Happy 17th anniversary to The Blair Witch Project. The mother of all found-footage horror films was released this weekend in 1999. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s shaky-cam tale about student filmmakers who disappear into the Maryland woods while investigating a local folkloric legend initiated a new era of viral marketing with convincing advertising and a movie that felt terrifyingly real. A sequel to the movie will be released this September.
Films like Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity series and the anthology series V/H/S are proof that the found-footage format has really taken off in the past decade. But we wanted to capture the uneasy feeling ‘90s audiences had when they first watched The Blair Witch Project with a look at some found-footage horror movies you might have missed.
John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle’s Poughkeepsie Tapes centers on an investigation of hundreds of VHS tapes found in an abandoned house in Poughkeepsie, New York that reveal a serial killer’s twisted and violent crimes. The grainy footage feels truly authentic, and the frightening images will haunt you for weeks.
Student filmmakers discover a network of troll hunters who are trying to keep Norway’s population at bay. Despite the spectacle of giant trolls crashing through an icy landscape, Trollhunter’s strongest asset is its characters — like troll expert Hans (Otto Jespersen), who is portrayed as an oddball outsider with a complex relationship to the creatures he hunts.
Another convincing and terrifying blend of documentary, fiction, and WTF-ness. From Underground Film Journal:
The S&Man is a total invention by Petty, yet the documentary and fictional portions of the film blend together seamlessly. Plus, one never gets the feeling that Petty is trying to get one over on his audience, even though the film doesn’t say outright that one of the interview subjects is an actor playing a role. Including a fictional character is just another tool in Petty’s arsenal to explore the appeal of watching death and violence in film. It’s a risky gambit that threatens to turn off some viewers who may feel cheated, but Petty pulls it all off successfully since the motivations for his strategy are authentic.
The House of the Devil’s Ti West adapts the tragic story of Jonestown and shows us another perspective of the horrific events through the eyes of two Vice-style documentary filmmakers who investigate the cult compound of Eden Parish.
John Aes-Nihil’s 1984 eerily hypnotic film imagines what home movies shot by the Manson family would look like if they filmed their exploits, including the murders that shocked the world in the summer of 1969.
Mark Duplass’ Josef lures a videographer to his home with a promising Craigslist ad — and things aren’t exactly what they seem. Patrick Brice’s film is a nightmare for anyone whose ever met a person online, with a slow, tense build to a grisly end.
IMDb informs us that several film festivals refused to screen Anthony Spadaccini’s Head Case due to its “realistic depiction of sadistic violence.” The film gives us a graphic look into the disturbing lives of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka-style serial killers.
An Australian news crew investigates a bizarre doomsday cult — a group of women and young girls, led by a creepy old man named Michael.
The timely story of a normal family disintegrating under financial pressure, eventually driven to the unimaginable. We witness the terrifying events unfold through daughter Judith’s video camera, which subsequently becomes Exhibit A.
Fictional found-footage film WNUF Halloween Special is presented as a lost local TV program recorded in October of 1987. Television host Frank Stewart takes a team of supernatural investigators into the haunted Webber House. The footage is intercut with realistic commercials from the time period, and the whole movie was released on VHS for that extra authentic touch.