Found footage…the red-headed stepchild of the horror genre. For every standout, quality found footage horror film, there’s 20 of them that I’d only watch if you paid me, and even then I might not.
Nevertheless, found footage is arguably my favorite sub-genre of horror. When it’s done right, it’s damn good. So without further adieu, here’s 11 found footage horror movies you should check out!
The death of a friend leads a young woman on an investigation into his demise, which takes her into the world of psychedelic drugs, MK-ULTRA-type programs, and a gloriously unhinged performance by Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs). The scares in Banshee Chapter are earned, and they are effective.
A documentary crew follows a woman battling Alzheimer’s, eventually realizing that there is much more than just the disease going on. One of the most effective found footage movies I’ve ever seen, personally. The structure used to build tension is extremely well-crafted, and it even features something I’ve never seen in any other movie, ever. Also, one character has the best reaction to creepy events ever put to film in a horror movie, and it is so refreshing.
Initially starting out as a documentary on horror film monsters and special effects, Digging Up the Marrow soon takes a bizarre turn when the film crew is contacted by a man who claims he can prove monsters are real. Real life horror director Adam Green (Hatchet) is the leader of the documentary crew, while we are blessed to have Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) give arguably his best performance as a man convinced monsters are real.
4. The Bay
The Bay takes the form of a documentary detailing the outbreak of an illness that sweeps across the northeast United States. It’s an expertly crafted film, splitting its time between several different parties affected by the insidious virus. It’s a slow burn that mounts dread on top of dread, and it is, in my opinion, in the upper echelon of found footage horror films (which, I know, can be a fairly low bar, but still, it’s awesome).
The footage that is “found” in The Sacrament is that of three VICE journalists heading to a secluded community in search of one of the journalist’s sisters. The film is essentially a retelling of the events at Jonestown, the infamous community founded by cult leader Jim Jones in the 1970’s. Directed by Ti West, The Sacrament features a few familiar faces you might recognize from other horror entries, including A.J. Bowen (You’re Next, The House of the Devil). I’m biased because cults are my favorite horror subgenre, but this one is definitely worth a watch.
6. Devil’s Pass
Like The Sacrament, Devil’s Pass is tied to true events, although the events in this entry are far more ambiguous than in the former. Devil’s Pass tells the story of a group of people who go out to Dyatlov’s Pass in Russia, the site at which (in a very real tragedy) nine people died decades prior. This group of documentarians attempts to learn what really happened in the bizarre incident years prior, and the results are horrifying. Full disclosure: in my own learned opinion, the third act of this movie sort of bombs. That said, the first two acts more than make up for it, and more than justify it for a watch.
This one went under the radar for a short while, but once horror fans discovered it en masse, it quickly shot up the list of many horror fans’ favorite found footage films. Hell House LLC gives us an inside look at the Halloween haunted house – that is, the kind of haunted house you and your friends might get together and go to on a Friday night in October.
A group of five friends have been running their own haunt for a few years by the time they lease what was once the Abbadon Hotel, and they fully expect this year to be their best yet. However, on opening night something goes wrong, leaving a handful of people dead. The found footage shows us the weeks leading up to the opening night incident, and all the strange things the group experienced that should have made them leave.
This one has some of the most effective scares I’ve ever seen in found footage. It’s light on jump scares, in turn using its runtime to build a terrifying atmosphere that pays off a hundredfold in the end.
* Hell House LLC also has two sequels, both of which are worth a watch.
8. Devil’s Due
Devil’s Due reeks of Rosemary’s Baby, and it is, in effect, that very same story. In this, we see Zach and Samantha as Zach documents their lives. Samantha learns she is pregnant soon after their honeymoon, during which their videos show an odd detour that neither of them can remember.
I wouldn’t necessarily call Devil’s Due a “good” film. In truth, it’s rife with found footage and horror tropes in general, and it altogether just isn’t a very original movie. What made me put it on this list, however, is that it’s just fun. I love the escalation of everything as Samantha gets farther and farther into her pregnancy, and going along with Zach as he desperately tries to figure out what’s going on with his wife entertained the hell out of me.
Another film that is beloved by the horror community. The Atticus Institute is presented in the form of a documentary about the titular research facility whose main purpose is to prove that the supernatural is real.
Everything is presented in an analytical, academic way, and the movie just knocks it out of the park. The leading man in The Atticus Institute is William Mapother (who you may recognize from Lost, also, fun fact, Tom Cruise’s cousin), and his subject for the majority of the film is a woman named Judith, who is brought to the Institute by her sister as a result of her disturbing behavior.
It’s an interesting, original plot that is brought to life skillfully by director Chris Sparling, and it’s done so in a very creepy fashion.
Documentary filmmaker Michael King is grieving his wife’s untimely death. Samantha King was a firm believer in the supernatural, and on the advice of a psychic she frequented, cancelled a trip she and Michael had planned, which resulted in a car accident, killing her.
Driven primarily by anger, Michael decides to document his quest to disprove any and all things supernatural.
This is one that didn’t get a ton of publicity. As a horror film, it’s filled with cliches, but it handles them well, and that, mixed with surprisingly tight writing and a strong performance by Shane Johnson (Power), all add up to an effectively creepy little found footage movie that goes places you may not expect.
Hands down my favorite film on this list. As Above, So Below tells the story of a group of people that go into the catacombs of Paris in search of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone (yes, like the one in Harry Potter, no, the two have nothing to do with one another beyond that).
Start to finish, this is a damn good time. The scares in the catacombs are original, the plot is interesting and reminiscent of a very famous story, the acting is solid all around (including that from Ben Feldman of Superstore and Silicon Valley fame), and the ending is one of those that will make you say “whaaaat the hell?”
If I could only recommend one movie on this list to you, it would be As Above, So Below.
Let me know what you think of these, and if you have any others you think people should see, let me know!