Is it time for found footage horror to get lost?

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By Joe Young- Reporter


Summer’s here, there’s nothing to do, and of course, it’s raining. What better way to waste your summer than going on a Netflix binge?

If like so many, horror is your cup of tea, you may have strong opinions on the found footage genre of horror movies. The first horror movie filmed in this genre was the 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust. At the time of release, Cannibal Holocaust was revolutionary; no piece of cinema had ever done something like it before. The infamously gory scenes of it were even the subject of court cases as people genuinely believed that the actors had faced the horrible deaths featured in the film. The notoriety of the film went down in legend, and no other found footage film was made for almost a decade.

The next two films came in 1989. Both were extremely low budget films – UFO Abduction was, predictably, about a family that were abducted by aliens, and 84C MoPic was about a reconnaissance patrol during the Vietnam War. Other films followed over the next decade, but none went down in legend. And then the cult legend The Blair Witch Project was filmed. Even today, The Blair Witch Project is one of the most successful films of all time, making $248,600,000 from a budget of just $600,000, which represents 41,433% profit. The success of it went unrivalled for many years.

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Then, in 2007, Paranormal Activity was released. Another low-budget film, this one took advantage of the vastly advanced special effects available and made a box office smash. If you thought 41,433% was an impressive profit, try Paranormal Activity’s 1,289,333% profit on for size, which made it the most profitable film ever, based on a return on investment.

And then it started to go downhill. Paranormal Activity films were spat out as quickly as they could be made. At the time of writing, five exist with a sixth due to be released in October. Of course, some gems like REC were released, but again they capitalised on the success of the original – the REC series concluded after four films.

There are other occasional gems out there, such as The Poughkeepsie Tapes, which was released before Paranormal Activity but withdrawn until an on-demand release in 2014, and 2012’s Sinister, which uses the idea of found footage as a plot device, centring around an ancient Babylonian deity who looks suspiciously like Ozzie Osbourne.

Almost all of these films follow the same plot; footage is found that was mysteriously abandoned with no explanation. Someone pieces the footage together in a conveniently cinematic way. The footage starts, and everything is fine and dandy. Then, suddenly, a wild serial killer/ghost/whatever appears. This then proceeds to ruin the life of whoever, be it a family being haunted in their own house, as is the case in the Paranormal Activity series, or hooded demons in the catacombs of Paris, as is the case in As Above, So Below.

This kind of flagrant disregard for unique plots and engaging storylines is just lazy. Using this much abused formula to make a film, when there is very little original to offer other than a change of monster and a change of setting, appears to be little more than milking the cash cow. Films like Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity were such smash hits because they were groundbreaking and innovative. Now, they’re just tired and overused. But have faith – as sure as trends disappear, new ones appear.

It’s just, at this stage, nobody really seems to be aware of what they are.

About Joe Young 316 Articles
Joe Young has been involved with student media for a very long time now, holding posts within The Pulse, and Pulse Radio, as well as the predecessor of The Pulse, Pluto. He is currently Politics Editor of The Pulse, and Head of News of Pulse Radio. In 2016, he won the Media Award for Best Article for his coverage of the Fishergate Shopping Centre bomb scare.

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