5. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
If you’re looking to sleep with the lights on tonight, then pop on Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum. This Korean found footage gem follows a group of YouTubers who want to go viral with a live stream of their investigation in the infamous Gonjiam Asylum (which is an actual haunted location in Korea). While the film relies on typical found footage hand-held camera techniques, it also plays with form through cutting to the live stream interface, GoPro cameras, and more. With each crew member armed with their own camera equipment, we are instantly given more access to the asylum as the group splits up and captures an assortment of horror throughout the abandoned building.
There are some incredibly clever scares in Gonjiam that made me scared to turn off the lights, a feeling that avid horror lovers don’t often experience. Watching Gonjiam is a rush, providing that kind of scare that feels nigh impossible after years of watching extreme horror, slashers, ghost stories, and more. But director Jung Bum-shik still is able to reduce even the most weathered horror fans into a pile of nerves. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
4. Trollhunter (2010)
André Øvredal‘s Trollhunter is an absolute delight. A group of college kids heads out with a camera to catch a bear poacher in action. After following the would-be poacher Hans (Otto Jespersen) into the forest, they discover what he’s hunting is far more deadly. Hans explains that his job is to hunt trolls for the Troll Security Service and keep their existence a secret. But Hans is tired of doing deadly work for so little pay, so he invites the kids along to document the hunt and expose the truth. Trollhunter is a fun take on the found footage subgenre that plays around with Norwegian folklore while speaking up for workers’ rights. Hans, my man, it’s time to unionize. (Chris Coffel)
3. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Oren Peli‘s Paranormal Activity ushered in a new era of found footage, one that further illustrated the possibilities for horror with a few thousand dollars and a great idea. The premise is simple: a young couple, Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Sloat), are experiencing some kind of, wait for it, paranormal activity. Things move on their own, the sink turns on by itself, the typical symptoms of a haunting. To fight back against said ghost, Micah decides to film them as they sleep to capture any strange occurrences that go on in the middle of the night. Here, Peli utilized the power of the static camera to make the audience really stare at the screen, searching for whatever creature or anomaly may flit across the screen. It becomes a much more interactive and participatory experience as this style asks you to never look away. If you do, you may just miss something. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
If you weren’t there, you don’t know. The Blair Witch Project was a phenomenon. In 1999, the creepy little walk through the woods gripped my school and community. I remember classroom arguments, battles with friends who were certain that the film was a document, and a friend of a friend of theirs knew Heather, and she was missing, for sure. To this day, when I meet up with those classmates, I tease them mercilessly, and they just tell me to “shut it.” They were fooled, but my mockery is there only to hide my own foolishness.
The Blair Witch Project got me too, cuz in the dark, as the shadows crawl and distant sounds echo, my confidence in its fiction waned. Heather, Mike, and Josh never felt like actors, and there is absolutely nothing inauthentic about that snot bubble. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s The Blair Witch Project is a magic trick movie, misdirecting your sense of reality as much as anything else. From a distance, it’s easy to roll your eyes, but when you’re living it, there’s no escaping your doubt. It bites and sinks its teeth deep inside. That witch is real, man. (Brad Gullickson)
1. [REC] (2007)
Once again international found footage shows the U.S. how it’s done with the 2007 Spanish film [REC]. The film follows a young reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) who’s shadowing firefighters during their nightshift with a camera crew for a segment on the local news. So when they receive a routine medical call to an apartment building, they think nothing of it. But when they arrive, the group realizes that there’s something is very wrong here. It all goes to hell incredibly fast as bodies fall into the building’s lobby, old women rip open throats, and infected children attack their mothers.
What they think is a form of rabies turns out to be something even more unbelievable. The found footage format adds to the desperation and randomness of the situation. They were just doing their job and by chance somehow got wrapped up in this strange conspiracy. Don’t bother with the American remake, Quarantine; it just doesn’t pack the same horrifying punch. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
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