Found Footage

The Blair Witch Project

On July 30, 1999, The Blair Witch Project expanded to a wide theatrical release and raked in over $25,000 per screen on over a thousand screens, thus becoming the first sleeper horror hit of that late summer, one week before The Sixth Sense opened. The weekend of July 30th solidified Blair Witch’s status as a phenomenon, but to recognize it as a defining date of the film would be to misrecognize what Blair Witch did. Rather than come about as an instantaneous cinematic event (in the way that the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain or the 25th anniversary of Batman have been nostalgically reflected upon this summer), Blair Witch’s reputation manifested as a slow unraveling over many months of speculation and word-of-mouth, from its chilling first-screening at Sundance to an Internet-based fury of speculation to a teaser attached to The Phantom Menace of all things. The film represented a first in many respects – transmedia marketing via the web, a jumpstart of the modern found footage subgenre – but it also bears its young age in surprising ways, whether in its analog aesthetic or the particularly 20th century character of its word-of-mouth circulation. Despite that the film set the supposed standard for viral buzz-creation and found footage horror, The Blair Witch Project remains an important anomaly for a shaky tent-full of reasons.

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The Sacrament

While some horror fads like Asian remakes and torture porn burned out their popularity relatively quickly, one fad continues to dominate the genre: found footage. Part of the reason that it’s so widely used is because the movies are extremely cheap to make and can result in pretty large profits. However, with this sub-genre’s continued popularity, there are many people (like myself, for example) who don’t like it on the whole. Our biggest complaint is that, for using presumed realism to increase fear and anxiety, found footage movies are simply not realistic. But the concern got me thinking: how realistic are found footage movies?

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Riley Polanski getting fingered in ALIEN ABDUCTION

Oh, you’re making a low budget horror film? Cool, good luck with that. No, honest, that’s me being sincere. I just mean that there are a lot of indie horror flicks these days, like three or more dropping every week, and, you know, most of them just aren’t very good. But hey, it’s the exceptions that make it all worthwhile. At least you’re not doing a found foota–oh. You are. Well that’s, I mean, there are some good found footage movies. IFC Midnight just released the very creepy and fresh The Den last month, so there’s always hope. And anyway at least you’re not planning on playing it off as being based on a true sto–oh. I see. Well that works sometimes too, so you’re still fine. Hell, if nothing else at least you have the mystery angle in your favor since the audience won’t know who or what’s behind the terr– Oh. You’re calling it Alien Abduction? Hmm. People have been disappearing off Brown Mountain for “centuries,” and that trend came to a head in October 2011 when 27 people went missing after witnessing strange lights in the sky. The Morris family were among the missing, but a recently discovered camcorder just may offer an explanation behind the tragedy. Blah blah blah.

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Devil

The dream is to get famous on YouTube and translate that success into a feature film career, but so far the only group to truly do that is Radio Silence. The filmmakers behind the found footage uterine horror Devil’s Due made a name for themselves on the site where a bajillion hours of video is uploaded every second, and now they’re staking that reputation on the big screen. We’ll talk to them about that jump and what goes into making a baby. Plus, Geoff and I attempt to sell each other on two debatable ideas: the rising power of fan clubs to demand content from creators and the need for aspiring screenwriters to avoid reading scripts-in-progress. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #46 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Orson Welles

The morning’s most fascinating articles from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Found footage, no matter your thoughts on it, appears to be here to stay. Horror fans were just recently treated to the latest slice of Paranormal Activity, and both the series and the sub-genre itself are getting a bit stale. Part of the reason for that is we haven’t seen much innovation with the formula. Thankfully, The Bay has some new ideas, and they work too! Barry Levinson, the director of films like Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam, is probably the last person anyone expected to do a found footage horror film. In fact, it surprised Levinson himself, who set out researching a documentary on the Chesapeake Bay and ended up with the idea for an ecological disaster film.

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Drinking Games

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Paranormal Activity movies have been massive successes and helped propel the found footage genre into the mainstream. Whether or not you agree this is a good thing, you’re gonna have to brace yourself for a brand new movie of long home video camera shots when Paranormal Activity 4 comes out this week. In preparation for the new film, why not revisit the previous three movies on your choice of platform. To make things go a little more smoothly so you don’t feel the effects of repetition and bad horror movie characters, enjoy this drinking game with any of the films from the series..

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The producers behind the Paranormal Activity franchise have created a lucrative money-making machine based solely on giving us faux found footage of ghosts making various bits of technology go glitchy every October. The first trailer for directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s next installment in the series revealed a film that was going to inch along the loose story Paranormal Activity has been telling, that was going to stick to its web cam shots of flickering lights aesthetic, and that was going to add video chatting to the mix of technological things that ghosts like to mess with. Well, there’s plenty of time before Paranormal Activity 4’s October 21 release, so the studio has saw fit to put out a second preview for the film, and this one adds yet another high tech gadget to the spine-chilling mix. Gasp in white-knuckled terror as you take in the horrific results of just what happens when ghostly spirits take over the operations of your living room’s Xbox Kinect. Oh, the humanity!

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There are a few rules for found footage: the sex tape kind will make the rich more famous; historical archives will be repurposed as propaganda following a revolution; the camcorder boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s has been a boon for today’s documentarians; and fiction implementations of the concept are all about providing evidence of how the movie’s main character(s) died. Does the new fictional found footage film End of Watch follow its respective rule?   [Warning: SPOILERS of the ending of End of Watch to come]

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“Fangoria” as a gateway drug, YouTube fame leading to feature work, a magical 1998 Camry, the way porn plays with our minds, filming “Safety Second” style, and most of all trying to make found footage horror not feel like boring home movies. The filmmakers behind V/H/S (which is available on iTunes and VOD today) wanted to increase the ratio of scares per minute by combining the new popular subgenre with a throwback anthology style. On this week’s podcast, we mirror that anthology style in order to talk with many of the minds behind the punk horror explosion. Download Episode #147

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The Coroner

I don’t try to hide my disdain for found footage films. I think that the people who make them often do so as a shortcut – it provides an excuse to avoid spending money on special effects and laying down tracks and setting up shots, which are all expensive and time consuming. Found footage is often a shortcut, and a cheat, if it’s not done specifically to tell a very unique story. Ghost Encounters almost tells that unique story. The initial concept is pretty cool – a group of reality TV show makers lock themselves into a haunted sanitarium, and stuff goes wrong. The idea is that these guys were the first “ghost hunters” before our cable television has become saturated with them. It opens with a producer telling you this isn’t a movie, but rather culled found footage. Mmhm.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr grabs his camcorder and tries to find the biggest all-night party in Pasadena, filled with slutty, dancing high school girls who looks amazingly like they’re in their early twenties. Of course, he never finds that because this sort of 15-year-old wet dream fantasy doesn’t exist. So he sets his sights on finding something far more realistic than any of the events that take place in Project X: the short, hairy peanut with a mustache and Danny DeVito’s voice known as The Lorax.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? In this bizarre work (half authored by the internet), artist and academic Sebastian Schmieg loaded a transparent image into a search engine, nabbed the top result, searched with that new image, and repeated the cycle. Almost 3,000 images later (2,951 to be exact), he created a 12 frames per second flip book that is both stunning, confusing, and somehow also banal. It’s our everyday extrapolated and turned into what might be called Found Object Short Film. Or it might just be true Found Footage filmmaking. How do you go from images of the universe, to breasts, to Rage Comics, to Google (the search engine itself), to graphs? Let the internet do the directing. Ingenious. What will it cost? Only 4 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films.

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Have you noticed that songs about getting completely, vomitously, blacked out drunk are getting popular now? From Taio Cruz talking about his hangover and drinking until he throws up, to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” and Far East Movement and whatever Ke$ha is, it’s a sobering trend. The generation that’s in high school and college right now is trying to get on dialysis as fast as possible. It’s a noble goal, but it’s still no excuse for buying Natty Light. Meanwhile, at least one film is celebrating the act of celebrating. Project X‘s first trailer was manic and hurried, but this second trailer (via Coming Soon) effectively gives as much backstory as the movie can muster: three high school kids want to make an impact after floating through unknown by their classmates. A party ensues, and then the party goes viral. Check out the party for yourself:

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Although the real question keeping Hollywood awake in 2012 is “Does Winston Wolf clean up dead hookers on Yom Kippur?”, the fine folks over at HitFix have put forth a handful of queries of varying importance which filmmakers, studios and fans might have on their minds this year. It’s their 15 Questions Keeping Hollywood Awake in 2012. With concerns from Lindsay Lohan’s possible last chance to Joss Whedon’s first real shot with The Avengers, it’s an intriguing list that might prove 2012 to be both an endlessly fascinating and completely irrelevant year in the stories behind the movies. Will Smith, Found Footage, Hunger Games, Dark Knight Rises and more. HitFix has questions, and here are the answers:

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This week, on a very special Reject Radio, we talk with the filmmakers behind The Devil Inside about going guerrilla in Vatican City (and responding to negative reviews) and writer Derek Haas (3:10 To Yuma, Wanted) about jumping between screenwriting, short stories, and his “Silver Bear” novel series. Plus, it’s Rob Hunter vs. Robert Fure in the first Movie News Pop Quiz of the season. Let the slap fight commence! Download This Episode

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When the theatrical trailer was released for Paramount’s upcoming horror movie The Devil Inside, I responded to it by groaning and putting my face in my hands. There wasn’t anything in the footage that made this film look any different from the one million exorcism movies or the one thousand found footage horror movies that are already out there. Was this project really necessary? Well, the new red band trailer hints that though it might not be necessary, The Devil Inside might still be pretty fun. No, there isn’t anything revolutionary going on here that’s going to separate this film from the rest of the pack in your mind, but it’s starting to look like this one goes a few steps further than the rest of the recent exorcism films as far as big time spectacle, creepy effects work, and offensive content goes. This time around we get extended bone-crunching gymnastics, camera-splattering vaginal blood, lots of action, and a bit with a baby that’s bound to give you the willies.

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Let’s go through all of the familiar horror film trailer elements that are present in this first full trailer for The Devil Inside: “actual” audio and video (check!), black and white footage of dead-eyed people screaming (check!), news footage that looks real (check!), a bunch of bewildered “experts” (check!), a deeper mystery (check!), religious underpinnings (check!), body horror (check!), creepy hospitals (check!), dark and dank basements (check!), and a real disdain for anyone who is a skilled contortionist (check!). What may have once served a sideshow diversion is now proof positive that someone is possessed by the devil, and horror tropes that may have once seemed fresh are now rung out for paint-by-the-numbers flicks. The latest “found footage” (let’s just put “found fauxtage” into use right now, okay?) film from Paramount, The Devil Inside, focuses the very en vogue trend of exorcisms gone awry. It specifically focuses on a woman whose own mother is believed to have murdered three people during her own exorcism, and her subsequent obsession with other attempts to knock the devil out of people. Check out the trailer for The Devil Inside after the break. Those of you afraid of carnie folk may want to cover your eyes.

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Dimension Films’ secretive Apollo 18, which arrives in theaters this weekend as something of an under-hyped mystery, is another of those mockumentaries that employs the found-footage formula introduced by The Blair Witch Project and incorporated to popular effect in the Paranormal Activity franchise. The notion of said footage revealing a secret, disastrous moon mission is a promising one, full of potential. Unfortunately, director Gonzalo López-Gallego bungles that intriguing concept in astonishing form, turning it into a muddled, mind-numbing mess.

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Why Watch? Because art can be accidental when you intend it to be. On the heels of a lot of discussion about the nature of art comes this experimental short formed from appropriated digital content found on the internet (which oddly mirrors this column that way). The subject? People dropping their cameras. The clips are edited together seamlessly to create a truly poetic experience that’s filled with an odd sort of tension that comes from knowing the camera will eventually drop in every situation. The result, which played at Sundance in 2011, is an intimate portrait of cameras taking a trip they were never meant to take. What Will It Cost? Just 10 minutes of your time. Check out Oops for yourself:

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