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Open Letter: I Miss Found Footage Flicks

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I don’t know about you, but I miss the hell out of found footage flicks. Is it just me? I don’t think so. I think there are plenty of peeps out there that appreciated found footage for what it was/is and would like to see it continue forward.

With that in mind, here is my open letter to whoever might be listening (Blumhouse. Cough. Indie filmmakers. Cough.) to not forget about the once massively popular subgenre of filmmaking.

So let’s get to it.

Paranormal Activity

Found footage got a bad rap seemingly from the moment it was invented. Sure, Cannibal Holocaust garnered massive amounts of controversy – and even underwent a fucking criminal trial – but that was for other issues, of course. That said, I wonder when the film hit if people said, “Oh, it was just an easy/lazy way to make cash” or “God, enough already!” I don’t know. I wasn’t alive back then. But I do know that, specifically, after the massive success of the first Paranormal Activity flick, more and more I began seeing reviews and comments online filled with peeps spewing vile hatred toward the subgenre. I didn’t get it back then, and I still don’t get it to this day. Well, I kinda get it. But I respectfully disagree with the haters.

Speaking of which, here is why I think people HATE found footage. It was/is easy and lazy filmmaking. Not. True. At all. Have you ever attempted to make a found footage film? It’s fucking hard. There are so many “rules” to the genre and hurdles to overcome that it is for all intents and purposes MORE difficult to make a (proper) found footage film. Allow me to explain a bit. First off, films of any and all kinds/subgenres need a certain amount of coverage to express the geography of any particular scene, and the emotional toll the events are having on all of the characters in play. Both very hard to do when you have a subjective point of view. Tip: security cameras help get your wide/establishing shots. Drawback: what if you’re filming in the woods? Exactly.

Lake Mungo

Found footage filmmakers can’t just show up on set and give the classic directions of “Let’s do an establishing shot, punch-in for a medium, then snag over-the-shoulders, singles, and move on.” Doesn’t work like that in found footage. Found footage directors and DPs must always think of creative ways to cover their scenes to put across the necessary information… or have the f*cking scary level of confidence to leave important info off the screen. You know, like people’s reactions to what they are seeing. There is a film out there called Mr. Jones that tried to attach (for lack of a better term) a backward-camera to the main camera, thus showing us not only what our protagonist was looking at, but his/her face the entire time as well, but personally, this only annoyed me and resulted in one of the lesser found footage films I’ve seen. Nice try though. Points for being inventive.

And since we’re on the subject of inventiveness, this is why I love found footage. Out of all the films I have ever seen, the top three that scared me the most (like legit “standing around in a field in broad daylight a week later looking over my shoulder and trying not to cry” scared) are The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Lake Mungo. All three are found footage. Sure, Lake Mungo is more mockumentary, but everyone considers faux-docs a part of found footage, so let’s not split hairs here. Anyhow, I think these scared me so much because the films basically let you live out a horror movie through the eyes of the characters inside the film. I accept this filmmaking innovation (yes, innovation) and love the experience 9/10 times. In fact, it’s hard to find a found footage film I haven’t enjoyed. They exist for sure, but I’m not here to name names. (Other than The Pyramid. Fuck that movie.) But a few flicks aside I dig the idea of watching horror from behind the eyes of the lead(s).

REC

So why not just make movies that assume the position of the protagonist’s actual eyeballs? They have. Hardcore Henry (not horror, but still) and You Are Not Alone both tried this technique and it didn’t work. At least not for this guy. There’s something boring and synthetic about that experience. Hence, the fear is almost impossible to capture. Scary movies tend to work because we as the audience don’t see the filmmaking elements in play in something like The Shining or The Exorcist. Wait, you say, I notice the filmmaking techniques in those films and more. Sure. I get you. But the trick to those films is you shouldn’t notice the cuts and the coverage. The POV films I mentioned above are off-putting because we as modern audiences have learned to disregard things such as editing (especially when cuts are made on movement) and the POV film is merely a constant reminder we are watching a movie.

Found footage, however, splits the difference. Especially in this day and age when people are filming all the time. It feels natural. It feels real. And thus it has the ability to be more fucking bone-shatteringly terrifying than even the most “invisibly-made” standard film. If you buy into it, of course. And therein lies the rub. Lots of folks out there just can’t use “suspension of disbelief” when it comes to found footage. They can buy that 9/11 Godzillas exist and that there are witches in the black hills outside Burketsville, but cannot buy into the reality that those batteries last THAT long, and why the protagonists didn’t just drop the fucking camera and run. Speaking of which, “just drop the fucking camera and run” is something most people get positively furious at. For real. I have engaged in quite a few pro-found footage debates and I have seen detractors literally freak out like the chick in the subway in Possession. The hate runs deep. But I guess I get it. People need logic. Even if the events onscreen defy logic. That’s just the way it is. Fair enough. Never bothers me though. Yes, even when filmmakers incorporate score into their found footage flicks, I’m still with them. I get it. It’s all good.

Creep

All of that ranted and raved, I think found footage should make a comeback. And more specifically, I think found footage should be recognized as a worthy subgenre of horror and not just a fad that happened in the mid-00’s. Found footage should be a constant mainstay at the movies. Meaning VOD, really. Found footage in theaters always kinda defeated the purpose in the first place. But still, who else out there misses found footage and wishes talented filmmakers were still giving the subgenre some love?

Let us know below!

And while we’re on the subject of found footage, make sure to check out Creep 2 on Netflix and The Monster Project, now available on Amazon Prime!

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