It doesn’t cost a lot to make a found footage movie, which has led to countless recent additions to the genre from the poorest of filmmakers. But, as we’ll see with several of the movies on this list, a small budget absolutely does not guarantee a small return. Found footage movies’ ability to put you into the action makes these some of the creepiest, scariest, and downright awesomest movies in the horror pantheon.
This movie gets a lot of hate, and in my opinion (and, let’s face it, mine is the only one that matters here), it’s entirely unwarranted. One of the first movies to take place entirely behind a computer screen, Unfriended uses some excellent gore and a lot of creative filmmaking to make one exciting ride, especially for a found footage movie. Plus, every time I hear the Skype sound, I think of this movie. In a world in which 99% of our interactions within the last several years took place on one of these screens, this movie was perhaps even too ahead of its time. It’s an hour and 23 minutes long, and it’s a great movie for approximately an hour and 22 minutes. Just turn it off right before she closes the computer screen and you’ll be good to go.
be my cat: a film for anne
This movie rocked my world. It went from a movie I had never heard of to a movie I had to own in about two hours. Director Adrian Tofei did a magnificent job as both the director and lead actor, and he manages somehow to make a movie that I’m still not entirely sure isn’t real. There’s very little gore, but this movie packs a surprisingly efficient punch. The movie is about a deranged filmmaker who is desperately trying to lure Anne Hathaway into being his leading lady by making films about the ladies he can lure into being part of his movies. It’s disturbing, hyper-realistic, and obsessive, and is also, unfortunately, criminally underseen
Grave Encounters is, simply put, a great movie. It’s a tongue-in-cheek spoof on paranormal reality television while also being genuinely frightening in its own right, and I’m here for it. The Vicious Brothers (men’s answer to the Soska Sisters, I guess) created an incredibly interesting and disorienting film, and its definitely worth a watch for any found footage fan, or horror fan, for that matter.
Mark Duplass is a goddamned national treasure, and it is batshit crazy that one of the best parts of Apple TV’s The Morning Show is also the disturbing lead in this film. Creep is about a man who hires a videographer to make a movie for his unborn child. It’s bare bones, and it’s fucking delightfully creepy. Something about the entire movie just feels off. It isn’t clear until the end exactly how off it actually is. Creep is an absolute must watch for all psychological horror fans.
I had wanted to watch this movie for years before Scream Factory finally gave it a home video release, and my God was the wait worth it. The film itself is a mockumentary, and there are some laughably fake-feeling parts of the movie, but when it kicks into high gear, it kicks into high gear. The nightmare-inducing video of the freakishly crawling killer will haunt your dreams, and the end of the film is devastatingly disturbing. This is another one that feels a little too real, if only because we’ve seen so many stories like this play out in real life.
In my opinion, the original V/H/S is the best of the lot, but it all depends on which shorts you prefer between the (now) four movies. To me, the strongest entry in the series is Amateur Night, the very first short in the very first movie. I also enjoyed Second Honeymoon and The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger, which were also on this one, though not as strong as the opening vignette. V/H/S 2, however, was arguably as good, and I debated swapping them out. Either way, V/H/S as a series is fantastic, except for the steaming pile of shit that was Viral.
I fucking love this movie and its two sequels. When a group of young adults decide to create a haunted house attraction in a possibly actual haunted house, all hell (literally) breaks loose. Some of the scenes in this film are jaw-droppingly terrifying, like that goddamn clown and his goddamn “immovable” head. I highly recommend checking this one out and, ideally, setting yourself up for a trilogy-indulging movie night and watching the second and third as well.
Paranormal Activity is the third most profitable movie of all time when considering return on its investment. It made almost 90 million dollars on a budget of $450k, a return on investment of almost 20,000 percent. That’s insane, and Oren Peli’s scary-as-hell movie earned every goddamn cent. The definition of low-budget scares, PA put Blumhouse on the map as the best new producer of high-quality scares, and it has led to an entire generation of excellent horror movies. Plus, it’s honestly just terrifying.
the blair witch project
The movie that started it all for most found footage fans, TBWP is amazingly scary and incredibly effective. There was no scarier place in the world during that time than the woods around Burkittsville, Maryland, and many fans were surprised to see Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard show up at the MTV Movie Awards because they were convinced that The Blair Witch Project was real. It’s incredibly effective guerrilla filmmaking, and has spawned some of the most interesting fan theories of any horror movie. Have you heard the one about how Michael and Joshua conspired to kill Heather in the woods and blame it on the witch? Cool shit.
Rec is not only the best found footage movie ever made but also, quite possibly, the best zombie and possession movie ever made too! It’s about a newscaster who is shooting a segment who stumbles into an apartment complex that is put on lockdown as the site of an outbreak of a mysterious disease, and it is absolutely incredible. If you can’t get past the subtitles, learn to read faster, because literally every horror fan should watch this movie. Like stop reading this (but please come back to it later!) and go watch this movie. Hell, if you’ve seen it before, go watch it again: it’s that good.