5 Found Footage Films Actually Worth Watching
With the release of As Above, So Below this weekend, we have yet another iteration of the often-used, seldomly-done-right found footage genre. What started as a great idea has morphed into more of a gimmick…especially for horror and sci-fi movies.
However, like I mentioned, it did start as a good idea and there have been a few exceptions along the way to somewhat justify the continued use of found footage films.
Here are the five films I’d suggest renting:
Sebastian Cordero’s (Crónicas) sci-fi film Europa Report was definitely lost in the shuffle last year. Not only did it debut through Video On Demand (during the summer nonetheless), but it had Gravity to compete with later on. Putting all that aside, the story of a doomed space mission is ripe for found footage use, mostly because it captures the claustrophobic juxtaposition between a tiny spacecraft and the seemingly endless space frontier perfectly. I understand that makes it sound like a horror film but it’s actually not. If you want underrated, check out Europa Report.
Although I said found footage films are primarily sci-fi or horror films, David Ayer’s (Street Kings) End of Watch is an anomaly. In fact, I can’t think of a straight action found footage film off the top of my head. Genre or not, End of Watch is a great film, not only because it features the rock solid Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena duo, but because it delves into the lives of police officers and, perhaps more importantly, the lives of the people around them. Again, I recommend seeing this one, even if the found footage part of the story does feel a little gimmicky.
Like End of Watch, Matt Reeves’ (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) Cloverfield is an action-heavy film. Still, I’d categorize this one as more sci-fi than anything else. Either way, Cloverfield takes the found footage aspect of the film to a whole new level (especially when compared to the two movies preceding it on this list). There were infamous reports of people vomiting in the theaters because of motion sickness but I find these claims to be overly dramatic. The reality is Cloverfield is an intense ride that actually benefits from the found footage title.
Also very much like End of Watch, Josh Trank’s directorial debut Chronicle is very unlike anything you’ve seen from found footage films. This time around it deals with superpowers making this perhaps the one and only found footage superhero film to exist. In some ways, Chronicle is better than traditional superhero movies because it explores more “real” characters. The best part, though, is how it dovetails into exploring the darker side of superpowers, like what happens if you abuse the power. This undoubtedly makes Chronicle a must-see.
The first spot on my lists almost always goes to the leader of the pack. I generally give first franchise films precedent over films that follow. Similarly, I want to give The Blair Witch Project a lot of credit for being ahead of the 8-ball. When looking back on found footage films, it’s hard to find a film that used the method as effectively as early. My list also is short on horror films (which are the primary source of found footage flicks) but again I can point to the fact that The Blair Witch Project got their first (something The Social Network taught me means everything). Nobody remembers second place and in this case, second place doesn’t matter at all.
I also considered both V/H/S and its sequel V/H/S/2. Any others worth mentioning?
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle