Welcome to the world of the shaky camera style, hand-held horror movie hysteria & creepy found footage images. Each year new found footage horror movies find their way to the big screen or go straight to online streaming. It has become a genre in its own right, and also more mainstream horror movies have incorporated elements of it. It’s a rather cost-efficient way of filmmaking and a lot of first time indie directors happily take advantage of it. Big classics like Paranormal Activity & The Blair Witch Project have shown the way. Incredibly low costs versus potentially enormous box office revenues. In fact, Paranormal Activity remains the most commercially successful movie to date.
We won’t try and strictly define what constitutes a real found footage horror here. We rather provide an introduction by way of 38 really scary found footage flicks. In our opinion thesee are the best found footage movies available in 2018.
The Last Exorcism
Daniel Stamm directs this found footage horror movie based on the screenplay of Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland. The Last Exorcism is followed by a sequel The Last Exorcism II. It was produced by Strike Entertainment, StudioCanal, and Arcade Pictures, and distributed by Lionsgate. It was produced for USD 1.8 million and earned USD 67.7 million at the box office. The Last Exorcism was supposed to participate in the South by Southwest Film Festival but Lionsgate pulled it out from the filmfest. It was instead screened at the LA Film Festival and at the Film4 FrightFest. In 2011 the horror flick was released on DVD, Blu-ray, including digital copies. Critics appreciated the found footage film and gave it a Fresh rating by Rotten Tomatoes. It also won the Best Horror film from Empire Awards, including other nominations.
The Fourth Kind
Nigerian TV director Olatunde Osunsanmi stars and directs The Fourth Kind, a sci-fi thriller about alien abduction. Milla Jovovich top bills. Gold Circle Films, Morgan Creek Entertainment Group, and Dead Crow Productions produced the film for USD 10 million and earned USD 47.7 million at the box office. It was distributed by Universal Pictures. Osunsanmi is the protege of The A-Team director Joe Carnahan. To drum up interest for the movie, Universal Pictures put up a fake website using articles from actual Alaskan newspapers. The newspapers sued Universal Pictures, and the latter had to pay for damages. Critics praised Jovovich’s acting and acknowledged the thrills and scares of the film but slammed the movie for using the real stories of misery and loss of Alaskan families and spin it into an alien abduction story.
As Above, So Below
Brothers John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle write the screenplay for As Above, So Below, a horror thriller movie, directed by John Erick. It is a found footage film based on the exploration of a Parisian catacomb. The Dowdle brothers are of Quarantine fame. Legendary Pictures and Brothers Dowdle produce the horror flick for USD 5 million. It was distributed by Universal Pictures and grossed USD 40.1 million. The production sought the permission of the Paris government to shoot at the catacomb. Lead actor Ben Feldman had to take several breaks while filming as he is claustrophobic. Critics panned the movie’s inability to peak and sustain the thrills and scares it promised.
Jean Benoit Lauzon helms Gore, Quebec, a horror flick based on the screenplay of Rick Mele. Produced by Green Lake Films for only USD 5,324 (or CAD 7,000), it was released in the US by Entertainment One in October 2014. The indie horror flick received positive feedback for its atmospheric horrors and a scary villain.
John Erick Dowdle directs the found footage horror movie Quarantine, based on the screenplay he co-writes with brother Drew Dowdle. Quarantine is the American remake of the popular Spanish found footage film REC. Sony’s subsidiary Screen Gems distributes the film produced by Andale Pictures, Filmax, and Vertigo Entertainment. The film was made with a budget of USD 12 million and it grossed USD 41.3 million at the box office. It spawned a sequel, Quarantine 2: Terminal. The critics praised the film’s consistency with the original and the production value. But it was also panned for literally copying the original.
Renny Harlin helms the found footage horror movie that investigates the Dyatlov Pass incident, based on the screenplay of Vikram Weet. Devil’s Pass stars Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, Luke Albright, Ryan Hawley, and Gemma Atkinson. The film was originally entitled The Dyatlov Pass Incident. IFC Films distributes the Devil’s Pass starting August 2013. It earns USD 5.3 million at the box office. Filming was done in northern Russia. Harlin did his own research regarding the Dyatlov Pass incident and concluded that it was a government experiment went wrong. The film received mixed reviews. Some critics found that the movie was comedic in nature and offered little to no horror at all, while others lauded the production quality as well-made.
Joel Anderson offers Lake Mungo, a mockumentary style psychological horror movie. Anderson writes and directs this low-budget Australian production. The film’s budget was USD 22,103. Anderson already started working on the project in 2005. For this film, he intended to look into grief, more than the supernatural. Funding was raised through private investors and through the support of Screen Australia, a government agency that funds movies. Anderson intentionally chose unknown actors to have a genuine documentary feeling to it. The cast had to improvise their own dialogue as Anderson only provided the story outline. He also did the offscreen interviewer in the film. The film came out at the South By Southwest Film Festival, the Traveling Film Festival Wagga Wagga, the Barbican London Australian Film Festival, and at the After Dark Horrorfest. Lionsgate and After Dark Films distributed the film.
The Blair Witch Project
The found footage phenomenon started because of The Blair Witch Project, a supernatural horror movie in 1999. It was written, edited and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Myrick and Sanchez conceptualized the hand-held production in 1993. Haxan Films produces while Artisan Entertainment distributes. With only a budget of USD 60,000, The Blair Witch Project was a phenomenal box office success earning USD 248.6 million worldwide. It was so successful, it spawned the The Blair Witch franchise, with 2 sequels, novels, comic books, and merchandise. It first came out at the Sundance Film Festival prior its theatrical release. Initially planned for a limited run, the team expanded the distribution when it earned USD 30.5 million on its third week.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
John Erick and Drew Dowdle writes The Poughkeepsie Tapes, which John Erick directs. The found footage horror is produced by Drew Dowdle and distributed by MGM. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Though the movie was ready for screening in 2007, MGM was unable to distribute it in 2008. It finally saw the light of day in 2009. The DVD and Blu-ray versions came out in 2017.
The breakthrough Spanish found footage horror film that is REC (short for Record) was written and directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. Filmax International and Castelao Productions produce the film for USD 2 million. Distribution was taken care of Filmax in partnership with Magnet Releasing. It grossed USD 32.5 million at the box office, putting Balaguero and Plaza on the map. So successful, it gave birth to the REC franchise, with 3 successful sequels. An American remake, Quarantine, was based on REC. Before its theatrical run, it was screened at the Venice International Film Festival (out of competition), the Sitges Film Festival, and the Malaga International Week of Fantastic Cinema. It was shown in Spanish theaters in November 2007. It also came out at the Glasgow Film Festival. The movie was released in the UK in April 2008, then on DVDs in the US in 2009. Not only was REC a commercial success, it also nabbed several awards for its cast and crew in different film festivals, and received critical acclaim from viewers and critics.
The Possession of Michael King
David Jung writes and directs The Possession of Michael King, a supernatural found footage horror story. This is Jung’s directorial debut. Produced by Gold Circle Films and QuickFire Films, it was distributed in Singapore and in the US by Anchor Bay Films. It raked in USD 12.3 million at the box office. Jung was inspired by demon possession films and The Shining in the making of this film. He wanted to use the demon-possessed narrative from the first person point of view. As Michael King, actor Shane Johnson did his own research on demon possession and watched films of the same genre to know what to do and what not to do. In the end, critics only praised Johnson’s performance and criticized the entire film for its lack of originality and for its expository approach.
Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz write and direct Grave Encounters, a supernatural found footage horror film about a TV crew that locks themselves inside a haunted psychiatric hospital. It was produced for USD 120,000 by Darclight, Twin Engine Films, and Digital Interference Productions. It was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival prior its theatrical run. It began its theatrical run in the Italy in July 2011 via Eagle Pictures under the title ESP Fenomeni Paranormali, then in the US in August 2011 care of Tribeca Films and earned USD 5.4 million worldwide. Though it got mixed reviews, it still had a cult following and a sequel came out in 2012.
Ruggero Deodato and Gianfranco Clerici direct and write this Italian horror documentary called Cannibal Holocaust. This horror movie is about recovering the films taken by a documentary crew that was lost in the Amazon. The way the movie is narrated gave birth to a new film style, the found footage genre. The Cannibal Holocaust became embroiled in controversy because of its graphic violent scenes. Deodato was actually charged for obscenity and the film was accused of being a snuff movie. Though cleared of the charges, the film was later banned in 50 countries, including italy and Australia, for its brutality, sexual assault, and actual cruelty to animals. Though the ban was rescinded in some countries, the ban was kept in others. It was produced with USD 100,000 and earned USD 23 million in the US and Japan.
Noroi: The Curse
Koji Shiraishi helms Noroi: The Curse, a Japanese found footage horror movie. He co-writes the movie with Naoyuki Yokota. At 115 minutes, it is considered long by Japanese horror movie standards. It was produced by Xanadeux Company and distributed by Cathay-Keris Films, PMP Entertainment, and Universe Laser and Video Co. Ltd. It turned in USD 2 million at the box office. The production was well-received by critics save for the long run time.
Actor Josh Stewart, of Criminal Minds fame, offers The Hunted as his directorial debut. He also writes and stars in this found footage horror film. It came out at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival. Produced by Fortress Features and Allegheny Image Factory, it was then distributed by Entertainment One. Stewart was inspired by a chilling experience when he was on a hunting trip. As he wrote the script, he paid careful attention to the character development of Jake and Stevie as he did not them to come off as stereotypical. Critics appreciated the way the storyline, the characters performance, the suspense feel, but found that the found footage genre already ran its course.
American-Israeli Oren Peli serves as a jack of all trades as he writes, edits, photographs, co-produces, and directs Paranormal Activity, a supernatural found footage horror film. Jason Blum co-produces the horror flick under Blumhouse Productions. From a budget of USD 15,000, this sleeper hit grossed USD 193.4 million worldwide. Due to its success, it gave birth to the Paranormal Activity film series with 4 sequels. The main actors had to improvise their own lines as Peli only provided the story outline. They shot the movie 7 days a week, day and night. The film saw the light of day at the Screamfest Horror Festival. Kirill Baru of the CAA was so impressed that he helped Peli get it produced. Blum later joined the team, until it reached Steven Spielberg of Dreamworks. Paramount Pictures later got into the picture and bought the distribution rights worldwide.
The Last Horror Movie
Julian Richards helms The Last Horror Movie, a British found footage horror film from the screenplay of James Handel. This independent horror flick was inspired by Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. Richards also wanted to make a film that will allow people to think about their anxieties and difficult issues. Hart Sharp Video and Arts Alliance America distributed the film via DVD. Critics had mixed feelings about the The Last Horror Movie. Some disliked its repetitive nature while others appreciated the realism it offered. It was nominated in several film festivals and brought home Best Film and Best Director for Richards and Best Actor for actor Kevin Howarth. In 2012, Richards confirmed he was developing a sequel for the movie yet none has been released as of press time.
Creep & Creep 2
Patrick Brice, in partnership with Jason Blum as producer, directs Creep and Creep 2, from the screenplay he co-writes with Mark Duplass. This found footage horror film is produced by Blum’s Blumhouse Productions and the Duplass Brothers Productions (only with the original) and Netflix (for the sequel). The Orchard handles distribution for both the original and the sequel. Brice and Duplass used Peachfuzz as the original title for Creep but later changed it as they did not want audiences to waste time making the connection to the production. Both films received critical acclaim for its production quality and cast performance.
The Taking of Deborah Logan
For his directorial debut, Adam Robitel takes on The Taking of Deborah Logan, a supernatural horror story he co-writes with Gavin Heffernan. Actress Jill Larson takes on the title role of Deborah Logan. Produced by Jeff Rice and Bryan Singer, the film was distributed by Eagle Films and Millennium Entertainment. Most critics lauded the film’s unnerving feel.
Andre Ovredal tries his hand at the found footage genre as he takes on Trollhunter, a mockumentary fantasy horror film. He also writes the screenplay for Trollhunter. It was produced by Filmkameratene A/S and Film Fund FUZZ for USD 3.5 million. It was distributed by SF Norge A/S and earned USD 4.2 million at the box office. The movie was acclaimed locally and internationally, getting a Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It was praised for its cinematic elements, cultural references, and humor. The production was nominated in several film festivals and Ovredal brought home the Public Choice Award from the Amanda Award and the Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking from the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Barry Levinson directs as Michael Wallach writes this found footage horror film called The Bay. Levinson also sits as a producer of the film, alongside Jason Blum, Steven Schneider, and Oren Peli. The Bay was produced for USD 2 million. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions handled the distribution. It grossed USD 1.6 million. Levinson already prepared to make a documentary about the issues involving Chesapeake Bay. But he had to change his plans when Frontline, a public broadcasting service, already tackled the issue. He chose to keep the information but give it a scary twist. He was inspired to take the found footage route because of what happened to Pompeii. Thus, a third of the film was shot by the actors themselves. Most of the filming was done in North and South Carolina. Though it did not perform well at the box office, it was given the Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
WNUF Halloween Special
Chris Lamartina writes, edits, produces, and directs WNUF Halloween Special, a comedy horror flick about a TV crew that investigates supernatural happenings at a haunted house. While majority of the film was written and directed by Lamartina, the work of other writers and directors appeared via the parody commercials featured in the film. Lamartina also serves as the film’s cinematographer. It was produced by Midnight Crews Studios for USD 1,500. Lamartina wanted to give the film an 80s feel, with the look and feel of the movie. Rather than openly promote the movie, they dropped several VHS copies of the movie in various public conventions to start a whisper campaign. Critics praised the film for its entertainment value and has become a cult classic. Its distribution was limited to 300 VHS copies in October 2013. A month later, DVD copies were released.
From the screenplay of Drew Goddard, Matt Reeves brings to life Cloverfield, a found footage horror flick about a monster. J.J Abrams sits as a producer, alongside Bryan Burk. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions produced the film for USD 25 million. Paramount Picture comes in as distributor. The movie grossed USD 170.8 million at the box office. Abrams thought of a movie about a monster that was so hateful and intense after seeing some Godzilla toys in Japan. Cloverfield has been the original name of the production but the movie title was changed during production as they wanted to keep it a secret. They finally settled on Greyshot, as the name appears on the movie’s final scene but Reeves vetoed it as the film was already known as Cloverfield. Eventually, they reverted to the original title. The movie is called Hakaisha in Japan, or Destroyer in literal translation.
Diary of the Dead
World-renowned film director and writer George A. Romero, of Night of the Living Dead fame, writes and directs Diary of the Dead, a found footage horror movie. This is part of the Night of the Living Dead series but is not a direct sequel to the previous ones. This horror movie is produced by Artfire Films and Romero-Grunwald Productions for USD 2 million, it was distributed by Dimension Films (theatrical release) and The Weinstein Company and Genius Entertainment (DVD). It earned USD 5.3 million at the box office. To capture the found footage feel yet remove the dizzying feel it gives, the film was shot by a cinematographer but in long, continuous takes. There were no cuts and setting up the cameras to take a different angle. It was well received by critics, getting a Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Romero also won a Critics Award in 2008.
Actor Christopher Denham tries his hand at writing and directing via Home Movie, a found footage horror film. It was screened at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival in 2008. IFC Entertainment won the bid to distribute it via DVD and their Festival Direct video on demand. Anchor Bay Entertainment took care of the film’s theatrical release in Canada. The film also did its film festival run. It was praised for its unnerving and disturbing feel, the cast’s performance was on point, and the sense of dread was palpable.
Created by Brad Miska and Bloody Disgusting, V/H/S is a found footage horror anthology. It is comprised of 6 short films, all written and directed by various writers and directors, and all of them shaky handheld camera movies. Part 1 Tape 56 is directed by Adam Wingard and co-written by Wingard and Simon Barrett. Part 2 Amateur Night was directed by David Bruckner and co-written by Bruckner and Nicholas Tecosky. Part 3 Honeymoon was written and directed by Ti West, while Part 4 Tuesday the 17th was written and directed by Glenn McQuaid. Part 5 The Sick Thing that Happened To Emily When She was Younger was written by Simon Barrett and directed by Joe Swanberg. Part 6 10/31/98 was directed by Radio Silence from the script of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, Magnolia Pictures bought the film rights to distribute it in North America for almost USD 1 million. It received mixed reviews from critics.
Filipino director Carlo Ledesma helms The Tunnel, an Australian found footage horror movie, from the screenplay of Julian Harvey and Enzo Tedeschi. The producers started a crowdfunding campaign to raise USD 99,680 to produce the movie. To do so, they used individual digital frames as collateral, each costing AUD 1 or USD 75 cents. It was the first Australian film to be legally downloaded via BitTorrent. It only enjoyed a limited theatrical run in Australia. Paramount Pictures Australia and Transmission Films handled the DVD distribution in Australia and New Zealand, while Blackrock Films took care of the DVD release in North America. By December 2011, House Light Media Partners took care of the DVD distribution in the US. From its limited US run (only in 1 theater), it earned USD 1,348, excluding the earnings from its DVD release, cable, and on iTunes. It was nominated for some awards from film festivals and gave Ledesma the Best Australian Director award from A Night of Horror International Film Festival.
The Houses October Built
Bobby Roe directs and stars in The Houses October Built, a horror found footage film based on visits to haunted houses. For Roe’s directorial debut, he teams up with Zack Andrews (who also appears on the film) and Steven Schneider, of Insidious and Paranormal Activity fame as producers. He also co-writes the movie with Zack Andrews and Jason Zada. Room 101 and Foreboding Films produce the horror flick and it was distributed by Image Entertainment and RLJ Entertainment. It was first screened at the Telluride Horror Show, then at The Edinburgh International Film Festival. Critics praised the movie for its cast and characters and the fresh take on haunted houses but criticized its pacing and predictable storyline. It won Best Feature Length Film at the Sitges Film Festival, and Best Screenplay for Roe, Andrews, and Zada, and Best Actress for Brandy Schaefer from the Macabre Faire Film Festival.
Derek Lee and Clif Prowse tag teams as they both write and direct Afflicted, their directorial debut. This found footage horror is about a mysterious disease a man contracts. Lee and Prowse also star in the production. It was first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and it nabbed the Best Canadian First Feature Film award. Telefilm Canada produces the film for USD 318,000. CBS Films distributes in North America and grossed USD 121,200. Lee and Prowse went around the world to shoot. They shot in Spain, France, Canada, and Italy. Critics commended the clear shots for the film, despite the found footage format, and how it used vampirism as a background to the storyline. They also won the Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay awards from the Austin Fantastic Fest and the Maria Award for Best Special Effects at the Sitges-Catalan International Film Festival.
Man Bites Dog
Man Bites Dog is a collaboration among Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, and Benoit Poelvoorde. This Belgian dark comedy horror mockumentary (French name: C’est arrive pres de chez vous; English literal translation: It Has Happened Near Your Home) produced, written, and starred in by Belvauz, Bonzel, and Poelvoorde. Vincent Tavier co-writes the film. The film won the Andre Cavens Award for Best Film from the Belgian Film Critics Association (or UCC). It received an NC-17 from the MPAA in the US for its strong violent content. It was produced for USD 33,000 and earned USD 205,569 from ticket returns. For its US video release, several cuts were made to make it an R rating. The directors won the International Critics’ Prize, the SACD award for Best Picture, and the Special Award of the Youth. The film received positive reviews and inspired other horror films.
The Last Broadcast
Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler write, produce, direct, and star in The Last Broadcast, a found footage horror film. With only an estimated budget of USD 900, it only earned USD 12,097 from its limited theater release in the US. But it made a killing at the box office during its wide release, earning USD 4 million. Ventura Distribution took care of the DVD and VHS release. In 2006, Heretic Films re-issued the DVD.
Dominic Perez writes, produces, and directs Evil Things, a found footage horror film. Mario Valdez Steckler co-produces with Perez on his directorial debut. Go Show Media produces while Plum Country Pictures distributes. The actors were the cinematographers themselves. It only took Perez 3 months to write the film, a week to shoot, and a month to edit. It did its round among film festivals, including the Long Island Film Festival, the Hello Darkness Film Festival, the Edmonton International Film Festival, and the London Frightfest Film Festival. It received mixed reviews from critics, acknowledging its good scares and the cast’s performance, but the pacing was too slow.
For his directorial debut, Zachary Donohue offers The Den (Literal translation from Russian title Death Online), a found footage slasher movie. Donohue also co-writes the film with Lauren Thompson. Produced with an estimated budget of USD 500,000, the film is about a woman who witnesses a murder online. It enjoyed a pre-Christmas release in Russia in 2013. IFC Midnight distributes the film and gives it a limited theatrical and video on demand release. It received mixed reviews, with some critics enjoying the film’s quick pace and tackling a trending issue, but panned it for the characterization of human nature that instead of empathizing with the lead, viewers end up annoyed.
Christopher MacBride writes and directs The Conspiracy, a found footage psychological horror thriller. MacBride also serves as co-editor with Adam Locke-Norton. It was produced Resolute Films and Entertainment for USD 912,000, and distributed by XLRator. XLRator picked it up after its premiere at the Fantastic Fest for the US distribution via theaters and video on demand. In October 2013, the film was screened in the UK. MacBride was fascinated with conspiracy theories and used that as the basis for the film. Critics praised the logical approach and faux documentary format the film took, but was criticized for its predictability.
Nathan Ambrosioni writes, directs, and stars in Therapy, a crime horror thriller that is part found footage and part regular film. It was produced by Lighthouse Production and was released in North America. It did its round of film festivals in Canada, Spain, Argentina, and Greece.
From world-renowned writer and director M. Night Shyamalan comes The Visit, a found footage horror movie, which he writes, co-produces, and directs. Produced by Blinding Edge Pictures and Blumhouse Productions for USD 5 million, it raked it USD 98.5 million upon release. Universal Pictures distributed the film in the US in September 2015. A month prior, Shyamalan attended the premiere in Ireland. In January 2016, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray. Before production began, the working title was Sundowning. Shyamalan also stood as the movie’s producer through his Blinding Edge Pictures production company. The film had to go through 3 editing versions as the first 2 cuts did not come as a horror film.
Written and directed by Dom Rotheroe, Exhibit A is a found footage psychological thriller. Darren Bender co-writes and produces the film. It premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in 2007, where it won the Best UK Feature award. It was also screened at the Berlin Film Festival, the Sofia International Film Festival, and the Febiofest Prague. Wap Films handled the movie’s distribution. It only enjoyed a limited theatrical release then the DVD came out in the US and the UK. In September 2010, the film could be streamed via MUBI.
Ti West writes, edits, and directs The Sacrament, a found footage horror thriller. It was based on the Jonestown Massacre of 1978. Produced by Worldwide Entertainment and Arcade Pictures, it was distributed by Magnolia Pictures. Eli Roth, of Hostel fame, joined West as the production’s main producer. West had “full creative control” over the film. The Sacrament was first screened at the Venice Film Festival. It was then made available via video on demand. Soon after, it was released on the big screen for a limited time. Then, it became available on home video. The film earned USD 9,221. The film was panned for its slow pace but praised its chilling horror scenes.