Found Footage Horror

Found Footage Critic describes found footage horror as designed to have the look and feel of real filmed events that were lost and subsequently found and made available to viewers.

Paranormal Activity shows the thrill of found footage.


“Paranormal Activity” shows the thrill of found footage.

Sierra Perlmutter, Columnist

In 1999, hit found-footage movie “The Blair Witch Project” was released, and the horror genre has never been the same. The movie follows a group of three college filmmakers as they attempt to make a documentary about small town urban legend “the Blair Witch.” The movie is supposed to look like stitched together pieces of footage from the documentary they’re filming, supposedly “found” five years after the students went missing. This was the first found footage movie to reach cult classic popularity. 

Since the release of The Blair Witch Project, many films have sought to create a similar feeling. The release of “Paranormal Activity” in 2007 was another addition to the genre. This movie follows a young couple who set up cameras around their house to catch the “paranormal activity” they believe to be happening, but things soon go downhill. “As Above, So Below” is another popular found footage movie. It follows an archeologist, her film crew, and a few tour guides as they make the descent from what they think is the catacombs to literal Hell. 

However, found footage doesn’t just include horror movies. Horror podcast “The Magnus Archives” follows the head archivist at “The Magnus Institute,” an academic institution dedicated to researching the paranormal, as he goes through old statements of paranormal activity and records them to a cassette tape. What makes this podcast especially unique is that everything recorded is supposed to be recorded through the cassettes. This creates a unique listening experience, very different from anything else in the genre.

There are plenty of great aspects of found footage: it feels more realistic than other horror movies, it introduces new and creative methods of narration, and it often defies overused horror tropes. This can feel like a breath of fresh air from repetitive slashers and ghost stories.

However, found footage is not without its flaws. Because the footage is supposed to depict normal people in their everyday lives, some movies have long stretches of time taken up with the characters doing normal, everyday activities. While this could be seen as building tension or introducing the characters, more often than not it comes off as a lack of creativity on the filmmakers’ part. 

Found footage is a relatively new horror genre, and while there’s room for improvement in many of the movies, they still provide an original, frightening experience. The growth of this form has proven to be an enduring and popular change in the horror industry.