13 Terrifying Found Footage Films (That Should’ve Stayed Lost)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films (That Should’ve Stayed Lost)

by | Mar 19, 2021

Found Footage films have always been one of those mediums that keeps rearing it’s ugly head once in awhile. Combining raw and unedited camera footage with Hollywood styled scripts, they mange to blend that fine line between reality and fiction in a way a conventional film could never do. The sub-genre has always slid in-between that line, and played upon the ambiguity of it’s realism. The entire point of horror is to scare, so what’s more terrifying than watching a horror film that could be real? As much as the like of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the Exorcist claim to be based on true events, it’s easier to believe the grainy footage from films such as Creep (2014) or the The Blair Witch Project (1999). Here are a list of terrifying found footage films that would horrifying if they were real.  Here is 13 Terrifying Found Footage Films (That Should’ve Stayed Lost).

Willow Creek (2013)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - Willow Creek (2013) – Horror Land

Willow Creek is a modern spin on 1972’s The Legend Of Boggy Creek, turning the tale of Bigfoot into a found footage styled affair that is fresh and furious. Veteran comedian Bobcat Goldthwait’s jumps into his first horror film with a passion and vision that really shines.

The film follows Bigfoot believer Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his sceptical girlfriend Kelly as they follow in the footsteps of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, the men who shot the famous 1967 footage. The film starts much like The Blair Witch Project, with interviews with locals about the legend of Bigfoot. But this documentary filmed style quickly changes into a frantic jumpy-cam found-footage film when the couple fall fowl the creature they’re hunting.

Willow Creek is a well-made and scary film that may be a little slow burning, but ends up being a satisfactory film filled with all we love about the found footage sub-genre.

Lake Mungo (2008)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - Lake Mungo (2008) – Horror Land

 

Lake Mungo is an extraordinarily ambitious film that mixes mockumentary-style storytelling with found footage. It’s the only film from director Joel Anderson, which sees a family mourning the death of their daughter. After capturing some spooky images on camera, the family hire a parapsychologist whose investigation unveils Alice’s secret double life.

As a ghost story, the style of filmmaking and the convincing cast really help to sell the creepy mystery, but it’s ultimately the films story that really draws you in and spits you out. Anderson does a really great job of introducing new mediums through out the film, with camera, mobile phone footage and even video tape building a story that twist and turns at every second.

Lake Mungo is a dark and intriguing film that hugs on your heart strings as much as it scares.  

The Last Horror Movie (2003)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - The Last Horror Movie (2003) – Horror Land

 

The Last Horror Movie is a deeply disturbing British horror which depicts the murderous confessions of a part-time serial killer. The film follows Max Parry (Kevin Howarth), a mild mannered wedding photographer, who uses a horror video rental to lure his victims to their grisly deaths.

Director Julian Richards has created a convincing world here in this low budget horror that delves deep into to troubled psychology of a deeply disturbed man. The films chillingly naturalistic murder scenes are played out in such a blasé manner that it’s often hard to shift the sense of realism, a wonderful trait for a genre film where tangibility is key.

The Sacrament (2013)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - The Sacrament (2013) – Horror Land

 

 

The Sacrament is a 2013 found footage horror thriller film about a journalists who documents their co-worker’s attempt to locate his sister after she joins a reclusive religious commune. If the story feels a little familiar, it’s because this film is actually based on the chilling events of the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, which ended with the death of nearly a thousand acolytes of the Peoples Temple after they drank cyanide laced Kool-Aid.

Director Ti West cut his horror teeth with his 80s throwback The House of the Devil before jumping into other TV projects such as The Exorcist and The Passage, proving that he has the chops to take on bigger and better projects. Whilst Sacrament probably isn’t THAT movie for him, it surely is one of his most darkest. His experiments in found footage film-making are just about as impactful as they could be, using a astounding cast and realistic scenery to connivingly recreate the terrors of Jim Jones sickening mass suicide.

As with many found footage films, the start is slow to pick up, with a building dread that quickly escalates in the films third act. AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg play the VICE journalists as they document the a utopian, drug-free, commune of Eden Parish, and as the film hits that pinnacle moment, the film crew are left navigating a relentless nightmare of suicide and death as the commune collapse into a apocalyptic styled nightmare. It’s shocking footage is only heightened by the fact that the films fictional events were based on a real life tragedy.

Creep (2014)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - Creep (2014) – Horror Land

 

 

Witten, directed and starring Patrick Brice, the filmmaker plays a young videographer answers an online ad for a one-day job in a remote town to record the last messages of a dying man. His employer turns out to be an eccentric mam with an inoperable brain tumor and is expected to die before his pregnant wife gives birth, so he wishes to record a video diary for his unborn child.

Brice’s character Aaron ignores the erratic and strange behavior of Josef, played connivingly by filmmaker Mark Duplass, but his ignorance of the “dying” man ends is ultimately his downfall, as he is forced to record a video that will ultimately become his very own eulogy.

Creep manages to tell a convincing story of an unconventional serial killer, blending the found-footage style seamlessly into the story’s narrative. Whilst many found-footage films leave you wondering why anyone would keep on filming through chaos and dread, Creep’s story hinges on the video footage. The film ultimately hit the right note and produced a second film in 2017, although it never lived up to the originality and atmosphere of the first.

V/H/S/2 (2013)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - V/H/S/2 (2013) – Horror Land

 

 

V/H/S is an anthology horror film created by Brad Miska and Bloody Disgusting in 2012. However, it was it’s follow up a year later in 2013, V/H/S/2, that really nailed the found footage sub-genre. The film comprises of five found-footage segments linked together by a strange supernatural frame narrative that sees two investigators entering a house where they discover a large number of televisions displaying white noise and huge stacks of VHS tapes. It’s from these tapes that the other stories play out.

What makes V/H/S/ and V/H/S/2 so exciting is that they embrace the horror genre by allowing emerging filmmakers the opportunity to create low budget micro-films in anyway they choose, just as long as it includes elements of found-film. The resulting films are by far, the best modern day anthologies you could watch, which act like a mini film festival right in the (dis)comfort of your own home.

V/H/S/2 just manages to be a better film, with more cohesive stories such as Adam Wingard’s Phase and Jason Eisener’s Slumber Party Alien Abduction. It’s all mad and crazy and manages to hit all the right horror notes. If your not screaming with fear of joy by the end, your probably dead!

The Last Broadcast (1998)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - The Last Broadcast (1998) – Horror Land

 

 

Whilst The Blair Witch Project is heralded as the film the re-launched the popularity of the found-footage film, it certainly was not the only film from the late 90s that tried. A year before a certain witch was scaring the crap out of audience, Directors Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler created a film similar in narrative to Cannibal Holocaust, where a documentary film-maker seeks to find the truth behind the mysterious murders of two cable TV hosts, during their quest to discover the mythical Jersey Devil.

What makes The Last Broadcast really stand out is it’s amazingly real aesthetics. The films early use of digital video helps to blend the footage, making it all the more believable. These folks are not running around with HD quality videos here, it’s low quality, low grade and makes modern found footage films look like Ultra HD Imax films.

The Last Broadcast is a slow-burning thriller which is ultimately an often forgotten gem, sadly overshadowed by other films. If you have yet to see this gruesome little horror, now’s the perfect time to catch up.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2014)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2014) – Horror Land

 

 

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is an eerie found footage movie that drew influence from several real life serial killers and murders. Director John Erick Dowdle is best known for his horror movies, especially in the found footage sub-genre. His best known movie is 2014’s As Above, So Below, Devil (2010) and Quarantine (2018). However, The Poughkeepsie Tapes are by far his most disturbing venture.

The film follows investigators and their discovery of hundreds of tapes filmed by a New York serial killer. The interesting thing about this film is that it was completed in 2007 but only surfaced publicly in 2014. For many years it become a hard to get hold of title, but thanks to a release on Blu-Ray in 2017, it found a brand new audience.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a fantastic faux documentary that uses the found-footage genre to great effect. It’s chilling and even horrifying at times, making it a real gem of the sub-genre.

REC (2007)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - REC (2007) – Horror Land

 

 

Whilst you may be more familiar the US remake called Quarantine, REC is the original Spanish found-footage film that put you smack bang in the middle of a zombie riddled building block. The film follows a TV reporter and her cameraman as they follow a local fire station crew to an emergency call at a nearby apartment. Upon arriving at the scene, the news team pick up blood-curdling screams from inside and decide to sneak in to get a closer look at what is going on. With the authorities sealing off the building, the news crew are now stuck inside facing a terrifying zombie outbreak.

Whilst many found footage films suffer from a slow burn at the start, REC does something very different and drags the audience into the action right from the start. There’s barely a moment to catch your breath as the film injects a real urgency to the protagonists survival as the building is quickly overrun.

Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza fully utilize the handheld camera format, with every dark hallway, every narrow stairwell and every room potentially hosting a monstrous threat. It’s on the edge of you seat cinema that no other found footage film has ever managed to equal.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - Paranormal Activity (2007) – Horror Land

 

 

There are rarely found footage films that mange to be hugely successful, and it’s even rarer for them to spawn a massive franchise, but being the exception to the rule is Paranormal Activity. Director Oren Peli shot his haunted house thriller in just a week and caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who helped to cut a deal with Blumhouse. With a new ending filmed and with distributor Paramount Pictures onboard to help ship, Paranormal Activity managed to find a huge audience.

The film follows a young couple in their San Diego home and documents the paranormal events they encounter. The footage is shot from security cameras all around their home so remains fairly static throughout. It’s a nice change from the jumpy footage you often get with found-footage films. It also helps to reinforce the idea that the vents could be real.

Whilst Paranormal Activity remains to be a very unique and interesting experience, it’s sequels failed to live up to the originals reputation. Many muddied the waters of the original story and over complicated a simple premise. What made the 2007 film so fun was it’s simple approach to the sub-genre of found-films.  

My Little Eye (2002)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - My Little Eye (2002) – Horror Land

 

 

My Little Eye is a stylistic found-footage film that parodies the popularity of reality TV in the early noughties. The film sees five young contestants enter an internet reality show, where they must live in an isolated mansion in order to win a million dollars. Their every actions are captured by the many cameras throughout the mansion, but as the shows starts, young contestants suspect that the people watching them have sinister motives.

Despite the genre, My Little Eye dares to think bigger and explores human behavior and psychosis, with psychology and paranoia being the leading factors in the films building dread. Director Marc Evans clearly studied and knows just how to bring something new to the table.

The films thrilling story and terrific ending are testament to just how well made this low-budget horror is. Whilst it might fall into stereotypical filmmaking at times, it’s fresh enough to make this an excellent found footage film that stands on it’s own two feet.  

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Horror Land

 

 

Whilst you may be more familiar the US remake called Quarantine, REC is the original Spanish found-footage film that put you smack bang in the middle of a zombie riddled building block. The film follows a TV reporter and her cameraman as they follow a local fire station crew to an emergency call at a nearby apartment. Upon arriving at the scene, the news team pick up blood-curdling screams from inside and decide to sneak in to get a closer look at what is going on. With the authorities sealing off the building, the news crew are now stuck inside facing a terrifying zombie outbreak.

Whilst many found footage films suffer from a slow burn at the start, REC does something very different and drags the audience into the action right from the start. There’s barely a moment to catch your breath as the film injects a real urgency to the protagonists survival as the building is quickly overrun.

Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza fully utilize the handheld camera format, with every dark hallway, every narrow stairwell and every room potentially hosting a monstrous threat. It’s on the edge of you seat cinema that no other found footage film has ever managed to equal.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

13 Terrifying Found Footage Films - Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – Horror Land

 

 

One of the most infamous of found films is Ruggero Deodato’s shocking horror Cannibal Holocaust. The film follows an anthropologist from New York University who leads a rescue team into the Amazon rainforest to locate a crew of missing filmmakers. The discover of footage which depicts the filmmakers grisly deaths at the hands of a cannibalistic tribe,  are about as shocking and grotesque as you could imagine. However, the films shocks do not end with the societal taboo of flesh eating. The film also depicts horrific on-camera rape, ritualistic murder, and actual animal slaughter, making Holocaust a hard watch.

How the film managed to even exist is due to Deodato’s clever use of social commentary, which is achieved through a bookend narrative that sees the films anthropologist, Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) trying to prevent a network from airing the footage. But despite the films deeper meaning and hard stance on xenophobia and anti-exploitation, it did not stop the film from being banned in many countries.

The film nauseating notoriety was so extent that Deodato found himself in a Milan court with the charge of murder. The films mixture of real and staged violence, combined with the handheld camerawork and the rough, unedited quality of the found-footage had firmly convinced the world that the Italian film director had shot a snuff movie. The director had to prove that the main three actors were indeed alive and well and that the “impaled” actress had not been murder for the sake of filming.

Cannibal Holocaust is still one of the most deeply disturbing examples of the found-footage sub-genre.  Because it’s footage is so raw, it’s hard to separate the afct from fiction. But, despite its graphic nature it’s artful enough to demand further scrutiny and is still one of the most infamous films on the market today.

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“Hello Horror Fans – Found Footage films are pretty creepy, but not as creepy as the CTV footage of my basement. There’s things down there that you would not believe! What did you think of our list? Let us know in the comments below!

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“Morti” The Mortician

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