We’re just a few weeks away from the release of The Gallows, kicking off the summer haunting season on Friday, July 10th. It’s the latest in a long line of horror films that fall under the found footage umbrella, which is a filmmaking style that has dominated the genre’s landscape for many years now.
While 1999’s Blair Witch Project is often credited as the first horror movie made in the POV style, such a claim is quite untrue. Though Blair Witch is no doubt the movie that popularized the style, and Paranormal Activity the one that brought it into a new decade, there were actually a handful of found footage films that came out well before that horrifying tale of the witch in the woods.
Here are seven of those handheld horror movies, which all predate The Blair Witch Project!
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST – 1980
What’s the very first found footage movie ever made? That honor belongs to Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, which was released a full 19 years before The Blair Witch Project. One of the most controversial horror films of all time, Cannibal Holocaust is largely comprised of footage of an ill-fated documentary crew’s expedition to the Amazon Basin, which is recovered by a rescue crew. So raw and real is the footage that many believed it to be much more than a work of fiction, and Deodato was arrested shortly after the film was released, under the belief that he actually orchestrated and filmed real murders. Leading to this belief was the fact that none of the actors were available for interviews, which Deodato had them agree to in an effort to make people truly believe that the movie contained real documentary footage. The same technique was later used to promote The Blair Witch Project.
MANSON FAMILY MOVIES – 1984
After the infamous 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and friends, rumors suggested that Charles Manson and the members of his ‘family’ may have filmed bizarre home movies, documenting their crimes and possibly even murders. These rumors became the basis for John Aes-Nihil’s Manson Family Movies, which was released straight-to-video in 1984. An exploitation of the real-life horror story that gripped and terrified the nation in the late 60s, the 8mm film showed what that home movie footage may have looked like, if it were to be found, and it documented the fictionalized events leading up to – and including – the Tate/LaBianca murders.
UFO ABDUCTION (THE MCPHERSON TAPE) – 1989
1989 saw the release of Dean Alioto’s UFO Abduction (aka The McPherson Tape), which was shot on a budget of a mere $6,500. In this early entry into the found footage sub-genre, a man is filming the 5th birthday party of his young niece, and things take a turn for the extraterrestrial when he discovers a spaceship and aliens in his backyard. The footage chronicles the final hours of life for the Van Heese family, before they’re abducted by the aliens, and so convincing was the film at the time that many believed they had witnessed a real life alien abduction. Alioto remade UFO Abduction a decade later with the bigger budgeted Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County, which aired on UPN in 1998. Though neither film is available on DVD, the original UFO Abduction can be watched in full over on YouTube.
MORE EARLY FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS ON NEXT PAGE!