Found-footage has a bad reputation. For a long period, movies using this filming technique were loathed. The way found-footage exploded in the last decade can only be compared to the sudden rise of slashers in the early eighties. After all, both were accused of being undemanding and unoriginal.
The Paranormal Activity franchise made heaps of money, but some critics opposed everything the series had encouraged. Despite resistance and sometimes valid flak, the sub-genre has more than its fair share of fantastic movies. Many of which have gone unnoticed. So, if you're looking to give found-footage another chance, here are ten movies you should discover.
10 Followed (2015)
David (Adam LeClair) and Rachel (Stefanie Butler) are moving across the country. During the road trip, David hopes to propose to his girlfriend. In his attempt to document the entire trip, David inadvertently records some suspicious activity. Now, the couple believes someone is following them wherever they go.
As astoundingly simple as Followed is, it's also very effective. The threat of being pursued at every turn is creepy enough. Though it may seem like the story restrains itself too much, doing so prevents it from becoming over-the-top or improbable. The affable main characters redeem any flaws one might find in this thriller.
9 Inner Demons (2014)
Once a straight-A student and a devout teenager, Carson Morris (Lara Vosburgh) has fallen off of the wagon. With her permission, an Intervention-style docudrama follows and records Carson. This is when one of the crew members, Jason (Morgan McClellan), notices something very off about the show's latest subject. Something no one else seems to realize— Carson is possessed by a demon.
An easy way to present a story and explain all the cameras in a found-footage movie is to use a documentary format. Inner Demons is a heartfelt yet grim look at addiction, as told through a supernatural lens.
8 The Collingswood Story (2002)
A couple uses webcams to help maintain their long-distance relationship. While Johnny (Johnny Burton) remains in their hometown, Rebecca (Stephanie Dees) goes away to college in Collingswood, New Jersey. When the couple stumbles upon an online psychic, they learn about the sinister history of the house Rebecca is staying in.
Long before the first-person perspective became so commonplace in horror, The Collingswood Story was paving the way for things to come. This, of course, was slightly hot on the heels of The Blair Witch Project. Nonetheless, this is an atmospheric spook tale that pre-dates other desktop horrors like Unfriended.
7 Alone With Her (2006)
Amy (Ana Claudia Talancó) doesn't realize she's being stalked. Her stalker — a seemingly mild-mannered man named Doug (Colin Hanks) — is someone she regularly sees. In the meantime, Doug plants a series of cameras in Amy's apartment to watch her at all hours. To keep his victim under his thumb, Doug manipulates Amy's life under the guise of being a new and helpful friend.
Alone With Her is uncomfortable and objectionable to the nth degree. Up until the end, viewers will watch with bated breath.
6 Keramat (2009)
When a group of young film-makers from Jakarta visit Bantul, Yogyakarta, one crew member becomes ill. They come to believe her malady is paranormal, so they contact a priest. Unfortunately, this does more harm than good. Once the patient goes missing, a search party is formed. As the night continues, the group is subjected to unspeakable terror.
Aside from a few outliers, the found-footage style never really caught on in East Asia, outside of Japan and South Korea. Keramat (a.k.a. Scared) is not the easiest film to track down, but this eerie trek through the Indonesian countryside is worth it.
5 Evidence (2013)
Passengers aboard a broken down bus take shelter in an abandoned gas station. They are then picked off one by one by a homicidal maniac wearing a welder's mask. Using captured footage from the crime scene, the police search for clues as to who the killer was.
This entry is a bit of a cheat, but it also fits. The police find footage that's then shown to us, after all. For all intents and purposes, Evidence is a procedural drama and thriller with elements of a slasher. Consider yourself psychic if you can guess the outcome of this one.
4 The Pyramid (2014)
When an archaeological team explores a lost pyramid, they find themselves the target of a horrifying creature from Egyptian mythology.
The Pyramid came out at a time when found-footage exhaustion was increasing. In fact, 2014 may have been the last year where the sub-genre enjoyed major success in theaters. As Above/So Below and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones did well, but The Pyramid didn't meet expectations, in terms of ticket sales or critical reception. Putting some necessary distance between then and now, however, viewers should give the movie another shot. It's an exciting creature feature that makes good use of its antagonist and setting.
3 Gags the Clown (2018)
Green Bay, Wisconsin is on high alert when a clown named Gags starts to appear at random all over the city. He hasn't caused any serious harm yet, but his presence has influenced others to dress up as clowns, too. Among those looking for Gags are a new reporter and a conservative podcast host. What they ultimately find is scarier than anything they ever imagined possible.
Loosely based on a series of clown sightings from 2016, this first-person horror asserts its titular character as a pervasive threat. No easy feat considering the hoopla surrounding "scary clown" culture in recent years.
2 They're Watching (2016)
A home improvement show travels to Moldova to follow up with an American woman fixing up a derelict house. While chronicling their subject's progress, the show's crew learns of a local legend about an accused witch burned at the stake. Following a series of unexplained incidents, the crew suspects the colorful folklore is actually fact.
They're Watching will catch you completely off guard. Initially, the movie totters about, burying itself under its own mockumentary facade. But once the sprinkled clues serve their higher purpose, everything culminates in a brilliant finish. The conclusion is absolutely nuclear and deserving of more viewers.
1 Butterfly Kisses (2018)
A film-maker comes across footage documenting an urban legend native to Ellicott City, Maryland. According to myth, a ghost called Peeping Tom can be summoned by staring at the end of a tunnel without blinking for one hour. As the film-maker investigates both Peeping Tom and the film students behind the project, he becomes dangerously obsessed.
Butterfly Kisses is the hidden gem that found-footage fans have been waiting for. The movie is a tour de force for the sub-genre. It's emotional, innovative, and most importantly, terrifying. Peeping Tom is an unnerving villain that will make you think twice about blinking.