Nightmare on Film Street has given you plenty of found footage film suggestions and reasons to watch them over the past month. Retrospectives and lists concerning the top aliens in found footage to the characters behind the cameras, but what about the actual people behind the camera behind the people behind the camera?
It’s known that a lot of successful found footage films are either self-funded or very low budget. This doesn’t mean that they’re easy to make. It’s obvious that a lot of hard work and passion are incorporated into these films. The people’s eyes bringing the found footage to the screen have to have some hecking creative minds.
Those hecking creative minds that have created some of the most infamous found footage films caught the eye of Hollywood, and have gone on to direct, write, and produce some pretty hefty projects. I don’t want to say “bigger” films than the found footage that led them to other things because in our minds and hearts, that initial found footage film will always be big.
I now present to you.. Five Horror Directors Whose Careers Were Launched by Found Footage.
5. Matt Reeves – Cloverfield (2008)
Before setting a big nasty upon New York City, Matt Reeves already had a toe dipped into the film world. He grew up with JJ Abrams, and was chosen along with Abrams by Steven Speilberg to transfer his super 8 films over to video. Another collaboration with Abrams was the TV show, Felicity (1998), in which he’s given credit of co-creating, as well as having written a few episodes. Before Cloverfield, the only film that Reeves had directed was the David Schwimmer vehicle, The Pallbearer (1996).
Just like the explosions that Cloverfield caused within the movie and the found footage genre, Reeves blew up. His next project would be writing and directing Let Me In (2010), the remake of the Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In (2008). This would be followed by directing two sequels of the Planet of the Apes franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War of the Planet of the Apes (2017) which he co-wrote. He has a few films in the works, but his biggest is the new readaptation/reboot/remake of the caped crusader Batman, which he is directing, writing (screenplay), and producing.
Busy, busy man this Reeves is. Sadly, his ultimate creative talents haven’t been lent to anything in the world of horror since Let Me In. His producing credits are a little different as he produced both sequels in the Cloverfield franchise as well as the FOX vampire drama, The Passage (2019). Maybe one day.
4. John Erick Dowdle – The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)
Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you haven’t. Dowdle’s The Poughkeepsie Tapes struggled immensely in its release. The film was ready to hit screens in 2008, but due to circumstances (?), it was never given a proper release. It became a sort of underground cult hit due to the mystery behind it, and Shout!/Scream Factory finally gave it a physical media release in late 2017.
The creepy and infamous film caught someone’s attention, as the movie-making machine blessed him. He stayed within the found footage realm with Quarantine (2008), the remake of the Spanish film, REC (2007), and with the recently appreciated As Above, So Below (2014). All of which he co-wrote with his brother, Drew Dowdle. Outside of the found footage genre, but within the horror genre, is Devil (2010), which is a delicious gem that takes place mainly in an elevator. He also co-wrote and directed the Owen Wilson thriller, No Escape (2015).
Dowdle, along with his brother, also co-created the recent mini-series Waco (2018), for The Paramount Network. What will spring from his mind after this? Only time will tell, but count me excited for it.
3. Adam Robitel – The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Adam Robitel quietly snuck onto the scene with The Taking of Deborah Logan, an indie film that brought a terrifying new angle to possession in a docu-style found footage film. Robitel’s eyes along with a demented performance from Jill Larson (All My Children) garnered the attention of horror buffs and Hollywood, alike.
A year after Taking, Robitel had a part in co-writing the screenplay the found footage sequel, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015). Although that’s where his found footage credits stop – for now – he’s becoming one of the genre’s most creative directors. It began with directing Insidious: The Last Key (2018). He combined the scares that the franchise is known for with a touching and intimate look at Elise Rainier’s (Lin Shaye) past and current life. Next for Robitel was this year’s Escape Room. Applauded by critics and fans, the film made a hefty dent at the box office, and has already been greenlit for a sequel.
Just for funsies, you can catch Adam Robitel as Lester alongside Robert Englund in Tim Sullivan’s 2001 Maniacs (2005) doing some … questionable things.
2. Patrick Brice – Creep (2014)
With only a barebones script, Patrick Brice directed Creep (2014), as well as starred in the film. Along with his costar Mark Duplass (who turns in an incredible performance), they improvised every scene, and created a found footage flick that surprised many. Brice also returned to direct Creep 2, which was equally as uncomfortable and fun as the first.
Brice put his name on the map with Creep back in 2014, but he’s only getting started. He wrote and directed the 2015 comedy The Overnight, starring Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling. He directed two episodes of Duplass’ creation, HBO’s Room 104. His upcoming comedy horror Corporate Animals, starring Demi Moore, is set to release this year. It was recently announced that Brice is teaming up with Netflix to adapt the coming-of-age, slasheresque book written by Stephanie Perkins, There’s Someone Inside Your House.
We have our eyes on you, Patrick Brice.
1. André Øvredal – Trollhunter (2010)
Matt Reeves isn’t the only one who’s directed a big monster found footage film. André Øvredal also captured some pretty astounding creatures – yanno, giant, hairy trolls – in his found footage film, Trollhunter. The hecking fun vehicle was Øvredal’s second directing gig, after the thriller, Future Murder (2001). But it’s what came after that captured the entire horror community.
While none of his films saw a return to found footage, they have stayed within the horror genre. Remember a little film from a few years ago about a woman’s body that arrives at a morgue, and Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are responsible for her morgue doings? Yep, Øvredal directed The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016).
And soon, a film that we’ve all had our eyes own will be released. Øvredal is the director behind the camera for the upcoming Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark adaptation! If Trollhunter and Jane Doe have taught us anything, it’s that Øvredal has a knack for the spooky stuff. The trailers that have been released so far for Scary Stories shows promise of some spooktacular stuff. Knowing that Øvredal is the man behind the camera ups that promise – I’d say – tenfold.
Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that found footage films have no flair. That’s right. Flair. Because the above-mentioned directors’ beginnings were so full of flair they’ve led them to very successful careers as directors. Out of those careers, we are privy to some pretty spectacular films. Found footage surges may come and go, but the creativity behind them lives forever.
What director did I miss? Which of these films directed by a previous found footage director is a surprise to you? Let us know over on Twitter, our subreddit, or The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook.