If there’s one rule about horror movies it’s this: if someone does something successfully make sure to make sequels or just plain copy it. The Found Footage genre has seen so many sequels, copycats and different takes on its style that if you’ve had enough of the genre as a whole nobody could blame you. Much like zombie movies or slasher movies, it becomes about quantity over quality and if you’re a fan of a particular genre there’s a good chance that in your search for more movies what you like you have ended up seeing a few really bad movies. Well if you still crave some found footage thrills after the supposed end of the Paranormal Activity series but you’re sick of getting stuck with dreck like The Amityville Haunting or 100 Ghost Street then we’re here to help. We have seen so many found footage movies we feel like we should have a camera in our own hand at all times just in case some weird shit happens so we know a thing or two about what makes good Found Footage SO good. We’ll even tell you where you can find them because we love our fellow Horror Freaks.
Final Prayer (AKA The Borderlands) is a independent British horror movie, this film even managed to scare seasoned horror pro and film critic par excellence Mark Kermode. The story tells of a low-key group of individuals who work for the Vatican. Known as “The Congregation” this group’s job is to investigate claims made to the Papacy that a miracle has taken place. Three men are sent to a tiny village in rural England to examine the claim that God sent a message to a recently re-opened church during a baptism. Mark and Deacon are the two representatives of the Catholic Church while Grey is the tech guy. As they examine this tiny run-down church the priest who made the claims starts acting more and more strangely and Deacon becomes obsessed with figuring out what is happened here and what the ramifications for them all my be.
Final Prayer is great for a couple of reasons. Firstly is character development which is something frequently lacking in this style of film. It is established early on that The Vatican wants everything recorded and so not only are cameras set up in the church and where the three men are staying but they all have to wear head-mounted cameras. The many different camera perspectives gives the filmmakers far more material and points of view to work with. We are privy to conversations, particularly between the agnostic Grey and the devout Deacon who has a troubled past. As Grey tries to understand what it is “The Congregation” is about we learn about it too in an organic way. This is almost helped in no small part by the great cast, particularly Gordon Kennedy as Deacon and Robin Hill as Grey who play off each other very well. Final Prayer also keeps its atmosphere dark and creepy helped in no small part from the grim, dreary surroundings and the sinister menace of the local village folk. This all leads to a final act that is deeply sinister and creepy in more ways than one and will hopefully stay with the viewer long after it’s over. I don’t list movies in any special order but if you were only to get one movie from this article then this is the one you should get.
Final Prayer is available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play or whatever other VOD provider you prefer.
Alien Abduction has one of the most generic titles imaginable which is a shame because it may cause some to overlook what is one of the best found footage…. alien abduction movies. It tells the story of the Morris family that has some truly rotten timing with their camping trip in the hills of North Carolina. Not only are they hit with bad weather but they also see the Brown Mountain Lights. It is believed that those lights are in some way connected to extraterrestrial activity and as the family move to their next camping site events become increasingly bizarre. Trapped in an isolated place with no cell reception the family has to find a way to escape whatever has started pursuing them.
Alien Abduction has a few things going for it. First off the Brown Mountain Lights are a real phenomena with legends pertaining to them coinciding with people disappearing which allegedly go back centuries. Being that the whole point of found footage is to convincingly portray a raw presentation of a real life experience having a famous local legend to back that up certainly helps. The film also builds up to some truly frightening set pieces with some very sparing use of some very creepy if generic “grey” aliens. So much is done here with just lighting and some excellent sound design, the imagination does the rest. The film is not overly long which keeps the pace fairly quick and each “encounter” packs a scary punch. If you’re into UFOs or if you liked “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” from V/H/S/ 2 then you should get a big kick out of this. Also, make sure you watch through the credits!
Stream Alien Abduction on Netflix or rent/purchase it from the usual outlets.
To Jennifer takes found footage to low-fi extremes by being entirely shot and edited on an iPhone 5. This is quite the technical achievement by director James Cullen Bressack but mere novelty does not a movie make. Luckily we have an interesting driving force here in the form of Joey, played by Chuck Pappas. He is an awkward but unassuming guy who has discovered his girlfriend might be cheating on him so he has decided to go see her and to document the journey as part of a video To Jennifer. See what they did there? Joey recruits his cousin Steve (played by director Bressack) to help with the filming. Joey’s awkwardness soon develops into something far more angry and irrational and soon Steve appears to have walked into a situation he has no idea how to deal with.
To Jennifer was some true guerrilla filmmaking, the iPhone 5 filming isn’t just some gimmick but really informs this organic style that makes it very different from most found footage fodder. Great credit has to be given to James Cullen Bressack both in front of and behind the camera, bringing a sort of dopey charm to the easy-going Steve. He often acts as the voice of the audience, along for the ride but not really getting what the destination is or why Joey is acting the way he is. Chuck Pappas is also very important in no small part to the fact that it’s rare that he’s not on-screen. He gives a dedicated performance as someone who is certainly on the edge, his explosive rages contrasting with his laid back cousin. To Jennifer is also legitimately funny as we go through many different situations with our characters and Joey’s huge overreactions are hilarious, even as they take on a darker tone. Between the story, the cast, and the way this thing was shot if you think you’ve seen everything Found Footage has to offer then To Jennifer might be a refreshing change of pace.
Stream To Jennifer on Amazon Prime video, plonk down a couple of bucks on VOD or buy the DVD. Also, stay tuned for 2 Jennifer coming 2016!
Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night might sound like a knock-off of the popular series in the style of those weird Italian movies which had names like Bruno Mattei’s Alien 2. However this is an official Japanese sequel to the original Paranormal Activity and you know what? It’s actually pretty good. Haruka Yamano is a Japanese student who was studying in San Diego, California when she was in a car accident. Breaking both legs her visit is cut short and she has to return to Japan where she lives with her father and brother. When their father goes away on a business trip, strange things start to happen as objects start moving around of their own accord and something appears to have returned with Haruka from San Diego. Oh, and you’ll never guess who else was involved in the car crash…
So Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night is an interesting little movie as it’s very much in the Paranormal Activity vein but with a classic J-horror twist. If you like your creepy girls with hair in the faces like you’ve seen in Ringu or Ju-On then you’ll have fun with where things go in this movie. More than that though director Toshikazu Nagae does a good job of making a movie that feels like it belongs as a part of the Paranormal Activity series and in fact does more interesting things than PA4 or The Ghost Dimension managed. So yeah it’s more or less Paranormal Activity: The Grudge and that’s fine by me.
This one is a little trickier to get because it hasn’t been released in North America. However you can import versions from Italy or Germany if you have equipment that can handle multiple regions.
Unidentified has a similarly obvious title as Alien Abduction but that is where the comparisons end. This movie is like the found footage bastard child of The Hangover and an episode of The X-Files. Jodie is an aspiring Youtuber who gets invited to accompany his boss and his friends on a trip to Vegas. One of the friends is Jodie’s brother-in-law Nick and Jodie is instructed by his sister to record everything as Nick has a gambling problem. In a boneheaded move Nick goes into a poker game that they think is a sure thing and when he leaves with only the shirt on his back the four men have an angry mobster to deal with. Escaping the city into the desert things go from bad to worse when they encounter something out there that is far worse than they had imagined.
As suggested by the reference to The Hangover, Unidentified is part comedy, part horror movie and it’s actually pretty funny. On purpose even! The chemistry between the friends makes watching their Las Vegas antics pretty amusing and not just filler while you wait for the weird stuff to start happening. It certainly makes for a refreshing change to what is frequently a very self-serious genre and when the Unidentified activity of the title begins to happen everything is very well-handled. The ending is really neat and made more impressive if you see the DVD extra showing how it was done.
Unidentified is on Netflix to stream or support indie film and grab the DVD!
Frankenstein’s Army is a fun enough movie as it is filled with all of these cool monsters created by the Doctor himself. Thing is, this movie would actually have worked better as a regular film because the handheld camera style actually prevents us from getting a good look at the monsters!
Evil Things does a lot of things that a lot of other horror movies and found footage movies do. The one hook it does have is that it gives you an extra perspective: sometimes the footage switches to the point of view of whoever is stalking the protagonists. Amazon Prime
Ghoul comes to the table with a ill-fated documentary team investigating real life happenings in the Ukraine where during a terrible famine in the 1930’s drove normal people to cannibalism. That intersects with the legacy of Andrei Chikatilo, one of the most notorious serial killer cannibals in history.
Got any other under appreciated found footage gems? Disagree with any of our choices? Let us know below!