10 Found Footage Movies That Don’t Suck

If you’re new to horror, or simply looking to explore found footage – it is a subgenre of horror that presents itself as a collection of discovered or recovered video recordings typically shot amateurly by the characters themselves. The footage is usually raw and unedited – often depicting events that are disturbing, frightening or paranormal in nature.

The subgenre gained popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s with films such as “The Blair Witch Project” (1999) and “Paranormal Activity” (2007). Adopting the use of shaky hand-held camera work, low budgets, and minimal special effects – found footage excels at creating a sense of realism which, for me, makes it one of the most frightening subgenres of horror. Which in turn makes it one of my personal favourites.

I wanted to share with you 10 found footage horrors that don’t suck (in my opinion).

Rec (2007)

“REC” is a Spanish found footage horror film released in 2007. The film is directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. It is also the first ever found footage horror I watched at just thirteen-years-old – I certainly threw myself into the deep end.

The story revolves around a young TV reporter named Ángela Vidal (played by Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (played by Pablo Rosso) who are filming a documentary about the night shift at a local fire station in Barcelona, Spain. They follow a group of firefighters as they respond to a call from an apartment building where a woman is causing a disturbance. Upon arrival at the apartment building – they find that the situation is far more sinister than they had anticipated. A mysterious infection that turns the building’s residents into bloodthirsty, flesh-eating monsters is quickly spreading. Along with the remaining survivors, Ángela and Pablo are trapped inside the building and must fight for their lives against the infected residents.

It has been highly praised for its intense claustrophobic atmosphere, effective use of jump scares, and gruesome practical effects. The film was so successful that it spawned several sequels and an American remake titled “Quarantine” which is also a fantastically frightening watch if you aren’t a fan of subtitles.

As Above, So Below (2014)

“As Above, So Below” is a found footage horror film released in 2014. The film is directed by John Erick Dowdle and stars Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, and Edwin Hodge.

The story follows Scarlett Marlowe (portrayed by Perdita Weeks), a young archaeologist and adventurer who is searching for the philosopher’s stone – a legendary artifact that is said to grant eternal life. With the help of her team, including her ex-boyfriend George (Ben Feldman), Scarlett travels to Paris where she believes the philosopher’s stone is located in the catacombs beneath the city.

The film draws on elements of alchemy, mythology, and religious symbolism to create a dark and unsettling journey through the Parisian catacombs. “As Above, So Below” refers to occultism and simply translates to ‘what happens on one level of reality, happens on every other level’. If there is one film that will trigger your claustrophobia – it’s going to be this one.  It dabbles in occultism and plunges the characters into a vortex of loops, childhood trauma, and harrowing mind games. It’s a fantastic slow burn – creating an atmosphere that is eerie and disorientating.

Grave Encounters (2011)

“Grave Encounters” is a found footage horror film released in 2011. The film is directed by The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz) and stars Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger, and Ashleigh Gryzko.

The plot concerns the crew of an unintentionally spoofy reality television show called “Grave Encounters” which specialises in investigating paranormal activity in haunted locations. In the movie, the team investigates the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital – a supposedly haunted institution located in British Columbia, Canada.

It packs a host of jump scares and increasing eeriness, but what I enjoyed most was the slow decent into madness. Who doesn’t enjoy witnessing self-obsessed, unlikeable characters sink into the depths of depravity and desperation. The classic night vision and ghoulish phantoms go hand-in-hand in creating an environment so unsettling that it will have you questioning if the location is genuine. Plot twist, it is! See Riverview Hospital.

Creep (2014)

“Creep” is a found footage psychological horror film released in 2014. The film is directed by Patrick Brice, who also stars alongside Mark Duplass.

I’m not usually interested in psycho-killer films, but this one sat with me. The story follows Aaron (Patrick Brice) a struggling filmmaker who answers an ad on Craigslist to film a day-in-the-life video for a man named Josef (Mark Duplass). Josef tells Aaron that he has an inoperable brain tumour and wants to make a video diary for his unborn son.

The film’s title probably tells you that not all is what it seems – but I won’t give much away. It was praised for its effective use of found footage techniques, its unsettling atmosphere, and the performances of the two lead actors – a lot of the acting was superbly improvised by Mark Duplass as we witness him become a genuinely unsettling and increasingly unpredictable character.  The film explores themes of mental illness, obsession, and deception and is noted for its ability to create tension and suspense with minimal resources.

The Bay (2012)

“The Bay” is a found footage horror film released in 2012. The film is directed by Barry Levinson and stars Kether Donohue, Will Rogers, and Christopher Denham.

The story takes place in the fictional town of Claridge, Maryland, where a deadly parasitic infection has occurred in the town’s bay. The town’s residents begin to exhibit strange symptoms including lesions, fever, and disorientation. The infection quickly spreads and the local authorities struggle to contain the outbreak as chaos, gore, and panic ensues. The film explores the consequences of human interference in natural ecosystems and the potential dangers of pollution and environmental degradation. Its use of real-world scientific research and news reports to create a believable and terrifying scenario, and its effective use of graphic imagery to create a sense of visceral horror. It’s an interesting take on the found footage subgenre.

The Medium (2021)

“The Medium” is a horror film released in 2021, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun. The film is in Thai with English subtitles.

It’s a Thai-South Korean supernatural mockumentary produced by Na Hong-jin. It follows a documentary crew as they document Nim, a medium possessed by the spirit of a local deity named Bayan. This deity has been inhabiting the bodies of the women in Nim’s family for generations, and soon, Bayan is expected to inhabit the body of her niece, Ming.

Ultimately, something far more sinister has control of her – and her behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing and erratic. This is one of the most sophisticated and frightening mockumentaries I have seen in a long time. It was highly praised in the horror community for its effective use of atmosphere and suspense, its exploration of Thai culture and folklore, and its unique approach to the horror genre.

Devil’s Pass (2013)

Originally named “The Dyatlov Pass Incident” – “Devil’s Pass” is a found footage horror film released in 2013. It is directed by Renny Harlin and stars Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, and Luke Albright.

This Russian-British found footage film is based on the real-life event that occurred in 1959 when nine Russian hikers died under mysterious circumstances during an expedition across the Ural Mountains. In the film, the hikers begin to uncover a conspiracy involving secret government experiments, paranormal activity, and mysterious disappearances. The group soon finds themselves in danger as they stalked by an unknown entity.

It uses a blend of horror and science fiction elements to create tension and suspense. The film draws on real-world events and conspiracy theories which make this a truly chilling watch.

Hell House LLC (2015)  

“Hell House LLC” is a found footage horror film released in 2015. The film is directed by Stephen Cognetti and stars Ryan Jennifer, Danny Bellini, and Gore Abrams.

The plot concerns a group of friends who decide to turn an abandoned hotel in upstate New York into a haunted house attraction for Halloween. The hotel, named the Abaddon Hotel, has a dark history of mysterious deaths and disappearances in which the group hopes to capitalise on to create an even scarier experience for visitors. This is essentially faux documentary that reveals the events in the lead up to a fatal night at the Halloween attraction where fifteen guests and members of staff mysteriously die.

The film was praised for its well-executed scares and suspense, and its ability to create a sense of claustrophobia and dread. It is one of my favourite found footage films to date.

Host (2020)

“Host” is a found footage horror film released in 2020, directed by Rob Savage. The film takes place entirely over a Zoom call during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and features a cast of relatively unknown actors.

The story concerns a group of mostly insufferable friends who, while in lockdown, decide to participate in a virtual seance for “fun”. As the seance begins, the friends soon realise that they have invited an evil entity into their virtual meeting and it soon begins terrorising them.

The fact it is shot entirely on webcams and smartphones, and doesn’t feature any well-established actors might put you off – but it actually creates a uniquely immersive experience. It was very much praised for its inventive approach to the found footage genre and use of real-world events. With its relatively short runtime of just under an hour,  it makes for a quick and intense horror experience.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

“The Taking of Deborah Logan” is a found footage horror film released in 2014. The film is directed by Adam Robitel and stars Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, and Michelle Ang.

The story follows Mia, a documentary filmmaker, and her crew as they follow Deborah Logan – an elderly woman in the somewhat advanced stages Alzheimer’s, and her daughter Sarah for a film about the horrendous disease. As they document Deborah’s condition, strange and downright terrifying and unexplainable events begin to occur.

It has a unique approach to the found footage genre. It was commended for its strong and convincing performance – and its ability to create genuine scares and suspense. It takes on themes of family and the aging of loved ones, and is considered one of the best horror films to come out of the found footage genre in recent years.

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