Those of us here in the Ghost Diaries’ underground cave are avid fans of the found footage horror genre, so much so that we’ve seen virtually every offering put out there–the good, the bad and the ugly. We decided to put out our own list of the best found footage horror movies ever made. Keep in mind, these are ‘pure’ found footage movies, meaning the entire movie was filmed by a character(s). This eliminates otherwise excellent horror films like Peeping Tom and Sinister, which use found footage scenes within larger narratives.
Without further ado, here are the best found footage horror films of all time:
15 – Grave encounters
We didn’t want to like this movie. It had all the earmarks of a very cliched horror movie. But lo and behold, it won us over through sheer audacity. Grave Encounters is about a paranormal TV show crew that descends upon a boarded up haunted apartment building for their final episode. About halfway through you realize the film’s not pulling any punches and from there on out you can expect nerve-shattering jumps and screams.
14 – Creep
The super secretive film hasn’t even been released yet, but the Ghost Diaries managed to get a sneak peek, even before the film blew up the festival circuit. This innovative gem from indie maven Mark Duplass and young blood Patrick Brice was recently acquired by Blumhouse Productions and it’s easy to see why. In a genre over-run with cliches and stale formulas, Creep adds a unique and humorous edge to the canon with a story about Craigslist-born friendship that turns freakishly dark.
UPDATE: Creep premiered at the 2014 SXSW festival and has received great reviews!
UPDATER: The film has been acquired by RadiUS and two sequels are planned!
13 – Man Bites Dog
This 1992 Belgian mockumentary is a cult favorite now so you’ve likely heard its praises sung before. What’s notable about this film is that came out a full seven years before mainstream found footage movies were reborn from the sordid ashes of Cannibal Holocaust with The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Man Bites Dog, a dark black comedy about a snuff film crew that follows around a serial killer, therefore gets major props for being truly original for its time.
12 – Cloverfield
When Cloverfield came out it reinvigorated the found footage genre and provided a good template for mixing horror and science fiction, a formula that’s been used extensively in the years since. Though we’re still not quite sure if the payoff was the worth the elaborate hype, this movie has a such a good buildup it deserves a solid place on this list.
11 – Chronicle
That melding of horror and science fiction we just referred to is rampant in Chronicle, a movie about three boys who discover a mysterious artifact and absorb psychokinetic powers from it. Besides how refreshing it is to have a movie in the genre that’s not about ghosts, demons, or serial killers, Chronicle also deserves credit for the most creative use of camera work in the genre. Who can forget the scenes where protagonist/antagonist Andrew makes the camera spiral around the room? The entire film is a veritable Harry Potter of found footage techniques, which is why we selected it as one of the best horror movies of 2012.
10 – Lake Mungo
Lake Mungo is a slow, methodical descent into the very nature of what paranormal activity means. Sure, it features a ghost, and a haunted family, but the film centers far more on how the passing of a loved one influences your life in creepy ways that are hard to articulate. This movie is impressive for its nuanced approach to a paranormal investigation and clairvoyance in documentary form and leaves you with a very strange feeling afterward. Lake Mungo is about as close as you can get to a completely realistic ghost visitation, and if you pay attention towards the end, this film’s payoff is incredibly rewarding.
9 – Long Pigs
You would hardly even know that Long Pigs is a horror movie from the first half hour or so, and even then it’s not especially frightening, though it is very graphic. Long Pigs is about a friendly, no-nonsense cannibal who shares his life and trade cooking secrets with a pair of reluctant filmmakers who get in over their heads. The cannibal, played brilliantly by Anthony Alviano, slowly becomes more and more uncomfortable with the inner details of his magnificently concealed madness being on display and eventually puts an end to the project. Watch the trailer and tell us it doesn’t make you want to watch the hell out of this movie. We promise you won’t be disappointed, though you may be a little nauseous.
8 – Paranormal activity
You knew it was going to be on here and, sure enough, here it is–the Matthew Mcconaughey of found footage horror films. Paranormal Activity is like a roller coaster ride. Once you get off it’s really hard to recall exactly what makes it so great, but you just know that it was, and is. One of the reasons the Ghost Diaries appreciates the Paranormal Activity franchise is the fairly complicated story of demonic possession that ends up arising from the sequels. But the first one could stand on its own as a masterpiece of cheap scares.
7 – Noroi: The curse
This Japanese gem is weird, horrifying, and undoubtedly brilliant. Weaving together a complex tale of a paranormal investigator who tries to piece together the psychic abilities of a schoolgirl with an ancient demonic ritual, Noroi: The Curse has a few of the most disturbing images we’ve ever seen in a movie. There is one in particular that you will never forget and is alone worth the price of downloading.
UPDATE: We haven’t figured out where to place it yet, but the 2012 masterpiece THE CONSPIRACY will definitely be earning a place on this list.
Also, Check out our Best Horror Movies of 2013 list!