For better or for worse, found-footage horror movies aren't going away anytime soon. This month alone sees the release of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Devil's Due, both of which are presented as home videos that just so happen to capture all kinds of awful, horrible and (hopefully) thrilling things. Then there's the proposed found-footage take on Friday the 13th that's supposedly in the works, much to the chagrin of horror fans the world over.
Confession time: I like found-footage movies. A lot. When done well, few styles can wring so much tension from even the most tired concepts. However, consider this article less of an endorsement and more of a spitballing session. If found footage is here to stay and if it's going to start spreading to established horror franchises, studios and filmmakers can at least pick the right horror franchises. Do we actually need any of the series below to have found entries? Nah. But you could do so much worse.
Few horror franchises have been put through the wringer quite like Hellraiser, which went from one of the best horror movies ever made to unwatchable garbage in just a few films. However, the series' increasing desperation and desire to try whatever crazy gimmick comes its way makes it ideal for the found-footage treatment. It's difficult to say if a found-footage Hellraiser movie would be good (it probably wouldn't), but it would fit right in with the franchise's embarassing-but-admirable ability to bend over backwards to try to reinvent itself with every entry. Even in a worst-case scenario, the results would be fascinating from a "horror film historian" perspective if nothing else.
First, the Predator fought Arnold Schwarzenegger and all was right. Then it fought Danny Glover and Xenomorphs and Adrien Brody and everything stopped being right. With this once great series currently dead in the water, it's the ideal time to get experimental with the format. The appeal of the first film is watching a bunch of tough badasses get hunted down by an alien killing machine, so why not literally put the audience in the shoes of the people getting hunted down? It's a simple enough pitch: documentary crew travels to a jungle nation to film some kind of important political event, gets stranded and watches/films as their armed escort is slowly picked off one by one. Nothing is ever going to top the first film, so why even try? Bring on the totally crazy Predator movies that are nothing like its predecessors.
Over the course of four films, Wes Craven's Scream series has deconstructed the slasher movie and other horror tropes with results ranging from the sublime to the inane. But there remains one thing the films have left untouched: found footage. If they used a sequel to comment on horror sequels, the third film to comment on trilogies and the fourth film to comment on long-delayed sequels, surely a fifth Scream movie could attempt to smash the common cliches of the found-footage format to tiny bits. The only bad side to this is that we'd have to watch a fifth Scream movie, but at least a found-footage take would force Craven and his collaborators to actually try something truly outside of their normal wheelhouse.
In Gore Verbsinksi's exceptional American remake of Ringu, Naomi Watts plays a journalist who watches a cursed video tape that causes the viewer to be killed after seven days. It's a concept that's been the subject of countless parodies and one truly awful sequel, but it's also a concept that would make for an absolutely killer found-footage movie. It's one thing to watch a movie where characters discover and watch odd, uncomfortable footage, but a found-footage take on the Ring mythology would allow a clever filmmaker to make a movie where audiences are watching an "actual" cursed video that could do them harm. This series is currently dead and buried, but when they eventually dig it back up (and they will!), there are certainly worse directions to take it. The Ring 2 proved as much.
The best stuff in the too-convoluted-for-its-own-good Saw franchise was (is?) all of the flashbacks to killer genius Jigsaw and his seemingly countless minions actually constructing the absurd traps that his victims find themselves in. Watching a man get torn limb from limb is pretty standard horror stuff, but watching a mild-mannered old man calmly construct the device that does the limb-tearing is just impossibly weird and, strangely, really entertaining. So, the inevitable Saw 8 should consist entirely of Jigsaw's surviving accomplices making trips to Home Depot, buying dilapidated property and constructing insanely complex traps. There could even be a scene where they visit a costume shop and contemplate which creepy masks they should purchase for when they abduct their victims. Naturally, one of the their friends films all of this for posterity. Now that's how you get me back for another Saw movie.
The Final Destination series is at its best when its being playful and silly, building absurd Rube Goldberg death traps and setting them off in surprising, ludicrous ways. At their best, these movies are the horror version of theme-park rides and it's not surprising that the third film actually opens with a hilariously overblown roller-coaster catastrophe. With the franchise running on fumes following the past two weak entries, it's time to literalize the "ride" aspect and go found footage, putting you in the shoes of someone whose entire world is literally out to kill them. Heck, they might as well go full nonsensical and make this the first 3D found-footage movie. It won't make any sense, but man, it would be weird and stupid and oh so fun.
What would the world actually look like if there were an Antichrist and he was born into human form, grew up and started assuming control of the world? This question was explored in the atrocious Omen III: The Final Conflict, which saw the demonic child Damien grow into a powerful politician with Armageddon on his mind. Although the 2006 remake of the first Omen film was an unmitigated disaster, there's plenty of room for improvement in a remake of the third film, which allows the series to shed its "creepy kid" tropes and at least attempt something different. Here's what needs to happen: whoever owns the rights to this franchise needs to hire the team behind the low-budget, found-footage gem The Conspiracy and let them do their thing. After all, who wouldn't be down for a faux documentary that exposes a major political player as the son of Satan? Naturally, the more straight it's played, the better.
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