Today on the blog, we are lucky to have Ari Borhanian, our web content producer and horror aficionado, writing about found footage horror movies. Read on for five amazing films you may not have seen!
A creak of a floorboard. A rustle of a curtain. A guy with a camera hiding in a corner who, for some god-forsaken reason, wouldn’t stop filming everything.
Remember the found footage explosion? For a while there, it seemed like we couldn’t get away from them. Paranormal Activity, REC, Cloverfield, and all the way back to Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust (we don’t talk about Cannibal Holocaust.) Like slashers before them, found-footage movies became popular enough that it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to find the Actually Good ones. So, in honor of the new genre fans looking for a good scare, here are five found footage horror movies you probably haven’t heard of.
Hell House, LLC.
Available to stream on: Shudder
Good if you like: Unique, low-budget spooky fun
During the height of found-footage mania, there were a ton of indie filmmakers trying to make their mark in the genre, to mixed results. Enter Hell House LLC., a low-budget indie found footage movie that, surprisingly, is actually terrifying.
Taking place in 2009, Hell House LLC focuses around a tragedy that takes place at a Haunted House Attraction on opening night. A crew of dedicated horror-fans aim to create a Haunted House attraction at the abandoned Abaddon Hotel. The next day, fifteen people are dead.
Taking on a light documentary format, the movie manages to toe a line between cheesy, campy fun and genuine unnerving terror. This film was filmed at an actual haunted house attraction, and for such a simple and low budget production, managed to genuinely leave this horror veteran awake after it was over. It’s far from a perfect film, but there are some sequences that remain in my top horror moments years after I first watched it.
And the clown. Oh, my god, the clown.
Available to stream on: Youtube (for free!)
Good if you like: Monster movies and true crime
One of the best things about horror as a genre is its ability to tackle difficult topics through the lens of frightening fiction. Savageland is a documentary style horror film about a mysterious event one night that leaves an entire Texas town brutally murdered, and the one immigrant man who stands accused of committing the crime. The only documentation of that night? A series of 33 black-and-white photographs taken by the accused as he documented the events around him.
It’s an overstated, if often true, notion that the greatest fear is that of the unknown, and Savageland manages to masterfully have its cake and eat it too by keeping the events of the film relegated to these photos. On one hand, the film is able to explore events that would be more or less impossible to film on a low budget with deft realism by keeping them to these often blurry nightmare photographs, while also allowing the story to unfold in a memorable and unconventional way by focusing on the impact and gradual unraveling mystery of the event rather than living through the events live on screen.
While the political metaphors aren’t exactly the most subtle, the film manages to tell a genuinely chilling tale in a way I’ve genuinely never seen any other horror film attempt before. Plus, it’s literally free to watch. Can’t go wrong with that.
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum
Available to stream on: Shudder
Good if you like: Classic, edge-of-your-seat horror fun
Look, I’ve livestreamed before, and it’s frankly a terrifying experience all its own. So what could be scarier than a group of streaming friends documenting their night in an old, closed down, and reportedly haunted asylum?
While Savageland attempts to explore political topics, this subtitled Korean film is, generally, more of a roller coaster of scares and spooky fun. While the film absolutely features commentary about streaming culture and the need to constantly push your limits for the entertainment of others, it’s also just a rollicking good time and, of course, ridiculously scary. There is a sequence at the end that I genuinely couldn’t look at throughout. Not because it was gory, but because it was just so tense I could barely breathe throughout it.
Foreign films are a great place to look for horror you might never have heard of, and Gonjiam is a great place to start. Just remember: sometimes, an extra like and share isn’t worth the trouble, terror, and torn-off limb.
Available to stream on: Peacock
Good if you like: Anthologies and diverse horror experiences
Wait! I can already hear you saying. V/H/S 2? What about the first movie? I don’t want to miss out on important plot information! Well, worry not, my fright-loving friend. Every film is absolutely stand-alone.
There’s no ongoing plot in the V/H/S series. Starting with the original V/H/S in 2012, each film invites up-and-coming horror directors, as well as some well-known creators, to film their own found footage short films, which are then tied together into one anthology experience. While the first V/H/S is absolutely worth a watch, it’s pretty universally agreed that the second collection is the best of the bunch. From the go-pro apocalypse of A Ride in the Park to the cult-in-the-woods madhouse Safe Haven (directed by V/H/S regular Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans of The Raid fame), there’s plenty of diverse treats in this anthology. The various ways each director explores the medium and possible tones of a short horror film are nothing short of a blast, and you’re bound to find at least a couple short films that make their way into regular Halloween night rotation.
If you enjoy V/H/S 2, be sure to check out the rest of the franchise, which currently sits at five films with a sixth on the way this year. But steer clear of V/H/S: Viral. It’s…not great.
Available to stream on: Shudder
Good if you like: Psychological Horror, crying yourself to sleep
The grief of losing a loved one is a horror that no film can possibly capture, but Lake Mungo comes pretty close.
In this deeply disturbing documentary-style Australian horror film, a family is left picking up the pieces after their daughter drowns in the titular Lake Mungo. But between strange noises in their house at night, disturbing journal entries, and a forgotten phone buried deep below the dirt, they begin to realize that her life might have contained horrors beyond their very comprehension. Oh, and she might be haunting their house.
This film takes the cake for most-sleepless-nights-after-watching-a-film. What starts as a deceptively simple film about grief spirals into a much deeper exploration of loneliness, the fear of being forgotten, and the darkness-beyond-darkness that lies just outside of our view. Plus, there is one simple psychological scare in this movie that left me so utterly horrified that I have been unable to watch the scene again ever since.
This film is not for the faint of heart, and remains to this day the most terrifying psychological horror film I’ve ever watched. It won’t work for everyone, but this horror veteran was left marked by this movie. Just be sure to watch through the credits. If you make it that far.
People tend to be a bit unfair to found footage horror movies. They’re often seen as shlocky, nonsensical, and trend-chasing. But these five films, as well as countless others, demonstrate that the filmmaking device still has plenty of disturbing and thrilling places to go. By putting us behind the camera, found footage movies give us the unique opportunity to truly ask ourselves what we would do if placed in these horrific situations, and, in a world where pretty much everyone has become their own filmmaker with a phone in their pocket, these types of movies are only becoming more relevant as the years go by.
Thanks for checking out this list, and enjoy the spooky nights ahead.
Thanks again to Ari for this fabulous list of found footage horror movies! I know I can’t wait to check them out! What found footage horror movies would you add to this list?