The first 'Paranormal Activity' is seen through the perspective of a home movie shot by a couple who find their house haunted by a demon. In 'The Blair Witch Project,' viewers are shown footage that was discovered in the woods after the disappearance of three students. 'Cloverfield' is made up entirely of amateur video found in what used to be Central Park.
We smell a trend here! In the age of hi-def, some horror directors have opted to shoot their movies the same way a father would his kid's soccer games. (Smile at the camera, Johnny -- but watch out for that demon!) Granted, the found-footage genre isn't technically new -- it's just reached a new level of popularity in recent years. In actuality, the homemade-styled horror flick dates back to 1980, with the Italian film 'Cannibal Holocaust,' and while many of these types of projects have flopped over the years (we're looking at you, 'Apollo 18'), others have hit cult status.
In honor of this week's opening of 'Paranormal Activity 3,' we bring you the Best Found Footage Films Ever.
Gallery | The Best Found Footage Films
Although the sequel was just as entertaining, it didn't drum up quite as much excitement -- or scares -- as the first 'Paranormal Activity.' Featuring a couple who discovers a demon haunting their home, they attempt to set up video cameras in order to catch it in action. The good news? The footage does show mysterious occurrences in the house. The bad news? The cameras only make the situation worse.
This film somehow managed to develop a cult following before it was even released. When the creepy teaser trailer -- which purposefully neglected to include the title of the film -- began making the rounds in 2007, people had all sorts of theories. In the end, it turned out to be an unnerving monster movie set in New York City, shown through the perspective of a man documenting everything on his handheld camera -- including his (SPOILER ALERT) own death.
This 2007 Spanish film, which inspired an inferior American remake called 'Quarantine,' tells the story of a reporter and her cameraman who attempt to document the night shift at a local fire station (bad idea). After the firefighters respond to an emergency call, the two find themselves trapped in a building full of people infected with a virus that's tied to demonic possession. Obviously, it doesn't end well for them -- and thanks to the cameraman, we get to see all of the frightening events unfold in front of us.
If you want to go into the jungle to document a tribe of cannibals, you have to be prepared for the possibility that -- well, you could be eaten. Unfortunately, the camera crew in 1980's 'Cannibal Holocaust' did not take this into account. After they go missing in the Amazon, a rescue team is sent after them, only to discover human bones and a set of film reels. When they play the found footage, viewers are treated to some of the goriest scenes in movie history including the murder of defenseless animals. ('Cannibal Holocaust' was initially banned in several countries due to its graphic nature.)
So what ended up happening to the missing crew? Well, apparently they decided to terrorize the local tribe in order to "make their film better." That did not sit well with the cannibals, so they did the one thing they knew best -- harvest the filmmakers and eat their remains.
'The Last Exorcism'
We knew we were in for something truly haunting when we first saw the trailer for 'The Last Exorcism.' The clip depicted a girl by the name of Nell breaking her own fingers and contorting her body in ways that were pretty much impossible. The film follows the Reverend Cotton Marcus, a man known for performing exorcisms. As the trailer states, the exorcism Marcus performed in this movie would be his last one -- and for good reason. The footage from the camera crew documenting the exorcism shows some truly disturbing images, including a birth scene at the end of the film that still gives us nightmares.
'Diary of the Dead'
While 'Diary of the Dead' is far from George A. Romero's finest film, it does manage to accomplish two things: it features plenty of gruesome zombie-related deaths and gives the viewer a unique take on the iconic genre Romero helped create. 'Diary of the Dead,' the fifth in the director's 'Dead' series, follows a crew attempting to film a horror movie. However, when they discover that a zombie apocalypse is happening in the real world, they decide to document that instead.
'The Troll Hunter'
A movie that more than lives up to its title, 2010's 'The Troll Hunter' features a group of students attempting to document a bear poacher named Hans. When they finally catch up to him, they discover that he isn't hunting bears, he's hunting trolls. Hans eventually agrees to let the students follow him, which turns out to be a big mistake. The results are in the footage that was found by the side of the road.
'Noroi (The Curse)'
There's just something about Japanese horror films that sets them above the rest of the field. In 2005's 'Noroi,' we meet Masafumi Kobayashi, a paranormal expert who disappeared while making his most recent film, 'The Curse.' The footage that Kobayashi left behind shows everything from mass suicide to people lighting themselves on fire. It's all eventually blamed on an evil presence known as Kagutaba.
'Man Bites Dog'
The 1992 Belgian film 'Man Bites Dog' consists of a camera crew who documents a serial killer named Ben. Eventually, the filmmakers begin participating in the actual murders. The movie consists of the crew's footage of Ben and his sadistic acts.
'The Blair Witch Project'
The most successful flick of the found footage genre, 'The Blair Witch Project' was made up entirely of clips "discovered" in the woods. The footage belonged to three student filmmakers, who went off into the Maryland wilderness searching for the "Blair Witch." Unfortunately, she found them first. The film went on to gross almost $250 million on just a $60,000 budget.
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