Posts Tagged ‘found footage’

My favorite films surrounding my remote control.

You know, this may not be the biggest issue in my life. And it may not be the meaningful thing I could write about on this blog. But you know, it’s something I find myself pondering from time to time. What do my Top 6 Favorite Horror Movies say about me and my interests?

(It used to be 7, but I realized while making my list that while I enjoyed the film, it wasn’t something I would gladly watch again and again and again, just say the word go. Also, my tastes change over time, so this list could look very different in ten or even five years, as well as grow or shrink.)

But what does it say about me that I enjoy these particular films? What about them draws me to them? I tried to figure it out by listing them and then listing what I liked about them. Here are the films in question:

Perfect Blue (1997)
Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, Mima Kirigoe is a J-Pop idol who is forced by her agency to transition into acting. This and a violent stalker sends Mima into a violent psychological down-spiral, one which may very well claim her life.

  • One of the few good examples of anime horror I’ve come across in my life. The art style is also excellent, where characters and scenes are animated with a sense of realism rather than the usual anime exaggerations. This gives the horror a certain sense of realism that you wouldn’t normally find in anime.
  • The movie works to make you question, along with Mima, every moment of reality. What is real, what isn’t, what’s a dream, what’s part of Mima’s TV drama and what’s her actual life. It’s all up for debate throughout the movie, with the use of color, quiet scenes vs acting and dancing scenes, and repetition of events making you feel the disorientation Mima feels. All leading up to a final third with a horrific twist.

Color Out of Space (2020)
Starring Nicholas Cage and based on the novella by HP Lovecraft (one of my favorites by him, BTW), a meteor falls in a small West Virginia farm, giving off an odd color that can’t really be categorized. Soon after, strange events start happening on the farm, changing the plant life, the family, and reality itself. All leading to a devastating conclusion.

  • Ask most film critics, it’s one of the best HP Lovecraft/Lovecraftian horror adaptations ever made.
  • The film’s very misleading, at first playing up Cage’s penchant for odd acting and adding in plenty of comedy. Later on, however, Cage’s performance goes from funny to sinister, and the humor vanishes as the number of scary events occur and build, filling with you with dread.
  • The mix of practical effects and CGI is well done, with the latter only being employed as absolutely needed and the former being used enough to make fans of The Thing proud. This allows for the final scenes to be really horrifying, even when chock-full of CGI.
  • Just watch the cutting board and alpacas in the barn scenes. You’ll be scarred for life.

Overlord (2018)
During the D-Day invasion, a small troop of American soldiers sneak into a French town to take out the Nazi’s radio tower, preventing the Nazis from calling for help. What follows is a harrowing ride through hell as the team confronts not just Nazis and the horrors of war, but deadly experiments that may end up changing the tide of the war.

  • Despite being a “Nazi zombie” film, which is usually silly or played for laughs, this film plays it much more seriously. The zombies are almost a secondary feature of the film. The real emphasis is on how war scars and changes you, how horrible the drive to win can make a person, and how war brings out the depravity in all of us. When the zombies are on screen, they’re used sparingly, only to heighten the horror and the stakes.
  • During the scenes where the protagonist explores the laboratory, the emphasis on mood and atmosphere creates a powerful dread of what’s around every corner, under every sheet. If you’ve ever seen or played the game Outlast, it often feels like you’re in the middle of that game, and that is a terrifying thought to have.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
As a young girl, Angela sees her father and brother killed in an accident on a lake adjacent to Camp Arawak. Years later as a teen, Angela and her cousin Ricky go as campers, only for a strange series of deaths to ruin the summer fun. And in the center of it all, Angela seems to be a fixture.

Who else had their mind blown by this moment in the film?
  • This is a rather unique 80’s slasher. For one thing, the campers are all played by actual teens and tweens, rather than adults pretending to be teens. Coupled with the teens language and behavior, it often reminds me of my own camping days, except less Jewish and more murder-y.
  • There are also prolonged periods between (admittedly inventive) kills, which allows you to really get to know the characters and remind you that these are just kids. This makes each instance of death even more shocking and brutal than it would be if they were in your face one after the other.
  • The twist in this movie is rather famous and forces the viewer to recontextualize everything in a new light. I won’t say what happens, but ooh boy, it’s not the sort of thing you could do today. I’d be interested to see how a remake handles this twist and reworks it for a modern audience. Also, I wish there was a novelization for this movie, because it would be great.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A medical student is filming a documentary about an older woman’s battle with dementia. While out at her country home, however, it becomes increasingly clear that this woman is dealing with something else besides dementia: a dark presence has come for Deborah Logan, and it’ll use her to accomplish its sinister goals.

  • Both a found footage and a possession movie, the take on the latter is very unique, both in the victim of possession and who/what is doing the possessing. However, since this is a film about a woman with dementia, it misleads you at first so that you don’t know if what you’re experiencing is really supernatural at first. And when it becomes clear that something supernatural is happening, it becomes both terrifying and tragic.
  • Did I mention this film is terrifying? Not just for anyone whose relatives have experienced dementia (and I’ve heard from people that that’s a form of terror in and of itself), but just as a horror movie it is terrifying. From dark and claustrophobic scenes in an abandoned mine to strange happenings in the house and one bloody scene that freaked me the hell out, this is not a film you want to watch with the lights out.

Prince of Darkness (1987)
A Catholic priest discovers an ancient artifact in the basement of an abandoned church that points to the fulfillment of an obscure end-of-world prophecy. Needing to prove it to the world, the priest enlists the help of several prominent professors from a local university and their grad/PhD students to help quantify this strange, evil miracle. As you can guess, shit really hits the fan.

  • One of John Carpenter’s lesser known masterpieces (which I think is a damn shame), the film has a unique take on God and Satan that feels more at home in a UFO cult, but works really well here. It also has some interesting ideas and themes to explore, such as the nature of evil, the relationship between religion and science, and even an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, which was at a peak when this film was made.
  • Also, while not the scariest thing ever, it is pretty damn creepy and has some truly great moments of horror.

So, there you go. These are my favorite horror films right now. And I struggle to find a unifying theme about why I elevate them above all others. Half of them are from the last decade, two from the 1980s, and one from the 1990s. They all place a lot of emphasis on psychological horror, but how and how much varies from film to film. Only two of them are adaptations of anything. No similar genres, directors or writers, different themes are explored in each one, and I own copies of all of them on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Maybe it’s just that they stick in my head more than others, or that they impressed me in some way that other horror films haven’t. Perhaps they’re the kind of stories I wish I’d wrote, or I like thinking of what I’d do with the material. Wait, no, it’s not that. I think that with every horror film.

If nothing else, I’ll be able to discuss films like Perfect Blue and Prince of Darkness with more people.

Well, maybe you’ll help me find some insight. If nothing else, there’s a chance you’ll be curious enough to see these films if you haven’t watched them before, or give them another watch if you have. You may even notice something I don’t.

You may even make some of them part of your Halloween watchlist this year (63 days till Halloween at the time of this writing). And if you do, I also recommend adding Carnival of Souls (1962), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), As Above, So Below (2014), The Void (2017), both versions of The Fly (1958 and 1986), the 2013 remake of Carrie, It (2017), and Freaky (2020). All make great additions to your Halloween viewing lineup. Not to mention all the movies coming out starting next month. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

Anyway, this has been a long post and it’s getting late. I’m going to end it here and call it a night. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

What are your thoughts on these films? Did you notice anything I didn’t? What are your favorite horror films that you recommend to everyone?

Today, I saw a full Halloween display in a supermarket. You know what that means. As of today, the Halloween season has officially begun! That’s right, it’s here! Break out the candy, dress up as something scary, carve up your pumpkins, and decorate your house like the Addams are coming to visit! Who cares if there’s a pandemic right now? We can still celebrate the season.

That being said, you’re probably wondering to yourself, what horror films should I watch this year? I’m sure plenty of you will be watching classics and beloved staples of horror/the season. Believe me, I will be too. But there are a bunch of films that don’t get as much love as they should. So I’ve come up with 11 films I feel would make great viewing for this year. Why 11? Because THERE’S SOMETHING WITH FANGS BEHIND YOU!

Anyway, on with the list. And in no particular order, might I add.

11. Overlord

A team of American soldiers parachute into Nazi-controlled France hours before D-Day to take down an operations center inside a church. However, the church is also being used to perform inhuman experiments in life after death. And if the soldiers don’t do something, the fate of the world might be at stake.

Whenever somebody talks about Nazi zombies, it’s usually in humorous terms. That, and the trailers for this film were all over the place, so nobody was really sure what audience this film was meant for. Horror? Action? War? Which is a shame, because Overlord is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Its sets are atmospheric, the zombies are only used enough to be scary, and there’s an emphasis on psychological and war horror rather than guts and gore (though there’s plenty of that).

Make sure to check Overlord out. You won’t regret adding it to your watchlist.

10. As Above, So Below

An archaeologist leads a team into the Paris catacombs to find an ancient artifact. However, they stumble upon a gateway to hell, where their worst fears and guilt are used against them.

Coming out at the tail end of the found footage craze, this film was lost among audiences who were tired of shaky cameras and home video-style films. However, it’s found new life on home media, and it’s not hard to see why. The film takes advantage of its setting to deliver a claustrophobic and unnerving atmosphere. Not only that, but there’s a philosophical bent to the film that I spent discussing with friends for about an hour after we saw the film. It’s not everyday you meet a horror film that makes you think.

9. Carrie (2013)

I know the original Carrie is beloved, but I’ve always preferred the remake with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Not only are the special effects much better, but none of the strange editing (like that infamous fast forward) and odd creative choices are present. For example, in the original, when Carrie starts her revenge, the students start panicking because the doors won’t open. Yeah, nothing overtly psychic has happened yet, just the doors won’t open. And yet everyone is screaming in terror. Whereas in the remake, the progression from students laughing at Carrie to screaming in fear is much more natural and believable. And Julianne Moore’s interpretation of Margaret White gets her crazy factor across way more than any actress before her. Those factors are why I prefer this version of Carrie, and why I’m recommending it for this Halloween.

8. Underwater

This came out earlier this year and didn’t receive that much fanfare. That being said, it’s become something of a hidden gem within horror. It’s a pretty compelling disaster flick set in an underwater base, with a Lovecraftian twist about halfway through. While it’s not as effective as scaring people as Hereditary or as memorable as 2017’s IT, it’s still a film I recommend you see.

7. Annihilation

Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation follows a team of scientists into the Shimmer, a strange zone on the West Coast where nature mutates and changes, and perhaps our own selves are at risk of changing. It’s a creepy film with a great group of female leads, as well as a Lovecraftian angle in its approach to body horror and the final twists. In the end, you may have more questions than when you started, but you’ll enjoy the thrill ride along the way. As well as the dark truth hidden in the conclusion.

6. The House of the Devil

A film made to look like it came right out of the 1980s, House of the Devil follows a college student taking on a babysitting job, only to find something very dark at the heart of her assignment. You’d never guess it was filmed in 2009. Also, it’s damn hard to look away. A supernatural slow burn that lures you in and ends up surprising you with how terrifying it can be. I’m sad that it’s flown under the radar so much, but that’s why I’m happy to post about it and recommend it this Halloween season.

5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Based on the graphic novel by Allen Moore, several of the greatest figures from 19th century literature come together to stop a terrorist from causing WWI fifteen years early. It didn’t do as well in theaters, but it’s become rather beloved since it came out on video. Action and horror, intrigue and steampunk/Victorian aesthetics. I swear, if this came out today rather than in the early 2000s, it might be something of a hit (though I do admit, its slow moments do bring down the film a bit).

Hell, my siblings and I nearly had a fist fight over our mom’s DVD copy when she was downsizing, we loved it that much. And half my sisters don’t even like horror! Given that, shouldn’t you check it out?

4. Van Helsing

Bram Stoker’s vampire hunter is reimagined as a badass monster hunter played by Hugh Jackman, going up against Dracula as the latter tries to bring a terrible plan to fruition.

A lot of people give this film flack, but I love it. It’s a great action-horror flick along the lines of the previous entry, and was one of my favorites as a teenager. It may be over the top, but if you’re looking for popcorn horror at its best, you could do a lot worse than Van Helsing.

3. Devil

Five people get on an elevator, only for them to get stuck and picked off by a supernatural entity. The devil has come for sinners, and it’s not going to stop till it has all of them.

This was originally supposed to be part of a trilogy, but M. Night Shamaylan, who directed the first film, was unable to follow it up. That being said, I find this film to be creepy and a lot of fun to watch. It takes an interesting concept and adds a time-is-running-out element to it. I loved it when I first saw it, and I still kind of like it. Maybe you will too.

2. The Reaping

A professional debunker of miracles is called to a small town in Louisiana when a little girl is accused of killing her brother and bringing the ten plagues upon the town. There, she finds a Satanic cult devoted to bringing about the end of the world, and this girl may be the vehicle to do so.

The mystery of the film isn’t that hard to figure out, but the film has its moments and its got some great performances from Hillary Swank, AnnaSophia Robb, and Idris Elba before he was famous. Plus, when you reach the end of the film and realize the final twist, 2020 as a whole makes a lot more sense (you’ll have to watch the film to get what I mean).

1. Clown

Released three years before 2017’s IT, Clown follows a man who puts on a clown suit he finds for his child’s birthday. However, what he doesn’t know is that the suit is cursed, and is slowly transforming him into a child-eating monster. This is a bloody and terrifying monster movie with lots of effective body horror, and I’m honestly surprised more people haven’t heard of it. Hence why I’m recommending it here.

 

That wraps up my list. I hope it gave you some ideas of what to check out this year. But tell me, what are you planning on watching this Halloween season? Any other films I missed that should be on this list? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and no opening doors to Hell without me there. I make it a lot more fun.

Remember this famous scene?

Or close to that amount, anyway. And by the way, if you enjoy found footage horror movies and don’t want me to spoil them, you might want to just leave this post. Trust me, you’ll thank me in the long run.

The other day I had an idea for a found footage horror movie. There’s been a lot of them in theatres lately, including Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, and Entity, just to name a few. I remember when Paranormal Activity came out, how it was such a big deal and how even people who weren’t fans of horror were holding huge conversations and spirited debates on it. I saw the commercials of people lined up around theaters to see it, and I remember some friends of mine telling me how they went to see it, and near the end one of them got up and started shouting, “I’m a bitch! I’m a bitch! Get me out of here!” I was so mad that I had to wait till it came out on DVD to see it (those were the days when I had to rely on my parents if I wanted to go see a movie in theaters, and they only took us if it was a film the whole family could watch. Guess how many of those were horror films? That would be none).

Anyway, I realized then that there are a lot of similarities between found footage films, at least the popular ones that make it into the theatres. The most glaringly obvious (besides the method of filming, of course) is in terms of plot:

  1. Characters become aware that there is something supernatural going on and resolve to investigate. We may also be informed that the footage we are about to watch was found after a certain amount of time, usually after the deaths or disappearances of the characters.
  2. Characters investigate, and start to realize that there is something strange going on.
  3. The strange events escalate, becoming more and more sinister in nature.
  4. The characters start to get anxious or angry and start fighting among themselves.
  5. The strange events reach a zenith, during which time the terror is (hopefully) very high and most, if not all of the characters die off.
  6. The film ends, and we now know why the characters have disappeared and only the cameras and film were found.

In addition, most found footage films are made very cheaply (Paranormal Activity was made on $15K and Blair Witch Project was made on $20K to $25K, while major horror films like The Conjuring and Sinister were made for 20 million and 3 million, respectively). And for some reason, the characters always have their cameras on and holding them up to get the footage, even in awkward situations. We as the audience either forget that most people, even filmmakers, wouldn’t place such emphasis on getting everything while our lives are in danger or we just overlook it. Also, there tends to not be title cards or opening or end credits. None at all. Helps to make it seem like these events actually happened, I guess. Oh, and also the characters tend to be isolated somehow. Whether they’re trapped in their house or lost in the woods or in an abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere, they’re cut off and there’s no knight in shining armor to come to their rescue. They are alone, and it’ll be their undoing.

Look out behind you!

But yeah, that’s basically most found footage films out there.

So if these films are so similar, especially in terms of plot, why do horror filmmakers keep making them and why do horror fans keep going to see them? Well, I guess it has to do with the execution. These sort of films may be as predictable as your run-of-the-mill romance novel, but there’s so much room to experiment and try to new things. And even if you have a basic idea of how the plot is going to go, you don’t know what will be behind the corner or what will jump out and terrify you. You can’t know, so if the movie’s any good, you’ll sit on the edge of your seat wondering what the heck will happen next, and screaming when it does.

So with all that in mind, could I possibly make this found footage film I came up with myself? quite possibly. I plan on buying a video camera after I get back from my study abroad trip, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable to make a film. I’d just need a little funding, a cast and crew, and a location. Plus the time to do it and some marketing. It could possibly happen. I even have a title in mind: The Red Monk. Good title, right?

Well, if the opportunity comes along, I’d love to do it. And you never know what could happen. It could be a very big thing.

What do you think of found footage films? Love them or hate them? Do you think they’re a bit predictable?

If I did make a film, would you see it? Would you even want to be part of it?