Should Found Footage Stop?

We see these films everywhere, but are they overstaying their welcome? Should Found Footage movies stop?


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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

113 comments

  1. ThatManWithTheHeadband12

    Found footage shouldn’t stop until you reach the end of the footage. That’s common sense, right?

    • But there’s so much of it!!!

    • Holy crap,this is a banal subject for an editorial.

      Maybe he made the video in 2013(when it was relevant) and forgot to post it. Found footage is already dying down,every horror fan already had this conversation years ago,no exaggeration.

      • As a non-horror fan, I’m finding this video interesting, but your response to this is not unlike my response to his attempts at “political correctness” examination. I’m guessing that’s just how it works: People who are already into it can tell he’s behind the curve, while those who aren’t are the ones who get value out of it.

  2. The Spanish horror movie REC also did a good job with the found camera footage style horror movie.

  3. Yes. They’re annoying. If something was done by Halloween: Resurrection, than it shouldn’t be repeated.

  4. MidnightScreeningsman2014

    Good editorial Doug I didn’t realize how much could be done with the found footage horror genre you opened my mind onto what can happen vs what can go bad. Also I heard that unfriended was a horrible movie from a lot of people on this site so to hear you not giving it crap feels refreshing and new. I also would like to see the paranormal activity franchise stop I hope they don’t make any others after this one(and if it bombs I’ll be even more happier).

    Also so glad this weeks featured producer is calluna she is my favorite female producer on this site and I love her brand of quirky and cute humor love how she’s a nerd like me. I was gonna reccomend her to a commentor namedhappymel but wouldn’t know if shed like it or not. I’m glad she’s the featured producer so Happymel can watch her and see if she likes her or not.

  5. My only comment here is that I’d have to disagree with what you said about Unfriended. The premise, of everything being shot from a computer screen, had SO MUCH potential but would probably be one of the hardest things to get right. And that movie did not get it right. The movie turned out to be one of the most boring things I’ve ever seen. I think that, had they stuck with video/voice chat, it would have been much better. But there just SO MUCH READING. It made me feel like I just spent $11 to go read a book rather than see a film.

    As for the actual video, found footage is another one of those styles that is difficult to do properly. I don’t think its really for me as I thought the first Paranormal Activity was more funny than scary. But I do recognize the appeal and value of it. I think it can be done well, it would just be difficult to do. I think Marble Hornets on youtube did it well. ALthough I wouldn’t be able to say what they did differently than the big budget productions to make it more appealing to me.

  6. Here’s something I don’t understand. Why the cameras at all? The story could simply be told through a person’s perspective. This way the view could seem more human, and you’d be surprised how much emotion can be conveyed through motion. This is an idea often used in video games, even when the main character is totally silent, you can still get a rough idea what they’re feeling and what they’re like.

    This is much more plausible than shoving cameras everywhere and FILMING everyone’s personal moments, and there won’t be any need for any silly distortion effects.

    • Because the conceit of “these are things this person saw that we somehow extracted from their brain” is a little harder to buy than “this is footage of this stuff happening that someone found”.

      • That really doesn’t make any sense. Are you telling me that people see a regular non-point of view type movie and can only watch it by assuming it was recorded by multiple cameras conveniently placed at the scene? No one said it had to be information extracted from someone’s brain, it’s just told from a first person perspective. You know like a flashback or something. People don’t question those.

        People use this idea in games all the time, and I even remember a TV show on Comedy Central called Secret Girlfriend that used the same idea.

        • It’s really hard to do it for a prolonged time. You can’t change shots, it’s harder to cut, the angle is really wide and it’s harder to identify with someone you almost never see (only in mirrors and shit). It is very limiting. I’ve done it multiple times and it’s great for short form but already a challenge.

          Often in found footage films there are multiple cams so even the one with the cam in being filmed, you see their response. If not, the cameraman is not really the protaganist (like with REC for instance, the cameraman is a participant, but the journalist is the main character with who we connect with. Cloverfield as well, the cameraman is a secondary character).

          Also, the cool thing about found footage is the added mystery. What happened to them? Of course that effect is not as strong as it was with Blair Witch when a lot of people actually believed it was real. Just with one of the very first found footage films, yeeaaars earlies, Cannibal Holocaust. The producers even got sued for what happened in the film forcing the actors to come out of hiding to show they are still alive.

          • Doesn’t the fact that it’s a FOUND footage movie immediately dispel all mystery? They’re dead, otherwise it’s just a documentary.

          • For some reason there’s no reply button on Olddog’s reply to your post so I’ve had to click you Reply button:

            Olddog – This is my single biggest issue with Found Footage movies – I liked Cloverfield and I liked Paranormal Activity BUT they’re the exceptions.
            The original Paranormal Activity was a good movie but I’ve never watched ANY fo it’s sequels and have no intention of watching any of them! The reason being that despite the original being found footage the ending caught me offguard {I was new enough to the genre and the film didn’t hit you over the head with a feeling of helplessness like say Blair Witch or Quarantine did} and that can’t happen with the sequels – If I know what’s coming then what’s the point. {I also generally don’t like tragic endings – Empire Strikes Back is my least favourite of the Original Star Wars Trilogy despite being a fantastic movie in it’s own right}.

            As for Cloverfield – The found footage works in this instance but if that film was to have a sequel there’s just no way they could go with found footage a second time – It would need to be a full on Movie to avoid looking ridiculous.

    • This idea can even make things scarier, since it’s easier to feel scared and alone, when crazy shit happens and no one will believe you when you HAVEN’T captured hours of footage of everything on high definition cameras.

    • Grace:the Possession. It did the perspective instead of camera thing.

  7. Nice intro. Though I was more of an “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” fan than “Goosebumps” but that was great! Love the jacket too!

    I think there needs to be a distinction between “Found Footage” and “Mockumentary”. To me, found footage is like “Blair Witch Project” or “Paranormal Activity” where the movie is based on footage that was found during an investigation of sorts, which typically has that one big jump scare abrupt ending. But to me, “The Visit” for example is more of a mockumentary. The girl was making a movie on purpose and supposedly edited and put together the final cut that we see. It wasn’t something anyone ‘found’ though it has a similar (though ridiculously higher quality) style.

    But I suppose it’s just semantics. No matter what you call it, I think it’s a tool that’s been overused. As a low budget indie film that actually does something with it, I can understand why they’d use the ‘found footage’ format to save money. When a big budget studio makes it, knowing they can make huge profits on a low budget, that’s when they tend to start screwing it up. I thought “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” were both really good films using that format, though at the time it was creatively making the most of their limited resources so it worked. The fact they were hugely successful I think is what makes the film industry so saturated with these kinds of movies that aren’t necessary, just cheap to make. Studios know that they can spit out a whole bunch of these types of movies for the same cost of one big movie and know they’ll make a profit on pretty much all of them.

  8. the best found footage film I’ve seen in a long time is the movie VHS., the line between reality and fantasy blur so much in this film., I couldn’t tell the difference what was fake., vs what was real.,,.

  9. Marbles Hornets.

  10. Great editorial as always Doug. Like mccuish said above, REC and Quarantine are good examples of found footage movies that I would highly recommend.

    I never quite got into the Paranormal Activity films and my friends told me Blair Witch was the scariest thing ever, but it was more like 3 people yelling at each other in the forest.

    Cloverfield was one of the first reviews I watched from the NC. Kinda nice seeing it in an NC again.

  11. I personally thought the best found footage film was “Chronicle” which you featured here. That is simply an amazingly realistic film. “The Conjuring” was one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in recent films. I never got into the “Paranormal Activity” movies much. I’ve only seen the second one and it was just okay. Yep, I’m tired of them too.

    • Chronicle is my favorite too, most found footage isn’t really my thing, even the good ones, but i just really liked chronicle

    • Yeah it irked me a little that he didn’t even mention Chronicle despite being happy to use footage from it. It did clever things, had a good story with interesting characters and used found-footage for a genre other than horror, so there was definitely stuff there to talk about there.

  12. I watched The Visit with a friend of mine recently and we were the ONLY PEOPLE in the cinema. That added to the creep factor and we were constantly turning our heads thinking there were people behind us.

  13. The Blair Witch Project was actually inspired by a movie called “Cannibal Holocaust”, a movie that’s about a found footage that a company found and we watch the footage with them seeing the horror, gore, and crimes that the cameramen commit until their inevitable death by the cannibals.

  14. There’s due to be a found footage episode of Doctor Who this season, which i’m on the fence about.
    On one hand, it’s a concept that could easily go very wrong and with Doctor Who’s recent track recore of quality, it’s not a promising outlook considering the rocky ground that this sub-genre is already treading on.
    On the other hand, it’s never been done on the show before; and with the Doctor Who universe being full of monsters and… dare I say… paranormal activity, it might be an interesting framing device for something new.
    I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

  15. I prefer found footage in underground horror movies, like when it’s a serial killer making a snuff film. If I found a VHS tape that had ghosts and zombies in it, I wouldn’t suddenly believe in ghosts and zombies. When I’m watching over an hour of hard violence and disturbing imagery, it’s very effective for me. Movies that show as much brutality as possible, that can still leave you with more than just gore, like piecing together the continuity in a movie that has no exposition. There’s also plenty of great moments in movies like August Underground where there’s a triple murder in a store, and the killers drive off, then a police car is behind them and the sirens start. In the next scene, it’s another day. So what happened in that scene? Did the cop car drive past them, or did they talk their way out of it? It works great because in AU, they shut off the camera when they aren’t in control of the situation. All 3 movies did end with open endings that leave you wondering what the aftermath of this was. Also, it feels weird when for some reason, I actually want them to get away with it, like not get arrested or killed, despite that it’s being filmed by some of the most cruel people in movies. There’s enough humanity to break up the torture and defilement, that’s something hard to pull off in serial killer found footage.

  16. Cloverfield was the very first found footage movie I ever saw, and in the theater no less. I think that movie is awesome, and I proudly on a DVD copy of it in my collection. I year later, I finally saw the first found footage movie I’ve heard about, The Blair Witch Project, and it scared the living Hell out of me. And then the Paranormal Activity movies came along, and the ending to the first movie scared me so much, it left me speechless in a matter of minutes, and I put a cross on the nightstand of my bed that night just to be on the safe side.

    BTW, I’m still planing on seeing Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, regardless of the audio of the internet trolls that are obviously played by you, Doug. I’m actually interested in the ghost camera stuff, but I’m not planing on seeing it in 3-D.

    I’ve seen Film Brain’s review of Diary of the Dead, and I also thought it was too well done, and the camera stuff was too unrealistic.

    I haven’t seen The Visit yet, but I’m shocked out of my fuckin’ mind to hear that Shyamalan has finally made a GOOD movie after a little over a decade since Unbreakable.

  17. “We’ve seen it so much we’re sick of it.” Don’t drag me into this! I didn’t see any of them! 😛

  18. Should Found Footage Stop? Yes, please.

    When I watch a scripted movie I want to believe it’s happening to those people. I don’t want to constantly question where the camera man is standing. Take the 1 season TV show Siberia for example. It was very inconsistent about whether the camera men were characters in the show or not. It’s very distracted knowing that part of the framing device is that this is being filmed, but it’s also scripted in a way that fails to answer how it’s being filmed.

  19. One thing that should be said about found footage films is that it can make amateurish quality more forgivable. A personal favorite web series of mine, Marbel Hornets, was made by a group of people who couldn’t afford high-quality special effects, but the way it was filmed made it so real. Also, when found footage is uploaded online rather than made into a movie, it’s a lot easier to believe that it’s real.

  20. Not really a fan of the genre/sub-genre, but the Norwegian film “Trollhunter” is pretty damn good. It wasn’t really a horror film, but was a damn good found footage film.

  21. No, they shouldn’t. Variety is the spice of life. No one is forced to go watch these movies.

  22. I wonder if Doug has seen Trolljegeren (Troll Hunter). It’s norwegian found footage film, which didn’t sound good as a premise, but IMO was executed surprisingly well.

  23. Normally I hate found footage. I really do. But one film actually pulled it off for me without making me wanna strangle the creators: “As Above, So Below”. Maybe it’s not scary in the classical sense but it has an atmosphere throughout the movie and leaves you thinking afterwards, dissecting it because of all the references to Dante’s “Inferno”. It’s refreshing in the entire horror genre, not just found footage.

  24. The only ones I like are Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.

  25. I understand why it’s divisive, but I think Blair Witch will always be my fav found footage film. It terrified me when I first saw it back in the day, and still holds up today imo. It understands subtlety, often times what you don’t see is far scarier than anything you do. This is a fact that’s lost on a lot of modern horror films.

    Also, for a slightly less subtle and more recent found footage horror film, check out Frankenstein’s Army. I watched it with my sister on a whim, and we were both pleasantly surprised. Without giving away too much, it involves Victor Von Frankenstein’s grandson following in his grandfather’s footsteps making nazi-zombie-cyborgs for the Germans during WW2. It goes kinda off the rails in the latter half of the film, but the atmospheric build up and the top notch creature design make it worth a look.

  26. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Grave Encounters! Sure, the film isn’t the greatest, but it’s really creative, and the setting is really scary! Just don’t even bother with the sequel though. Also, I was so happy when I saw that Calluna was this weeks featured reviewer, because she instantly become one of my favorite reviewser! Not just on this site, but in general!

  27. The Million Mask Man

    Sorry? Blair Witch started the genre?
    Two words, pal. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST!

  28. I’m sorry, Doug, but… UNFRIENDED WAS AWFUL, literally the only film I’ve ever watched that I’ve even CONSIDERED walking out of. I want to put that into perspective that this year alone I’ve suffered through Vacation, Fifty Shades of Grey, Pan, Jupiter Ascending, The Perfect Guy, The Gallows, Hot Pursuit, and Fant4stic. I also watched Battlefield: Earth and The Last Airbender in theatres. THIS is the film that made me consider walking out.

    The characters were horrible people, watching the computer screen and typing was boring as hell, reading the text was mindnumbing, it was predictable, not scary, and by the time it was over I was HOPING every one of them, including the stupid ghost, would die, and there’s no excuse for that lazy jump scare at the end. I’m entirely on the side of Dave from thecinemasnob’s website on this one — it was unbearable.

  29. I personally think the reason Blair Witch got acclaim is because many people going to the theater didn’t realize it was fake. I had family members who didn’t myself. If you think it’s real, then…naturally, it’s terrifying. And unlike many other found-footage films, that one was not only “fresh” but was shot in a very realistic manner so it was convincing. Nowadays you know it’s all fake and everyone’s going to die at the end.

    I think the biggest mistake is big-budget found footage films like “Cloverfield” and “Chronicle”, because now the found-footage aspect is just a gimmick to try and sell more. Like the movie never would have been terribly noteworthy if it was another special-effects blockbuster so it has to be found-footage. The part I like about “Trollhunter” is not the man vs. troll sequences but the whole “mockumentary” aspect to it that seems believable…like they’re really out on one of those nature shows with a guy hunting predatory animals.

    To me personally…the genre killed itself by the time it made “The Pyramid”. A found-footage mummy flick? Even non-found-footage mummy flicks aren’t selling. What’s next? Creature from the Black Lagoon?

    • “What’s next? Creature from the Black Lagoon?”

      Most likely, it’s one of four movies they haven’t remade yet. I don’t no about you, but, while I’m not a found-footage fan, I’m not nearly as tired to them as I am of fuckin’ remakes!

  30. …Although, in defense of the “found footage” genre, I definitely like it better than the other big modern sub-genre: “torture porn”.

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