It’s time to finish what we began in PART ONE. Few things are harder for film critics than to list the very best movies of a particular genre. Fortunately, we’re not film critics here at the Ghost Diaries–just dudes who like to be scared and then talk about it afterwards. So without further ado, here are the remaining top 6 found footage horror movies of all time:
6 – V/H/S
This was another one of our selections for best horror movies of 2012. V/H/S essentially a found footage anthology featuring vignettes by some very great horror movie directors. The glue is the story of a gaggle of hoodlums who jump at the chance to make a few bucks by breaking into a house and stealing a tape. Once they get inside they discover a dead man and a box full of tapes, each one more horrifying than the last. Actually, that’s not true, because the first one they watch is far and away the best one of the bunch. “Amateur Night” steals the show and is hands down the greatest found footage short of all time. The sequel, V/H/S 2, which premiered at this year’s Sundance, was recently released and is spectacularly good–read our review HERE!
5 – The Last Exorcism
The Ghost Diaries’ head writers saw this movie together in the theater. Thirty minutes in, we looked at each other and nodded, sly smiles on our faces; we knew we were observing a special horror movie specimen. Films that can hold a candle to the original supernatural masterpiece The Exorcist deserve credit in their own right. To be sure, there aren’t many of them. But to tell a great demon possession story within the found footage genre is something else entirely. The Last Exorcism follows charlatan evangelical minister Cotton Marcus on his final exorcism. Though Reverend Marcus is accustomed to faking his exorcisms, he is about to discover that absolute evil is absolutely real and has taken the form of a possessed farmer’s daughter.
4 – Trollhunter
When we first heard of the dark fantasy Norwegian film Trollhunter we thought it was a joke. Even after watching the tantalizing teaser trailer that preceded its release, we still thought the movie was a mockumentary. It takes actually watching this film to realize that not only is it not a joke–albeit, it features several Norwegian comedians and contains some brilliant satirical moments–it’s one of the greatest monster movies ever made. No joke. The script is replete with detailed troll lore and mythology, including priceless tidbits about their ability to smell a Christian man’s blood. The movie also features a classic character, the grizzly government-commissioned trollhunter Hans, who begrudgingly agrees to let a few young filmmakers accompany him on his latest hunt. See this movie, or forever renounce allegiance to the found footage genre.
3 – Quarantine (or Rec)
Yes, the first half of Quarantine is basically a shot by shot remake of Rec, we know. So go ahead and lump in the Rec series. In fact, go ahead and lump in all the sequels too (except Quarantine 2, which isn’t found footage). They’re the scariest zombie movies since 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake. The buildup to the zombie singularity in Quarantine is soul-shatteringly scary and slightly more effective than Rec. However, when it comes to the sequels we have to give the nod to Rec 2, which ingeniously incorporates a satanic plotline into the fray. Rec 3 has some amazing moments too, not the least of which is the concept of zombie love, which somehow doesn’t even come across as campy. To recap, the number 3 slot is filled by Quarantine, a genre barn-burner that also makes the short list for scariest zombie movie ever made.
2 – Home Movie
This movie is so good it’s baffling how under the radar it is. Almost no one’s seen it. One possible reason for this is how disturbing it is. For parents, it may be a little too close to home. Home Movie purports to show the private tapes of the Poe family, who have recently moved to the remote woods of upstate New York. What initially appears to be the perfect family slowly spirals out of control as we realize something is very, very wrong with the two children, Jack and Emily. Creepy whispering escalates to animal mutilation and from there it’s a freefall culminating in a shocking glimpse of the darkest depths of every parents’ worst nightmare. No amount of spoilers or hype can prepare you for how deranged this movie is, and with very little on-screen violence.
1 – The Blair Witch Project
Still the one. No matter what anyone says, this is the movie that put the found footage genre on the map and haunted many of us for years with screams of “Joshua!” and refusals to go camping. A snotty nose has never been more despondent, a lost map never more fatalistic, the sounds of children giggling in the night never more blood-curdling, and a man standing in a basement corner with his back to us never more incomprehensible and horrifying. This film did so much with so little it’s almost incredible. You never see anything of the witch save remnants and artifacts, yet the presence of some larger than life evil becomes so palpable.
For years we racked our brains trying to imagine the true nature of the Blair Witch, but ultimately it’s a riddle never to be solved. And it’s better that way. The scariest horror movies are the ones that never reveal to you the face of your own nightmares, which is why The Blair Witch Project is the undisputed greatest found footage horror film of all time.
2013 is shaping up to be a great year for horror movies and there are a couple found footage sparks. Check out our primer for Must-See Horror Movies of 2013!