GHOSTWATCH – 1992
One of the most controversial TV broadcasts of all time, Ghostwatch aired on the UK’s BBC network on Halloween night, 1992. Directed by Lesley Manning, the pre-recorded movie was presented as a live telecast, wherein viewers were invited into an allegedly haunted house in London to investigate it with a group of reporters. Inside the house, the supposedly real paranormal activity began, and the film culminated with the reporters coming to the realization that the program had essentially served as a live séance, which gave power to the malevolent spirit inside. A brilliant bit of faux-realism, Ghostwatch was banned by the BBC for over 10 years after its original broadcast, a result of viewer complaints and it being linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in two children as well as the suicide of a mentally disturbed young man. Ghostwatch is now available on DVD.
MAN BITES DOG – 1992
The three man team of Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde brought found footage to their home country of Belgium with Man Bites Dog, released in 1992. A dark comedy, the black and white film centers on a documentary crew who follow around a charismatic serial killer named Ben, at first observing his murders and eventually taking an active part in them. Man Bites Dog has developed a cult following over the years, and in 2002 it became a part of the prestigious Criterion Collection – the first and only found footage film to receive the honor.
AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO – 1993
Predating Natural Born Killers by a year, the low-budget film America’s Deadliest Home Video stars Danny Bonaduce (“The Partridge Family”) as Dougie, a home video enthusiast who’s kidnapped by a gang of killers and forced to document their ruthless exploits. Written and directed by Jack Perez, who has gone on to direct films like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and Some Guy Who Kills People, America’s Deadliest Home Video has been out-of-print on VHS for years, and has to date never been released on DVD.
THE LAST BROADCAST – 1998
There’s perhaps no film on this list that can be more closely linked to The Blair Witch Project than The Last Broadcast, which premiered just over a year before Blair Witch got all the credit for being the first of its kind. A live hunt for the famed Jersey Devil is the intention of the hosts of an Unsolved Mysteries type show in this one, which turns deadly when only one man from the four-man crew returns home alive. Directed by Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler, The Last Broadcast shows the recovered footage that they shot, being examined by a documentary filmmaker who’s trying to determine exactly what happened out there in the woods.