The 10 most important found-footage movies ever made

The sixth and apparently final Paranormal Activity arrives in cinemas this week

One of the most cost-effective and viscerally involving formats of cinema has got to be found-footage.

The faux-documentary style of filming helps pump up the level of realism, placing the viewer in a first-person perspective, effectively putting them in the shoes of the protagonist.

A lot of criticism gets leveled at the format for being an entry-level, ultra-cheap way for film-makers to cut their teeth, and while there have been more than a fair share to terrible found-footage films, there have also been a lot of great ones. Here's our list of what we think have been the ten most important ones:

1. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)

The first known example of found-footage movies, and still to this day one of the most disturbing horror movies ever made. Featuring some extreme violence and cruelty, it makes for a truly unpleasant watch, being banned in most of Europe until 2001. About to be remade by Eli Roth for the upcoming The Green Inferno

2. THE LAST BROADCAST (1998)

While many believe that a certain witch within a certain forest was that cause for the most recent explosion to found-footage, this movie which deals with the investigation into the murder of the public access TV presenters actually beat it to the punch. Worth seeking out.

3. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

This is where it all started to go off. With a minuscule budget of $22,500, the film-makers used the internet (then still relatively in it's infancy for being used as a way to market movies) to their advantage. The ploy worked, with viewers believing that the film they were watching to be entirely factual, and an ultimate box office return of $250 million, making it one of the most profitable movies ever made.

4. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)

About a dozen or so found-footage horrors followed in the Witch's footsteps, but it would be another eight years before real success would be found again. The set-up was even simpler than before - one camera, one house, and maybe one ghost. The film cost even less to make - $15,000 - and made just shy of $200 million, and resulting in five sequels and countless "homages".

5. [REC] (2007)

Not letting Hollywood have all of the fun, Spanish-language shocker [REC] remains one of the best of the subgenre, mixing zombies, religious scares and found footage all together for a melting pot of great scares. Remade into the good-but-not-as-good Quarantine, [REC] would lead the way to foreign language found-footage hits like Troll Hunter and A Serbian Film.

6. CLOVERFIELD (2008)

While small budgets had previously dominated the found-footage market, it took JJ Abrams, Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard to expand it's horizons. Still technically under the umbrella of a "scary movie", except this time it's the citizens of New York attempting to survive a Godzilla-type monster who has arrived to do little more than flatten their city and eat everyone in sight.

7. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008)

While Cloverfield director Matt Reeves would go on to do great things - Let Me In, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes - at the time he was a relative unknown. In fact, most directors making found-footage movies were far from household names, but horror maestro George A. Romero changed all that with his sequel to classic zombie films like Night Of The Living Dead. He'd soon be followed by other big names such as Barry Levinson (The Bay) and M. Night Shyamalan (The Visit). Big stars would follow too, with Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena appearing in tense police thriller End Of Watch.

8. CHRONICLE (2012)

Perhaps now more famous for it's aftermath than anything else, Chronicle director Josh Trank was given the keys to a massive superhero franchise based solely on the back of this very entertaining super-power origin film. Unfortunately, Trank turned in the recent reboot of Fantastic Four, which was greeted with terrible box office returns and worse reviews. Still, it showed that found-footage could be used as an effective calling card for directors wanting to do work outside of horror.

9. PROJECT X (2012)

Another film that tried to bring found footage to something non-horror, Project X should be commended for thinking outside of the box, if not necessarily for succeeding in what it was attempting to do. A Haunted House tried to do a found-footage comedy too, and also failed, while Into The Storm brought the sub-genre into disaster movies, and Project Almanac tried with sci-fi. Sometimes the most important lessons you can learn are from your failures. Take note, Hollywood!

10. UNFRIENDED (2015)

Previously, all of the found-footage films had been from people who continued to carry around their little video cameras, even when they're being chased by monsters. Unfriended dragged the concept into the 21st Century, with a group of teenagers using their webcams and Skype, with a benevolent presence amongst them. 

 

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION will be arriving in Irish cinemas from Wednesday October 21st, and you can check out the trailer for that movie below.