Shudder has just released their latest horror-related documentary, The Found Footage Phenomenon, and it’s an engrossing look at one of the most fascinating sub-genres of horror.
Of course, the doc takes a close look at the most popular and best-known found footage examples: Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, REC, Cloverfield, Host…you know, the ones everyone has heard of, even if they haven’t actually seen all of them. But, there is also discussion about some less widely known projects, many of which have achieved cult status of sorts. Some of these films are Megan is Missing, Borderlands, The Last Broadcast, Char Man, Creep, Afflicted and UFO Abduction.
The Found Footage Phenomenon is jam-packed with clips from dozens of films, and these clips made me come to a realization about why, despite my love for the genre, there are some found footage films I have no desire to watch. It’s not the often disturbing subject matter included in found footage; instead, it’s the skill of the actors. For me personally, it takes extremely proficient actors to make me accept that what I am watching is supposed to be real. They can’t overact or underact, they have to be incredibly natural to pull it off.
That’s why films like The Blair Witch Project, which was largely improvised (the actors were given scenarios and storylines, but often no actual scripts for certain scenes), work so well. While I have never watched Megan is Missing, for example, the acting in the clips shown did not impress me as being realistic and natural, and if I can’t suspend my disbelief for the length of the film, it just doesn’t work for me.
I understand that found footage is a genre that lends itself to low budget films, but there ARE good actors out there who won’t demand a huge paycheck to practice their craft onscreen. As an example, let’s go back to arguably the most influential found footage flick of them all: The Blair Witch Project. None of the actors in that one were well-known, and they managed to convince a large percentage of viewers that what they were watching was actually a true story. Of course, the marketing strategy behind it definitely helped, but it would never have worked with sub-par actors.
That said, The Found Footage Phenomenon did a great job of including big-budget films, as well as low-budget in their discussion.
Part of what makes these documentaries so fascinating to viewers like myself are the interviews and commentaries with the film creators. Their thoughts on the genre and on what works and what doesn’t are valuable and interesting. And there is also the aspect of introducing viewers to films they may not have been familiar with, which in turn, inspires them to actually watch some of these films. I know there are a few I plan to check out in the near future.
The Found Footage Phenomenon is definitely a must-see for fans of the genre, and it can only be streamed on Shudder. First-time subscribers can take advantage of a free seven-day trial when they sign up through the website.
Are you someone who enjoys found footage? Let us know what you thought of The Found footage Phenomenon in the comments section.