After finishing my article about found-footage genre and its history I realized that I forgot to mention why this genre was even popular in the first place and why audience lost interest in these movies. In my previous article, I stated “that people start to notice, how formulaic plots were, and opinions appeared that these movies are lazy” and that is simply not enough to understand the issue of this entire movie genre. So, this is Part Two, I would highly recommend reading Part One first, because in many ways these articles are necessary one to each other.
Appeal of found-footage
To understand the appeal of found-footage, we should first know the elements of found-footage horror movie. First one is the element of standard horror (dark, unsettling images, blood/gore uncanny value and etc.), the second one is not so obvious and I am going to call it “CCTV effect”. For a simple reason, if you have seen any CCTV (especially some disturbing one) you might notice that they are creepy and unsettling (partially due to low resolution), found-footage horror movies try to accomplish something very similar, that means creepiness and sense of realism. Some of the best found-footage horror movies temperate when it comes to showing and not showing the action or monster (The Blair Witch Project).
Illusion of realism is now much more harder to achieve then before, especially with influence of internet, even movies that are supposedly “based on real events” can be easily designated as “exaggerated” or “loosely interpreted”. And time when you could convince people to think that your found-footage movie is real is long gone. The strength of found-footage is to convince you that you are watching a real event, with real people (even if you know it’s just a movie) and appeal of curiosity, because people like to look at disturbing real-life footage or photos.
Problems with found-footage
Look there is no genre of movies that would be without their share of flaws, it is kinda unfortunate that found-footage movies are very easy to criticize. So I am going to skip through to some well known problems with found-footage movies like low-quality, sometimes questionable acting and believability. Also these are my issues with the genre and my opinions, you might have different problems with it or none.
- Predictability – First problem is really in the name “found-footage”, you are watching a footage of the person, that is either dead or missing. Knowing that, you could predict how the movie would end.
- Jump-scares – Jumps-scares are one of the vital elements of most horror movies, it is usually composite of scary imagery, disturbing noise and loud music, because of the “realism” found-footage shouldn’t have soundtrack, that is why jump-scares are harder to achieve when your primary goal is “realism”.
- Forgetfulness – Another problem is also connected with realism, sometimes these movies and people who make them, tend to forget that the person operating the camera is also a character/human being.
- It needs to be found – Final problem is that the footage needs to be found and that needs a plausible explanation.
Sequels and Meta-sequels
Sequelize a found-footage movie is probably more difficult, than a standard looking movie. You are telling a story with your movie, which may be open for a sequel or not, that doesn’t mean that a sequel is impossible, but found-footage technique limits possibility of sequel more than anything else. Explanation for that is “you are watching last moments of a group of people, before something terrible happens to them” so how are you going to make a sequel to that? Options for premises are “well I don’t believe that footage is real so let take my friends with cameras and let the same thing happen to us”, “my relative got lost so lets go him/her with cameras of-course” and “unrelated group of people is for some reason (investigation or coincidence) on the same place”. For those reason sequels to found-footage movies either didn’t happen or weren’t successful, only Paranormal Activity and maybe REC managed to become a franchise.
And then there are “meta-sequels” or “self-aware sequels” to found-footage movies and if you’ve never seen Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 or Grave Encounters 2 I would highly recommend watching them because they are hilariously bad. Mentioning self-aware sequels I probably should mention Cloverfield and attempt to make this franchise into something like Twilight Zone, as far as self-aware sequels go this is the best example (and I am really not sure if Cloverfield sequels are “meta-sequels”).
Legacy of found-footage
My previous article ended on the note that found-footage genre is gone, with a small chance for resurfacing. I would like to make some corrections and propose speculation. So I don’t if this genre will ever be as big as it was (probably not), but that doesn’t mean found-footage is completely gone. No genre is truly gone, maybe some talented director realize the strength of found-footage and makes inspiring and intelligent movie, I can also imagine that American Horror Story could make season based on found-footage genre and this whole craze starting with year 2007. Many people also wait for true sequel to Cloverfield and now it appears that this could finally happen. So there might be something, but I don’t think that we’ll get several found-footage movies every year like in 2007.
The last segment belongs to something I didn’t even consider when I wrote my first article: this genre may not be anymore relevant in the movie industry, but what about other media? I realized that found-footage lives on with videogames namely Outlast 1 and 2, Blair Witch (video game), Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise and there are a lot of indie or small budget videogames that carries this genre to scare new audiences and knowing that, I think that is this right way to end this article.