In the spirit of #FoundFootageMonth here at Nightmare on Film Street – we are shifting our focus to UFO’s and space aliens caught on tape. The “found-footage” seeks to give an authentic, and more unique, experience to the viewer(s). Found footage comprises of full feature films ranging from mockumentaries, news footage style, surveillance footage, and perhaps the most common, first-person view (also known as POV). This style of filmmaking lends itself perfectly to insane conspiracy theories, government cover-ups, and mysterious lights appearing in the sky.
The following films may not carry the massive budget of most mainstream Hollywood movies, but that’s exactly what adds to the authenticity of the story. Here are the top 10 UFO found-footage films that are worthy of a weekend viewing and exploration with family and friends.
10. The Fourth Kind (2009)
Starring action star, Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil), The Fourth Kind is presented in archival footage as well as dramatized reenactments. Based in Alaska, the film tells the story of Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychotherapist whose sessions with patients document profound experiences with those who have come into contact with extraterrestrial forces. The film is directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi (Evidence) and also stars Will Patton, an American actor and audiobook narrator most notable for his narration of Stephen King novels such as Mr. Mercedes and Doctor Sleep.
9. Phoenix Forgotten (2017)
Based on the real-life documents of UFO sightings and mysterious lights observed over Arizona, Nevada, and the Mexican state of Sonora, Mexico on March 13th, 1997. Phoenix Forgotten tells the story of Sophie and her quest to finding her older brother Josh, who had disappeared after witnessing the “Phoenix Lights” some 20 years prior. Reviewing a series of investigative recordings left behind by Josh and his two friends Ashley and Mark, Sophie witnesses the outcome of their search for the origins of the “Phoenix Lights”, and where their fate led them. Phoenix Forgotten is written by T.S. Nowlin whose best known for screenwriting The Maze Runner and produced by legendary director, Ridley Scott (Alien).
8. Encounters (2014)
Hailing from Denmark, Encounters carries quite a few scares with a hint of familiarity from The Blair Witch Project. The film’s premise is immediately revealed at the beginning in the form of an onscreen message stating: “On November 26, 2011, a film crew was reported missing in northern Sweden. After 10 days, the Swedish police called off the search. A year later, the Swedish Intelligence Service was hacked by ‘Anonymous’. Soon after, an unknown source published the data from the crew’s laptop online. This is the crew’s footage.” As the film crew travel to the forest of Northern Sweden, with the intent of filming a horror movie, their technology slowly begins to fail as they are left off the grid from any communication with the outside world; providing the perfect ingredients for horror and scares.
7. UFO Abduction (1989)
Presented under the guise of a family home video recording taking place in 1983, UFO Abduction (a.k.a. The McPherson Tape) tells the story of the Van Heeses and their encounter with extraterrestrial life forms during a birthday party. The film was intended to depict a real alien abduction, capturing the entire event on a home video camcorder. Written, directed, filmed, and produced by Dean Alioto, UFO Abduction was intended as a work of fiction, but audiences believed it was authentic. A sequel was released in 1998 with a much larger budget and professional actors titled, Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.
6. Alien Valley (2012)
Choosing to venture more into horror territory, Alien Valley conjures an investigative story in the midst of a bloodthirsty alien on the loose. A paranormal reality television film crew investigates strange mutations within cattle over the course of several days and find themselves in a life or death situation when hunted by an extraterrestrial being. The footage is found and examined to reveal the fate of the unfortunate crew members. Alien Valley takes place in the San Luis Valley in Colorado. Alien Valley is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
5. Aliens: Zone of Silence (2017)
Most notable as a visual effects producer for major pictures such as San Andreas, Chronicles of Narnia, and 300, Andy Fowler took directorial reins of Aliens: Zone of Silence, marking it his debut as a film director. Following the mysterious disappearance of her brother Hal, Morgan is determined to traverse the dangerous terrain of a Mexican desert (known as Zona del Silencio) in an effort to find him. Not only enduring the harsh conditions of the desert, Morgan is confronted with the possibility that her life may be in the crosshairs of an extraterrestrial force. It’s life or death. Aliens: Zone of Silence can also be streamed via Amazon Prime Video.
4. The Alienators (2017)
Two amateur UFOlogists, sent by The Civilian Department of Ufology, are called to investigate a woman’s claim that she is being stalked by aliens. Simple enough case for UFO enthusiasts turns into a series of hilarious interplay among characters. In particular, Vic Singe; an air-guitar enthusiast slacking his way through life. Singe’s character gives some semblance to Donald Gibb’s character, Ray Jackson, from BloodSport mixed with Zach Galifianakis’s Alan Garner role in the Hangover trilogy. Written and directed by Christopher Farley, The Alienators is based on Farley’s 2014 film, The Ufologist. You can stream The Alienators on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi.
3. Alien Abduction (2014)
Another film based on real-life sightings of mysterious lights, this time near Brown Mountain in North Carolina. The anomaly has been observed since the early 1900’s. Alien Abduction follows a family on a camping trip who encounter the threat of abduction by aliens. The events taking place are documented by a young autistic boy named, Riley Polanski. Using the camcorder as a coping mechanism, director Matty Beckerman felt this gave rationale to Polanski’s willingness to continue recording, despite the danger he may have found himself in. The mystery behind Brown Mountain has drawn inspiration for television shows including The X-Files in a 1999 episode titled, Field Trip.
2. Cloverfield (2008)
A massive commercial and critical success, Cloverfield was a product of the imagination of JJ Abrams (Star Wars) and Drew Goddard (Netflix’s Daredevil). The film revolves around a group of friends partying in New York when suddenly falling victim to a massive beast leaving a path of destruction. The struggle to survive in the midst of complete destruction is documented with the use of a handheld camcorder. Directed by Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Cloverfield has not only generated quite a substantial gross, but has produced a franchise spanning several films and a comic book.
1. Alien Autopsy (1995)
Although Alien Autopsy is not officially a movie per se, it was the subject of much debate as to its authenticity. Depicting a medical autopsy of a lifeless alien, the 17-minute film suggests the extraterrestrial being was discovered at the crash site in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. According to Ray Santilli, the person responsible for releasing the film, the autopsy tape was provided to him by a retired military cameraman. The supposed retired military official has remained anonymous. Fox Television released the video under the title, Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction in 1995 and was the subject of much debate amongst the public, as it was claimed to be authentic.
Honorable Mention: For a mixture of aliens and pure horror, you should also check out Bloody Disgusting’s V/H/S/2. In the film’s final segment, titled Slumber Party Alien Abduction, a camera is tied to a dog, Tank, recording the horrific events which take place. As brothers Gary and Randy throw a party with their friends, they are suddenly tormented by aliens. The perspective from Tank offers a unique take on the found footage genre, and a truly frightening experience.
Come join us in appreciation of found footage films by sharing your favorites, sci-fi or otherwise! Head on into the conversation on Twitter, Reddit, and the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook. Don’t forget to subscribe to the NOFS Podcast for awesome horror commentary. Stay ghoulish, friends!