In 1999, a ground breaking and phenomenal film was released. It was called The Blair Witch Project and it spawned a filmmaking technique now referred to as the “found footage” genre. It was created with an extremely low budget of $35,000 but would go on to gross $6,500,000 worldwide. Found footage genre has been repeated very successfully in the American film industry and all films that have followed in that trail have been extremely good, entertaining and frightening beyond the reach of special effects, which is the precise idea behind the FF styled films. It moves to, as the name implies, give the audience an impression that rather than a well thought out depiction of past events through Panavision cameras and Steven Speilberg, an actual low quality home made recording has been “found” in absence of the individuals responsible for capturing the unfortunate event. It draws out the voyeur in a human being as best as anything can. The films that have successfully used this style of filmmaking in chronological order are as follows.
. Blair Witch Project (1999)
. Cloverfield (2008)
. Quarantine (2008)
. Paranormal Activity (2009)
. The Fourth Kind (2009)
ALL of which I strongly recommend for a good fright experience.
These films have all commonly had video footage of fictional “real life” people in the most hellish of situations with a struggle for survival at best and at worst, a hope that the footage will be found someday to shed light on their experiences, disappearances or deaths as the case may be.
The technique usually involves using low everyday quality camcorders, unknown actors (not to mention plain-looking) to better take you away from the comfort zone usually provided by the fact that you’re just watching a movie. If Paranormal Activity had Tom Cruise in it, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Your mind would remind you at every event “Ah its only Tommy. Not to worry, he’s at the mansion living it up with Katie… the lucky bastard”.
No. This technique demands you to wonder about the possibility that these events actually occurred yet not sparing the use of special effects within human reason to keep you in a constant fright. Also, rather than a music score or soundtrack, these movies may also just offer the silence of your own bedroom, again so your subconscious doesn’t register “cinema” and reduce fear. Equation? Unfamiliar faces + shaky low quality camcorder-esque footage + no music + impending doom = Pee in pants.
As a filmmaker, the most impressive thing about these 5 movies for me are how they have completely been able to share the same restricted genre and still managed to stay out of each others way by perfectly crafting their own unique plots and subject matters. So while you may mutter “just like Blair Witch Project” none actually are like Blair Witch Project.
I may have started off recommending Olatunde Osunsanmi‘s The Fourth Kind starring Milla Jovovich, but I’m also urging you to watch all other 4 films if you haven’t already. I merely put emphasis on The Fourth Kind, as I should Quarantine, because though less popular than the rest, it is still an experience I forbid you to neglect. It is now available on DVD.
And for old fans… Cloverfield 2 is under way. God bless you JJ. 😉