Friday, September 9, 2011

Freaky Friday: Found Footage
Changing Horror Films Forever

When The Blair Witch Project first crashed onto the digital highway, the sound could be heard for miles around. It created a viral phenomenon that changed the way people thought about movies. With its pseudo-documentary style and the infamous shaky camera, horror movies became more about capturing "reality" than the typical blood, guts and glory of the slasher flicks of the 70s and 80s.
Love it or hate it Blair Witch boosted a film genre to the forefront - Found Footage. The style arguably began in the decade of the silent films, but the 1980s saw one of the first mainstream found footage horror movies, Cannibal Holocaust. Featuring a cast of American and Italian actors, Cannibal involves a set of filmmakers lost in the Amazon jungle while exploring the culture of the indigenous tribes. Their footage is later "recovered" by a rescue team, but alas, that team must deal with the hostilities of the tribes.
Unfortunately, for the Cannibal Holocaust's producers, the film was banned in several countries due to the extreme level of violence and the killing of seven animals. In fact, when the movie premiered in Italy in January 1981, the director, Ruggero Deodato was arrested for creating a "snuff film". The charges were later dropped when the actors appeared alive and well. Yet, it never lost that rocky start and has since been dubbed by its marketing team, "The Most Controversial Movie Ever Made."
In an age where reality TV rules the screens, 2009 saw the latest shock wave to hit the big screen with Paranormal Activity. Originally shown at a 2007 film festival, it possessed the same qualities that made the Blair Witch a success - "reality" driven cameras, unknown actors, low budget and a tight filming schedule. The second film Paranormal Activity 2, though produced by the original writer and director, Oren Peli, featured the high powered Hollywood studio, Paramount behind it. Although, Hollywood killed Blair Witch 2, Paranormal's sequel fared far better and the third movie, Paranormal Activity 3 - a prequel featuring the "heroines" of the original two movies - has been slated for release this October.
As within any genre, styles and trends come and go. But, as films like Cloverfield, Quarantine, The Last Exorcism, and this summer's most recent addition, Apollo 18, continue to bring in the box office numbers, it seems this fad is here to stay. And personally, I like it.

Rating: A  (for the Found Footage genre)


  1. Tina, I have never gotten into horror movies. I take the visuals too seriously and then can't sleep for days. But I love to study them at a distance to see why they work for some people. Thanks for this analysis!

  2. This fad has definitely taken the horror genre in a new direction and it needed that desperately. So I'm like you, I'm glad it happened and have enjoyed many of these movies!