When I was a child, I was absolutely traumatized by the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. Which means that logically I am now obsessed with horror films, because that’s how trauma works. ANYWHO!
As my love for the genre developed, I began to find myself drawn to movies that looked as though I could do them myself, make millions from just holding a small camcorder in my hand. While that is not entirely true, found footage movies are generally portrayed as just that. Which is what makes them so important. Found footage movies take horror directly into our minds and mess with us from the inside out. Which is why I believe they’re critical to not only horror but to film as a whole.
Let’s take a journey back in time to the year of 1999 (I’m done rhyming now, but you know where we are headed with this). The Blair Witch Project had everyones minds bent and the hair on their neck standing up. Why? Because the film was marketed as almost a true story, add to that the fact that it was filmed documentary style and you have a recipe for true terror. The continuations of the franchise are their own breed of terror but I don’t think we’ll get into that right now. However, the found footage technique, take, style, however you want to put it, really hit the ground running after this film. The Paranormal Activity films, Cloverfield, Creep, and even films like Chronicle all make lasting impacts on the viewers, because they incredibly difficult to purposefully distinguish from reality.
Viewers have a desire, heck, a need for control when they see a film. How many times have you gone into a thriller or a horror film and tried to piece together how the whole thing would play out? How many movies have you found to be predictable? Were you disappointed when you were right? It’s no secret that movies follow a formula, and while found footage movies do as well to a certain degree, they keep something vital to us out of our reach. We begin to feel as though we are the ones doing the filming, seeing the events in real time therefore we feel as though we can’t predict what is going to happen next, which means our comfort of control slowly falls away. We watch the security camera footage through the phone recording, we close the shelter door as the creature we have yet to actually see finally comes into view. We become the main character. Found footage movies are like the film version of virtual reality systems. Play a horror game in one of those…do it…you’ll see.
When audiences become uncomfortable, when they can’t predict things, or confidently understand how it was done with special effects, all cards are off the table. We begin to question things as though we really are the main character, not as if we are watching the main character. Found footage movies take away the audiences security, which is what horror has always tried to do. Not only are they successful at pulling us into the fear, but they are capable of instilling fear over every subgenre of horror. This makes them, in my opinion, the strongest contender in the horror field.
Give me some more found footage movies to watch on twitter (@justmenat_)
Until next time,