMDB)
Diary of the Dead (2007) – From the mind of “The Godfather” of zombie movies, George A. Romero, came this movie. The movie follows a group of young film students who are out shooting a movie of their own, as they suddenly realize that the world around them has been turned up side down by the walking dead. And of course being film makers themselves, they pick up the cameras and never stop recording. I had very high hopes for this one seeing as how I’m obviously a big fan of this style of film making and I love horror movies and George A. Romero is the king when it comes to zombie movies considering he practically invented them, but I’m sad to say that I was quite disappointed with this. It’s been about a year since I watched it so I may have to give it another go, but I don’t remember getting that feeling of actually being there with the characters that I remember getting with The Blair Witch or even more recently Paranormal Activity. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a Romero fan or a fan of zombie movies, but don’t get your hopes up for anything ground breaking like I was expecting… Maybe that was my problem, my expectations were too high, but I guess they shouldn’t have been after Land of the Dead, which was decent don’t get me wrong, but it’s no Night/Dawn or even Day of the Dead from the Romero of old. (IMDB)
Paranormal Activity (2007/2009 Wide Release) – Or as I like to dub it “The Little Film That Could”. Shot for around $11,000, this movie was a huge audience favorite back at Slamdance and Screamfest in 2007 where it took the honorable mention award. Now before I get into anything regarding this film I want to say one thing, GO SEE THIS MOVIE IN THE THEATER! If you download the movie off the internet you are going to get a very early cut of the movie with different scenes, a sub-par mono audio track and a completely different ending. I understand if you want to see the original cut of the movie, but right now everyone is talking about the theatrical cut, so if you want to know what everyone is talking about make sure you head to your local cinema. With that being said, if you’ve been living in a cave for the last month, the movie follows a young couple as they try to figure out what is “haunting” their new house by video taping their lives. I’ve already written a review of this movie as well as a post comparing the original ending to the theatrical ending, so if you want a little more info you can check out those posts. But seeing as how I loved The Blair Witch Project when it came out, I instantly fell in love with this movie. I love seeing the underdog come out on top and the way this movie was marketing and finally got a full wide release was very refreshing to see and I’m glad it’s having all the success that it is. The movie, again like The Blair Witch, feeds off of our fear of the unknown. There are no big flashy special effects creatures or zombies, hell there isn’t even any blood, but the way the director builds the tension and suspense is incredible. There were a few scenes were I was literally on the edge of my seat in anticipation. And while some people thought the original ending was more effective I believe that the new ending, although a little bit more “hollywood-ish”, is still very effective and doesn’t take away from the rest of the film. So I highly recommend that if you want to see this one, see it in a crowded theater, don’t download it at home. (IMDB)
The Last Broadcast (1998) – This movie actually came out a year before The Blair Witch Project did, but never took off and I’m not even sure if it got a limited release at any theaters at all, but I did manage to check it out last year when I found it on Netflix. The movie follows 3 guys as they set off to do a documentary about the elusive “Jersey Devil” for a local cable access TV show that they run. A couple days later only one the 3 return and he becomes the only suspect in the murders of the other 2. The movie follows an investigative reporter as he tries to uncover the truth as well as the footage that the 3 guys shot while looking for the Jersey Devil. Now, if you though The Blair Witch was low budget, this one is even lower budget. While the movie wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t good. The ending was interesting and slightly unexpected, but the rest of the movie was just kind of meh. If you’re really into seeing all of these then go ahead and check it out, but if you’re only going to check out a few I would leave this one off the list. However I do applaud the film makers for going out and making this movie in a different style that we were used to at the time. (IMDB)
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) – This movie and the following movie I have not personally seen so I cannot really comment on too much, but of course I’ll give you a rundown of what they are about. In The Poughkeepsie Tapes, the police raid a house in suburban New York only to find over 800 video tapes. Upon viewing the tapes they discover that someone has been murdering people and keeping detailed recordings of each murder. The cops then scan each of the tapes looking for clues as to who the murderer is, who the victims are and where the murderer may have disappeared to. The movie has yet to be released on DVD so I’m not sure where you’ll be able to check it out, it’s been sitting my Netflix queue for over a year now. (IMDB)
The Zombie Diaries (2006) – Again, haven’t seen this one yet, but it is on DVD right now so you can check it out if you want to. This movie is broken into 3 different stories all documenting the spread of a virus that kills people and then re-animates their bodies as “zombies”. The first story revolves around a documentary film crew that is out in the countryside making a film about the virus itself when they find themselves in the middle of the chaos. The second story follows a husband and wife and a hitchhiker that they pick up as they are fleeing London. And the final story brings us with a group of survivors as they flee to an old farm to seek refuge from the undead that lurk outside. That last one sounds a lot like Night of the Living Dead. So again, I cannot comment on this movie as I have not seen it, but it sounds like it could be decent in theory. (IMDB)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) – I put this movie at the end of the list because it’s not really the same premise as the other films above, but it does use the first person, documentary style for most of it that is similar to the other movies. This movie is shown through the lens of a documentary film crew as they follow Leslie Vernon, a wanna-be serial killer as he stalks and victimizes his prey. I thought this movie was very well done and would definitely recommend checking it out if you get the chance. It’s very stylish and unique in the way the story is told. Definitely a cool twist on the typical serial killer flick. (IMDB)
The Last Exorcism
– Produced by Eli Roth, this movie follows a minister who takes a documentary film crew with him to expose exorcisms for what they really are, a hoax. Of course on this trip he ends up getting more than he bargained for when things don’t go quite as planned. I thought the movie was pretty good and had some good scares. It did remind me of The Blair Witch Project in the flow of the story, but it’s definitely a more fleshed out entry into the P.O.V. type movie. If you get a chance I would highly recommend checking this one out when it hits DVD shelves.
The Haunted House Project (2010) – The movie follows a group paranormal investigators as they check out a supposed haunted house. It’s an asian horror movie and looks like it could be fairly decent. I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t chime in on it too much, but you can check out the trailer here.
La Casa Murda (The Silent House) (2010) – A father and his daughter go to repair a house and are told not to go upstairs, but when they settle in for the night weird noises begin to come from the floor above and despite the warnings the father investigates only to disappear… The movie is actually shot in real time and one continuous shot, meaning that there are no [obvious] camera cuts and we see what the daughter is seeing the entire time. Again, haven’t seen this one, but you can check out the trailer here. It is another foreign one, this time it’s in spanish.
Troll Hunter (2010) – A group of students investigates a series of mysterious bear killings, but learns that there are much more dangerous things going on. They start to follow a mysterious hunter, learning that he is actually a troll hunter. You can check out the trailer here.
So if you’ve seen either of the 2 that I have not and want to chime in on how they are please feel free to leave a comment below. Or if you’ve seen one of them and I missed something or completely botched a plot line let me know. Also if there are other movies that follow this style of film making that I have completely missed please let me know.