Discuss: What Is the Best Found-Footage Movie?

Discuss: What Is the Best Found-Footage Movie?

Aug 06, 2014

On Friday, we get another found-footage movie: Into the Storm. This time, it's a tornado-based disaster picture, a la Twister, but most of it is shot through the perspective of its characters' own professional and amateur video cameras. Found footage is clearly not a trend anymore. Eventually we're likely to see every genre and every storyline done in this style. And that's not necessarily a bad thing since a lot of found-footage movies, including recent releases, are quite entertaining and well done. 

Some don't completely adhere to the found-footage concept, though. Into the Storm, for example, features much footage that isn't shot by people within the movie. It's also not really "found," since many of the characters survive and hold on to their video files to the end. Other movies stick to the idea completely, as in the case of the movie that began the popularity of the style: The Blair Witch Project.


While not the first movie qualified as this "genre," Blair Witch remains one of those that do it best and correctly. It helped that it was such a minimal production, the actors all actually shooting their own improvised performances and action while wandering the woods far from where the true filmmakers were. It also fits that these characters are all killed in the end (sorry, 15 years is long enough not to be a spoiler). 

For awhile, found footage stuck primarily with the horror genre, and through that genre it has given us more and more surprise hits, such as the original Paranormal Activity. Slightly related, monster movies have also worked well for the style, as seen with Cloverfield and The Troll Hunter. In a way, this summer's Godzilla seems at least influenced by the concept and what those movies do, in the way it keeps much of the monster action relegated to news reports on television.

One of the best found-footage titles, though, is the movie that really opened up the style to other genres: Chronicle, a superhero movie following a few teens who document their accidental acquisition and then use of superpowers. Not limited to their lenses, however, the movie shows a lot of clever possibilities for opening scenes up by acknowledging how cameras are everywhere now. The sci-fi film Europa Report is another that has exceptionally broadened the potential for the style.

Technically many documentaries are found-footage movies, such as archive compilations like the work of Ken Burns (The Civil War) and also definitely Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man. So it makes sense that a lot of mockumentaries can overlap as found-footage movies, too. There's Incident at Loch Ness, starring Herzog and about a fake Herzog documentary project, for instance. 

Another little-seen example that I'd recommend as proof that found footage keeps finding interesting new places to go is a romantic comedy called Hank and Asha, which won Slamdance last year. It's more of a cinematic equivalent of an epistolary novel (those told through written letters), as it's comprised solely of webcam videos the title characters send to each other as they begin an online-based long-distance relationship. It's not the best, but it's one of the greats from the last couple years.


What is the best found-footage movie?

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