The idea of Horror going all Cinema Verite' began way back in the 1980 with Cannibal Holocaust, but it wasn't until a little flick called The Blair Witch Project came along that everything changed. BWP proved that you don't need millions of dollars to make an effective movie, although to be fair, it was a fresh new idea for a Horror flick at the time, and that's part of why it became so mega huge. I wonder how it would play if it were released today.
Since BWP, there have been an ever growing number of Found Footage flicks that have tried to capture that same magic, and in recent years, it seems as if they're multiplying like Tribbles.
Most of them are not very good.
Below we have 10 examples of Hand Held/POV/Found Footage/Cinema Verite Horror flicks that we've watched, reviewed, and pretty much hated. *Click the posters to check each film's original review.
So what makes for a bad Found Footage movie, Horror or otherwise?
Well, for a FF/POV flick to work, the audience needs to buy into the story, get sucked into it's creepy atmosphere, relate to and care about the characters on some level, and the ride has to be thrilling and effective. Same goes for any type of movie, really, but with FF, the ante is upped in those departments. Oh, and if it ends for shit, it kills anything good that may have come before, so that's important too.
-First and foremost, is believability. If you're going to sell us on the idea that your film is a real document of real horrific events, can you at least try to include some realism in there somewhere? With films like this, you have to be able to suck your audience in, and make them believe that what they're seeing is, or at least could be, real.
In this sub-genre, every premise is basically the same; a small group of friends heads out to some remote place or abandoned location to either party, or investigate something, and are never seen again. Fine, that's kinda the point, but can you at least give us something a little bit different in the set up department? Take The Troll Hunter for example; the filmmakers took what should have been a ridiculous story (by title alone), and made it feel real, because they took the time to construct a believable plot structure. Not once did I think, "this is ridiculous," and that's why that movie worked.
-Characters are important too. If you can't make your characters likable (or at the very least, tolerable) within the first ten minutes of the movie, what happens to them from there on out ceases to matter. Too many characters in FF/POV flciks (and Horror in general) are such completely moronic assholes, that it distracts us from the point of the film itself. Take the recent V/H/S/2 for example; in the last segment titled "Slumber Party Alien Abduction", the kids are so obnoxious and hateable, that we no longer cared what happened to any of them. Tension comes from identifying and caring, and at the point where you start rooting for the evil forces to kill the protagonists, a movie anchored in supposed reality loses its point for existing.
Which brings us to...
-The fact that these characters, who are thrust into truly horrifying and potential deadly circumstances, have the presence of mind to film everything that happens to and around them. Why are they still recording? Aside from the movie depending on it, why are these everyday "real" people recording every step they take during such traumatic and chaotic events? Use the camera for light, use it as a weapon, or drop it, but to try and sell me on the idea that the average person would film things movie-style under those circumstances is nothing more than a cheap cop out.
-Shaky Cam is rarely a fun thing to endure. Bouncing, frenetic, back and forth camera movements may fit in with the "reality" of a movie, but too much of it can be jarring. I really think that one big reason for the success of the Paranormal Activity films is that the camera is stationary, thus making things not only less vomit-inducing, but far more plausible. Over-use of Shaky Cam absolutely killed Seventh Moon for us, which otherwise was a pretty cool little movie.
-Nothing kills a film quicker than a shitty ending. Stop with the crazy twists, the jump scare/cut to black thing, and by all means do not have your ending negate the previous 90 minutes of your film. You know how to end a Found Footage flick effectively? Shit just cuts off, that''s how. If you don't have a wrap segment in which someone finds or is viewing the FF, then it's absolutely logical that at some point, whatever someone is recording is just going to stop abruptly.
Most FF flicks are made on the cheap by newer filmmakers and amateur casts, so you go into them expecting a certain lack of quality or finesse. A solid, believable story with relateable characters and an effective atmosphere can makes things like bad acting and limited budget a non-issue though.
With a little more care, some of these bad examples of the Found Footage sub-genre could easily become good ones, or at the very least, tolerable ones.
So there is a quick rundown of the problems that we find in a lot of Found Footage flicks, and 10 examples of movies that just plain get it wrong.
Next, we'll give you 10 examples of FF flicks that get it right, so see you in a bit...