Do you like Found Footage movies as much as me? well check out this bingo sheet and see which movie will get you a full house, info below is for geeks only.. click on the image for a large version and to download.
Shaky Cam – One of the more common tropes of Found Footage is that the filming of the “events” is usually done by a non professional, some teen on their phone or with a home camcorder much like Cloverfield (2008) when a party is interrupted by a monstrous invasion but the party goers take their cam with them as they run for safety. This has been changed up over the years with documentary styled events but they still offer a bit of shaky cam when the camera man and team are sometimes running for their lives or have to make snap decisions to capture the unreal events that crop up around them Devils Familiar (2020) which follows a couple of students attempting to make a documentary about a local legend only to find more than they bargained for in the woods. What can’t be ignored is the very recent addition of things like gopros being used to really give that fast paced POV action, which really added a bit of terror to the disturbing but slightly slower paced . The Borderlands/Final Prayer (2013) where a team are investigating a possible catholic miracle at a remote church, but the entire investigation has to be recorded so go pros and cctv style footage all round it leads to some very interesting shots and a fuller story.
Offscreen Action – Because of the impromptu nature of found footage there’s a strong possibility untrained cameramen might miss an event until it’s too late and a lot will happen off screen. A majority of the found footage genre involves investigations into urban legends, monsters and entities so the crew or participants are often caught off guard and miss some, if not all of the action, there are a few tense moments in Char Man (2019) when a trio of friends search for a local boogeyman, not being totally prepared they don’t have the right lighting and therefore just film the room they are in while listening, it’s still pretty creepy and a great indie effort.
Broken Screen – Mostly made on a shoestring and in the heat of the moment, it took a little while before a broken screen really made it into a Found Footage film but that trend soon came and went, but considering how the cameras are often tossed around, dropped and kicked about, sometimes it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t happen more often, one really good example is the night vision waterproof camera in The Tunnel (2011).
Video Playback – Imagine the scene, you’re making a documentary about finding bigfoot and after months of planning, hiking and tracking, you may have caught him on camera, so what do you do.. sit back and review the footage, but you have to film yourself reviewing that footage because everyone loves a reaction video. Playing back some of the already recorded footage is paramount in Found Footage movies which attempt to uncover a mystery, in Hell House LLC (2015), the guys prove that the props were moving independently even if it didn’t stop them from their merry dance into the gates of hell.. Lake mungo (2008) touched on the importance of playback when the film beings to unravel and disprove its own theories, only to build them back up in a more sinister and depressing manner.
Night Vision – One of the most notable and creepiest Found Footage scenes in my honest opinion is the night vision scene in Rec (2007) which is one of the groundbreaking documentary style movies from Paco Plaza whose film follows a television reporter accompanying an emergency fire crew in Spain, but their action packed night doesn’t involve any fires as they are locked into a tenant building with some strange blood thirsty zombie/demons but when they find out who/what is the source of the virus watching it wandering around in the dark through night vision was a scene that kept me up at night! But it’s not just Rec that pioneered the night vision movement, the title probably goes to Grave Encounters (2011) as it’s most prominent moments are all in night vision as the group of paranormal investigator who are well known for the technique really outdo themselves by uncovering all their hearts desires while checking out a deeply haunted asylum. Other big hitters include Trollhunter (2010) and The Tunnel (2011).
Poor reason to keep the camera on – The main idea of found footage is that an event is being documented, and the key words are “keep filming” so the cameras always have to remain on to make sure nothing is missed, however it’s only justified when something is happening, we don’t want to watch someone on the toilet (despite this happening in 1st Summoning (2018) but the aim is to catch those wholesome footage to cut into a feature or to show the blow by blow, but when shocking and mysterious events aren’t happening why is the camera still on. Sometimes someone just forgets or someone randomly sets a camera up in their living room filming their ouija board while they go out for the night, like in. Paranormal Activity (2007) or a strange scene in Entidad (2015) where someone randomly films themselves surfing the web, and I’d also like to mention the blender death scene in Unfriended (2014), we do know why the film was running as it was a live conversation but who films themselves making a cocktail in their bedroom in the first place, wrong product wrong place, just wrong!
Camera Man Cameo For every found footage film there has to be a cameraman, that’s a no brainer right!? A majority of the time it’s a team or one person glued to the back of the camera, professional or not, they often find themselves out of their depth by the end of the film but it’s pretty awesome when they do make a cameo, no matter how brief before the films end, most notable is the chirpy face we see in Cloverfield (2018), just before all hell breaks loose.
Getting Lense in focus This generally happens in a lot of found footage movies as things are happening on the run, auto focus kicks in and the blurry focus often misses big action scenes and there’s an obligatory diary entry where the camera is being set up too, is there’s not other way to present this style of scene?
Screen distortions – Possibly one of the more annoying tropes as the screen is often distorted just as something scary is happening, be it paranormal or just balls in the face frightening, someone will jump or cause some kind of interference and the film ends up getting one of those blurry bigfoot images of the target. I would like to point out how Trollhunter really scrapped that notion and delivered some amazing troll footage but it seems a majority of the other films will use this tactic at least once, including, Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), Apollo 18 (2011).
Creepy Sounds The Devil’s Doorway which film picks up the sounds the cast can’t hear, there’s also a lot of sound distortion which leads to a bit of plot development in the The Tunnel (2011)
Camera being used a storch – One of the more common reasons to have a camera running is to use it as a torch in the darkness, this features in a number of cryptid based movies and the fast paced Evidence (2013), where a group of young people find their camping trip turn into a nightmare when all hell breaks loose in the night.
Claims to be the scariest horror of all time – Hell house did this and while it was creepy, a lot of audiences instantly went in trying to disprove how scary the film is. While it does get people watching the film to find out, it also manages to get the film voted down for not delivering, after all, everyone gets their fear kick from different things, there is no one film which will scare everyone, so why try to make this claim?
Claims cast are still missing (dead) – To give a Found Footage movie that deadly edge, claims that the footage is real and the cast are dead or missing often accompany the film to get fans to look for clues in real life.. We all know how the original Blair Witch went down but can you think of any others that followed that trend?
Blair Witch Remake – With the popularity of the Blair Witch Project, it’s quite popular for other movies to just try and reinvent the same old scare and are basically pseudo remakes of the pioneering movie, love or hate it, it really did force this new wave of Found Footage back into the popular eye. Change the Witch into a cult and we have Devils Familiar (2020), the Indian version is basically 6-5=2 (2014) and if you want to make the witch extraterrestrial then you can’t go wrong with Hangar 10 (2014).
Live Streaming – With more modern Found Footage horrors there’s a touch of live streaming. Where the camera is replaced by the lens of the audience watching online, some prime examples are E Demon (2018), and the retro inspired The Cleansing Hour (2019) , not strictly found footage but supposedly filmed in real time and with that direct to the audience feel, but the Host (2020) went all hog and was based fully on a live streaming event but went above and beyond to use all the modern tropes to scare an audience watching during lockdown.
Slipping into real film – It’s admirable when a found footage movie remains a found footage movie, excuses can be made for those additional screens which allow for the film to be presented, or in the case of mockumentaries there might be cuts to “survivor” interviews. Banshee Chapter (2013), District 9 (2009), Chernobyl Diaries (2012) ,End of Watch (2012) and Frankenstein Army (2013)
“Turn the camera off” – In most situations it’s illegal or just not the right time or place to be filming but the dedicated camera men and crews often find ways around this problem and just keep on filming, prime examples of this include the Tunnel (2011) where permission was never given for the film to team, or the last exorcism when the crew are told to turn around and go back to where they came from.
One dickhead character – Horror is well known as the genre for making bad decisions, and no one does that better than a total dickhead Cannibal Holocaust (1980) who’s ego and need to get footage leads to his team being hunted by a tribe of cannibals, and then there’s Micha.. Anyone else??
Urban Legend – You can argue that Urban Legend hunting is one of the vital subjects of found footage and my only retort would be how do they measure up against, strangely the Gallows (2015), while not popular, does go to show that a high school urban legend can still attempt to scare audiences.
Old time camera lenses and effects – For that authentic feel, a lot of movies have some added tracking lines or at times a director will go the whole hog and film all or part of the movie on older cameras, classic examples of this style include Poughkeepsie tapes (2007) and you could argue maybe The mcpherson tapes (1989)?
Running around the woods This is a no brainer. We see this in a majority of Found movies as they usually involve stumbling on a secret entity or project in the woods. We have this infinity with recording the beauty of the forest.
Unlimited battery – With films about crews and teams of people with professional gear etc you can understand them having the resources to gather enough material to make a film, however in the spur of the moment or when things go awry the batteries only run out at the end of the movie.. Jerezulum (2015) is a prime example of a pair of Google glasses with unlimited life but also the camera battery in Cloverfield does last forever
Scary Noises off screen – As the situations usually occur at the spur of the moment, a lot of action and noise is caught off screen, prime examples of how this atmospheric effect plays tricks on the psyche can be heard in Noroi The Curse (2005 ) and the Afflicted (2010)
Battery Indicator Showing – I’ve never seen this actually happen in real life, do cameras ever record the on screen notifications other than the date? There’s definitely a lot of screen action going on in Evidence (2013) and other bigfoot Found Footage horrors.