You’re heard me say it on the podcast a thousand times; “I’m a sucker for found footage”.  Good, bad, well acted or otherwise, it doesn’t take much to sell me on any film pertaining to be ‘based on a true story’ or sharp cuts of hand-held, *sniffly* footage.

No sub-genre has been more divisive in Horror than ‘Found Footage‘. Merely mention The Blair Witch Project on Instagram, and you’re bound to hear a rainbow of opinions on its merits, marketing campaign, and lack of jump scares. Found Footage films are the ‘reality TV’ of the horror genre. They can be quick and cheap to make, and are made or broken in the editing room.

But despite evoking both rage and adoration from its audiences, the Found Footage genre has some serious staying power. Notably starting with Cannibal Holocaust (1980), found footage films have continued through the 90’s, 00’s, to now. Found Footage may have upgraded from grainy footage to pixelated digital cameras, cellphones and computer screens (like in Blumhouse’s upcoming Unfriended: Dark Web), but one thing’s for sure.. This sub-genre will continue to evolve; finding our fears – and making them play out on the screen in real time.

I have many favorite found footage films. All are horror films that have risen above the medium, that succeeded in making you question ‘could this really happen?‘ But, I didn’t want to make this list without consulting other fans. So I reached out on Twitter, and together with those responses I’ve compiled the Top 10 Found Footage Horror Films Ever Made.

 

Top 10 Found Footage Horror Films Ever Made

10. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

taking of deborah logan top found footage horror
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“Mia records the daily lives of Deborah and her daughter Sarah as part of her thesis. As the days progress, strange things happen around Deborah, and it becomes apparent something has taken control of her.”

Why it’s one of the best?

The Taking of Deborah Logan is a surprisingly scary addition to Netflix’s churn-and-burn horror section. It received a quiet release, without much fanfare. Probably why it scared the pants off everyone who first stumbled across it.

 

9. As Above So Below (2014)

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“Archaeologist Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) has devoted her whole life to finding one of history’s greatest treasures: Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. According to legend, the artifact can grant eternal life and turn any metal into gold. When she learns that the stone is hidden underground in the Catacombs of Paris, she assembles a crew to guide and document her historic mission. As they begin their descent, the team-members have no way of knowing that they are entering their own personal hell.”

 

Why it’s one of the best?

As Above So Below is a deeply imaginative found footage film that takes audiences on a mysterious adventure worthy of a Dan Brown novel. Effectively scary, and even seasoned horror fans won’t be able to predict just where the catacombs lead. Also of note, this is the first of two found footage films on this list written and directed by John Erick Dowdle.

 

8. V/H/S (2012)

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“Four thugs who make money putting their violent antics online are hired to steal a VHS tape from a spooky old house. However, things take a turn for the worse when they find a dead pensioner and dozens more tapes.”

Why it’s one of the best?

V/H/S used the rough and tumble nature of the found footage sub-genre to create a chaotic horror anthology film. Each segement explores horror from a different vantage point, a new lens.

 

7. Ghostwatch (1992)

ghostwatch horror movie bbc best found footage horror
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“A camera crew investigates the most haunted house in Britain.”

 

Why it’s one of the best?

Ghostwatch originally aired on the BBC Halloween Night, 1992. It was presented as a live broadcast, causing an audience uproar often compared to Orson Welles broadcast of ‘War of the Worlds‘. You’ll see as we climb higher up our list, some of the best found footage films have found their audiences through viral, audience-driven release.

 

6. REC (2007)

Rec 2007 found footage horror film
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“Late-night TV host Angela and her cinematographer are following the fire service on a call to an apartment building, but the Spanish police seal off the building after an old woman is infected by a virus which gives her inhuman strength.”

Why it’s one of the best?

REC is fast-paced, erratic, and claustrophobic. You know only as much as the protagonists, and up until the very final frames – no one knows very much at all.

 

5. Creep (2014)

creep 2 mark duplass
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“Aaron answers an online ad and drives to a stranger’s house to film him for the day. The man wants to make a movie for his unborn child, but his requests become more bizarre as the day goes along.”

Why it’s one of the best?

 

Creep is the ultimate effort in breaking the boundaries of social politeness. How far will you go to humor someone who’s deeply disturbed? Creep puts you in the shoes of an awkward encounter turned horror story. (One that’s a scary enough experience to make you avoid all future cocktail party invites.)

 

4. The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

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“Hundreds of video tapes of torture, murder and dismemberment show a killer’s decadelong reign of terror.”

Why it’s one of the best?

The Poughkeepsie Tapes just feels real. Perhaps its because we as a society have been on a true crime docuseries binge, but the rawness of the footage and the story of a deranged Serial Killer creepy enough to rival Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs makes Poughkeepsie Tapes one of the greats. Also the fact that it received no wide release (apart from a Shout Factory release late last year), The Poughkeepsie Tapes has spread like a secret. And you know, most secrets are true..

 

3. Paranormal Activity (2007)

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“Soon after moving into a suburban tract home, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) become increasingly disturbed by what appears to be a supernatural presence. Hoping to capture evidence of it on film, they set up video cameras in the house but are not prepared for the terrifying events that follow.”

Why it’s one of the best?

Paranormal Activity’s viral marketing campaign took the internet by storm. Early trailers allowed a voyeuristic look into early screenings. Nightvision cameras showed stunned audiences, terrified and ducking in their seats. The film itself was low budget; a couple trying to catch proof of increasingly scary disturbances in their home. Paranormal Activity is perfect in its simplicity – it’s just a really great haunted house story.

 

2. Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield Lady Liberty
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“As a group of New Yorkers (Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman) enjoy a going-away party, little do they know that they will soon face the most terrifying night of their lives. A creature the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Using a handheld video camera, the friends record their struggle to survive as New York crumbles around them.”

Why it’s one of the best?

What would a big budget Monster Movie look like from the vantage point of one of the victims? It would look like Cloverfield. Boasting impressive special effects often hidden behind Hi-rises, Cloverfield took advantage of the very real fears birthed from 9/11. Whether running from terrorism, aliens, monsters, or beasts from the sea – you know nothing, and therefore nowhere is safe. Every escape looks like Cloverfield. 

 

1. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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“Found video footage tells the tale of three film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams) who’ve traveled to a small town to collect documentary footage about the Blair Witch, a legendary local murderer. Over the course of several days, the students interview townspeople and gather clues to support the tale’s veracity. But the project takes a frightening turn when the students lose their way in the woods and begin hearing horrific noises.”

 

Why it’s the best?

The Blair Witch Project is scrappy. There are no jump scares, no monsters hiding in the shadows (or are there?). We become intimately tethered to our backpackers. When they become lost, so do we. The disinformation surrounding the film’s release created a viewing experience that I don’t think we’ll ever see replicated. First audiences of the film weren’t sure whether the backpackers were real, actors, missing, or not.

 

Those are Nightmare on Film Street’s Top 10 Found Footage Films Ever Made. How’d we do? Tweet at us your top picks and sound off in our Horror Group on Facebook!