While I’ve never hidden my love for the Found-Footage sub-genre, even I have to admit that the inexpensive nature of these films results in an obscene amount of them being produced every year. In this flood of cheap jump-scares and inexperienced filmmakers, it’s easy to lose track of some legitimately spooky gems that didn’t quite manage to secure a wide release or even a decent marketing budget.
That’s why I’ve decided to compile this list of overlooked Found-Footage films from the past few years. Though it’s been a while since the last major release, the sub-genre is still going strong, and there’s lots of first-person thrills to be had if you’re willing to wade through the vast sea of VOD horror flicks (not to mention putting up with a few annoying clichés every now and then) in order to find them.
Not every entry on this list is necessarily a great movie, but they all bring something interesting to the table when it comes to their execution of common Found-Footage tropes. Also, since we’re all undoubtedly aware of bigger franchises like Creep and Paranormal Activity, this list will be dedicated to lesser known properties in an attempt to keep things fresh.
Before we begin, don’t forget to share your favorite Found-Footage films with us in the comments below! Now, onto the movies…
They’re Watching (2016)
Jay Lender and Micah Wright’s They’re Watching is a strange creature, especially when compared to other supposedly similar Found-Footage movies. This peculiar blend of reality television and Eastern European superstition is one of the few cases where I cared much more about the main characters and the overall backstory than I did about the actual horror elements.
Featuring several instances of shoddy special effects and some nonsensical decision-making, the film doesn’t always work. However, if viewed as the ‘workplace comedy gone wrong’ that the filmmakers intended, there’s definitely a fun time to be had with this weird little movie.
Aliens: Zone of Silence (2017)
It’s baffling how hard it is to find successful Found-Footage films featuring extraterrestrials. Close encounters and mysterious lights in the sky seem like perfect fuel for a cinematic POV nightmare, but we still haven’t seen the definitive Found-Footage UFO movie.
While we search for that perfect film, we can at least be thankful for creative filmmakers like Andy Fowler, who crafted an incredibly immersive experience with Aliens: Zone of Silence.
Based on real-world conspiracies surrounding Mexico’s mysterious Zona del Silencio, the film deals with several interesting concepts in a unique approach to UFO lore. While the end result is far from perfect, with severe pacing issues and some downright tedious desert hiking sequences, Aliens nearly makes up for this with sheer ambition and the clever use of supporting characters to enhance the Found-Footage gimmick.
Digging Up the Marrow (2014)
Adam Green’s first foray into this sub-genre may seem like a strange choice for a list of overlooked movies when you consider the director’s previous work, but I’ve found that Digging Up the Marrow is a woefully underseen and unfairly criticized film.
Structured as a documentary about an unhinged man (played by the always excellent Ray Wise) who claims that monsters exist and live in their own secretive society, the movie serves as a passionate love letter to both monster movies and Found-Footage alike. Sure, there are some annoying similarities to better films and far too many in-jokes, but it’s still an entertaining ride just as long as you don’t take it too seriously.
Population Zero (2016)
Some of you might consider this as cheating since Adam Levins’ crime thriller is technically a mockumentary, but the film deals with fragmented recordings and even evolves into a pseudo-Found-Footage experience towards the end, so I’m including it anyway.
While it’s not particularly scary, Population Zero managed to make American national park legislation interesting with its hypothetical portrayal of the perfect murder. The movie gets bogged down with some particulars of the real-life scenarios that inspired it, but it’s still an entertaining (not to mention eerily believable) watch.
Surprisingly, there are actually several feature-length Found-Footage movies available on YouTube, free of charge. Of course, most of these are zero-budget attempts at emulating Marble Hornets and The Blair Witch Project, but a few manage to stand out as legitimately thrilling and creative horror stories in their own right.
C.A. Smith’s Rorschach is one of these rare films, presenting itself as a thinking man’s alternative to movies like Annabelle and Paranormal Activity. Featuring a charismatic duo of paranormal investigators in way over their heads as they attempt to help a troubled family deal with an otherworldly presence, this is by far the most believable (and consequently terrifying) film on this list.
The film actually shows very little of the supposed demonic presence, instead relying on subtle cues and subjectivity in order to unease viewers. It may feel a bit too slow for some audiences, especially with the lack of jump scares and fancy effects, but the realistic nature of the production makes up for most of that. And the best part is that you can watch it for free right now!
Hell House LLC (2016)
Seasonal haunted houses are one of the most iconic aspects of Halloween, so it’s strange how we’re only now seeing more movies about them. Fortunately, Stephen Cognetti has managed to craft one hell of an engaging supernatural mystery out of Hell House LLC, a film that’s sure to live on in annual Halloween marathons and a great companion piece to the similarly great The Houses That October Built.
The film compiles recovered footage leading up to a horrible massacre that occurred within the titular Hell House on opening night. Slowly hinting at the horrors that lurk within what was meant to be an innocent attraction, this is certainly one of the best haunted-house films in recent memory, and a must-watch for Found-Footage enthusiasts.
I’ve yet to see the recent director’s cut, but I’ve heard that it improves upon several aspects of the original film, so you might want to choose that version if you plan on watching this one. Plus, there’s a sequel on the horizon, so why not prepare for the return of the Hell House by giving this spooky Halloween tale a try?