It’s Found Footage Month and it’s time that we give heroes of found footage the shout-out they deserve. Not only do these people have some sort of camera in hand when something bad is happening, but they keep those cameras going, though their arms must be tired, their batteries must be running low, people are freaking out around them, and their lives are at stake.
Here are 10 standout humans of the found footage genre – we salute you.
10. Pablo – [REC] (2007)
As a professional cameraperson, Pablo (Pablo Rosso) is used to hefting a camera around, but when he and TV reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) are shadowing firefighters and end up trapped in a quarantined building, he really gets put to work. To capture the strange events unfolding in the building, Angela has Pablo running up and down stairwells, climbing on tables, and basically launching himself into danger in order to get the footage. And he does it, because he’s a professional, even though he’s dealing with violent zombie attacks, camera lights that keep going out when people knock into his camera, and Angela constantly asking for updates about what he can see through his camera. Not to mention that this was an overnight shoot and Pablo is probably also exhausted from having his day skewed for the shoot.
9. Heather Donahue – The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Sure, all three of The Blair Witch Project forest trekkers were handling the cameras, but Heather (Heather Donahue) was the only one who got crapped on by her peers for keeping the cameras rolling. Both Mike (Michael C. Williams) and Josh (Joshua Leonard) lash out at her for caring more about the film project than about the fact that they’re hopelessly lost in the woods. And despite this animosity, she keeps filming! But let’s face it, her stubbornness and ambition are maybe the best things about her. She wasn’t the one sabotaging them further by doing things like throwing the map into a river, and if she had stopped filming just because her friends were mad at her, we would have never gotten to see half of what happened leading up to their disappearances.
8. Derek – Afflicted (2013)
Derek (Derek Lee) and his buddy Clif (Clif Prowse) are traveling around the world and vlogging about it as part of Derek’s last wish (he has a brain condition known as an AVM or arteriovenous malformation — basically blood vessels in his brain are tangled and could produce a fatal hemorrhage anytime). After Derek has a tryst that turns into an attack, he develops a mysterious disease. What makes Derek an MVP is that he continues to turn the camera onto himself and keep up with his video diary entries and livestreams, even as he becomes sicker and sicker and begins to understand that he’s contracted a form of vampirism and that the disease has made him inhuman and murderous.
7. Josh Bishop – Phoenix Forgotten (2017)
The events of Phoenix Forgotten take place 20 years after Josh (Luke Spencer Roberts) disappeared while investigating the Phoenix Lights event in 1997 with his friends. In a tape that was left behind Josh is clearly shown to be observant and clever, noticing strange cars without license plates and plotting out the course that the lights seem to be traveling over the desert. And he does one other clever thing: he didn’t keep all of his footage on him. By leaving that tape behind in the car, his sister Sophie (Chelsea Lopez) was able to suspect that Josh had filmed more, spurring her to search for the missing tape and uncovering the full story about what really happened when her brother disappeared. Honorable MVP status goes to the unknown person who found Josh’s camera after it fell back to Earth and had the wherewithal to mail it to Josh’s old high school.
6. Mike – V/H/S 2 “A Ride in the Park” (2013)
Mike (Jay Saunders) is a cyclist who gets attacked by zombies in why he’s taking a ride through the park. Luckily, he’s wearing a helmet cam. You can argue that Mike doesn’t really deserve to be on this list because it’s not so much that he chooses to keep filming. You can say that the camera just stays attached to him as he becomes a shambling zombie. But I say: Mike died and kept filming, and he keeps filming even when he has some realization of what has happened to him.
5. Aaron – Creep (2014)
When Aaron (Patrick Brice) answered the Craigslist ad looking for a videographer to film some guy for one day, he probably didn’t expect to be chasing the guy through the woods, seeing the guy naked, or being emotionally manipulated/threatened into staying with Josef (Mark Duplass). Aaron is a real champ for keeping his camera on him and lying about it being turned off when big ol’ warning flags started popping up in everything Josef said or did. He was using a professional camera, one that was big enough to be cumbersome when you’re trying to move fast or stealthily. Aaron is a champ for keeping his camera on him, but he might have made things easier on himself (albeit not change his final fate) if he had just left his camera behind and run away.
4. Jake – The Sacrament (2013)
Like Aaron in Creep, Jake (Joe Swanberg) would have absolutely been justified in dropping his camera and running. As a cameraperson for VICE reporter Sam (A.J. Bowen), he’s lugging around a big, professional camera, as the reporting team investigates a Jonestown-like cult. Hefting a camera like Jake‘s is a workout on a good day, but it’s probably wrecking his body when he ends up running through the woods to avoid men with guns. Besides being a physical MVP, Jake also proves his mettle by a) circling back to the helicopter after it was attacked, and b) returning to the cult’s basecamp to attempt to save people instead of just flying away.
3. Hud Platt – Cloverfield (2008)
Hud (T.J. Miller) is a great example of a guy who kept the camera rolling for an honorable reason. He was enlisted to film testimonials at his friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David)’s going-away party, so he literally had a camera in his hand when a strange creature starts wreaking havoc in New York City and he films over old footage while chaos ensues around him. At one point in the movie, someone actually questions why he’s putting so much effort into capturing the disaster. His answer? That people need to know what’s really happening. He values this so much that he literally gets himself torn in half by Clover trying to retrieve the camera and its footage.
2. Donna Thompson – The Bay (2012)
Donna (Kether Donahue) is one of the only non-cameraperson MVPs on this list. She’s a public access TV reporter (teamed up with a professional cameraman) who is in the right (wrong?) place at the right time to witness a mutated parasitic infection terrorizing a small polluted bay town. The film’s premise states that the government hammered down on the town and confiscated all footage depicting the events of the infection as part of a cover-up, but not all of the leaked footage that we see in The Bay comes directly from Donna’s report. This can only lead us to assume that she’s been secretly and painstakingly collecting footage from other people’s phones and cameras, as well as Skype interviews, to edit together a story that gives the broadest perspective possible of what happened.
1. Benji – As Above, So Below (2012)
As Above, So Below follows Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) on her search for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone in catacombs beneath Paris. The footage isn’t part of Scarlett‘s quest; rather, it exists thanks to documentarian Benji (Edwin Hodge), who has taken interest in Scarlett and her story and wants to turn it into a film. What’s great about Benji is that he rigs up every one of the adventurers with headlamp cameras, rather than just depending on his professional camera (which he has to lug through tight spaces underground). These extra cameras aren’t so redundant when Benji can no longer film. His forethought ensures that his project can finish without him.
Did we miss your favorite found footage MVP? Tell us who you think deserves to be recognized and continue the Found Footage Month conversation over on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. And for all your horror movie news, reviews, and interviews, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.