Found Footage in Horror: When It Works and When It Doesn’t

For a film that concerns itself more with a missing map than it does any real paranormal activity, The Blair Witch Project was a groundbreaking feat for the “found footage” subgenre of horror. It’s often cited as being its revival… and for good reason. It was a monster hit and showed a wider audience what found footage films are truly capable of.

Found footage refers to the subgenre of discovering “lost” video of an event, and the film being a compilation of these found tapes.

Any self-proclaimed “horror fan” has seen The Blair Witch Project. If you haven’t, go watch it. Then stick around for these more underrated found footage thrillers:

Creep is my favorite found footage thriller.
Creep is my favorite found footage thriller (image credits: The Duplass Brothers/Blumhouse Productions)

Creep (2014) and Creep 2 (2017)

The Creep movies are, without a doubt, my favorite found footage style films. Much like The Blair Witch Project, they are largely improvised and have the actors themselves filming the entirety of the film.

Both of those characteristics are a staple of the subgenre. And both are a gamble. If the acting doesn’t feel real, it shatters the whole “found footage” premise. And if the cinematography isn’t good, then you lose your audience.

Both Creep and Creep 2 revolve around a videographer who is paid to film a man who’s… well, the film’s synopsis will tell you he’s eclectic. In reality, he’s a serial killer.

The films really excel in their unnerving acting, and self-awareness of the camera (killer Josef sometimes messes with the videographer, and in turn the audience).

Hell House LLC is a great addition to the found footage sub-genre
Hell House LLC is a great addition to the found footage sub-genre (image credits: Cognetti Films)

Hell House LLC (2015)

Part mockumentary, part found footage, and part pure and utter horror… this is another great addition to the subgenre.

It’s basically a haunted house gone wrong… but there’s more to it than that obviously. And if The Blair Witch Project felt overly long to you, don’t worry about Hell House LLC: it’s one of the more engaging films on this list thanks to the use of interwoven storylines. On top of that, it’s heavily atmospheric which I love.

Though its sequels didn’t do much for me, the original Hell House LLC remains one of my favorite found footage films. It really showed that you can tell a great and atmospheric story within the often redundant subgenre.

Trash Humpers is such a weird movie.
Trash Humpers is a strange, strange film (image credits: Alcove Entertainment)

Trash Humpers (2009)

Um. This is one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. I didn’t like it, and I advise you to watch the other films on this list before you check this one out. It is interesting, though, and for its uniqueness it deserves a spot on this list.

I don’t really know how to describe this film, so I turned to its IMDB synopsis, which states that it follows “the debased and shocking actions of a group of true sociopaths the likes of which have never been seen before.” That’s a simple explanation of it, I guess.

Trash Humpers really exemplifies another common characteristic of found footage films: they’re often low budget. We saw in Creep how that doesn’t really matter if the story is engaging and the characters are well acted. But Trash Humpers was too bizarre for me to feel truly engaged, and the low quality of the cinematography and the dragging runtime were distracting.

Cannibal Holocaust is a groundbreaking found footage film.
Cannibal Holocaust was a groundbreaking found footage thriller when it was released in 1980 (image credits: F.D. Cinematografica)

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

The last film on this list was one of the first in the genre: Cannibal Holocaust. Another mockumentary style premise, this one was so well made that it actually got banned in many countries.

It’s your now-typical cannibal film, done incredibly well: a film crew travels to the Amazon rainforest, and disappears after running into some natives with an appetite for human flesh. Only their film survived.

Have you seen any of these underrated found footage films? Did you enjoy them? Let us know in the comments!

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