Found Footage: A Look Into The Horror Genre’s Future

UJW Staff Writer

NOKESVILLE, Va. -Found footage films have been present in the horror genre for more than two decades, but just recently have become a popular trend within the horror genre.

Found footage is a term filmmakers use to describe a film that is shot in a way to look like it was “found” rather than created for the purpose of the movie.

The first known “found footage film” was 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust. The subgenre, however, did not become as popular until the 1999 release of The Blair Witch Project that grossed more than $140 million at the box office in the U.S.

The success of The Blair Witch Project spawned many other found footage films but none were as successful—until Oren Peli’s 2007 film Paranormal Activity .Initially released in just 12 theaters and grossing $77,873 in its opening week, the film went on to gross more than $107 million nationwide and has become a popular series spawning 4 sequels.

Several other found footage box office hits have followed, including Cloverfield, Quarantine, and The Last Exorcism.

“Found footage has grown because of the different approach and it’s cheaper to make,” said Evan Dickson, movie editor for Bloody Disgusting, a website focusing on the horror genre. “There’s a lot less lighting and crew. It’s usually shot in a confined space and with a less expensive camera.”

The estimated budget for Paranormal Activity was $15,000. A horror movie with similar success that didn’t use the found footage approach, Saw, had an estimated budget of $1.2 million.

Found footage is most popular among people from ages 13 to 35, according to Dickson.

“Young people are more likely to seek thrill related activities in order to push their boundaries,” said Kelley Aziz, a sociology instructor at Brentsville District High School in Nokesville, Va .

Aside from the core demographic, the films also target “people who aren’t into horror films because they seem real. It’s a gateway subgenre,” said Dickson.

“There [is] a generation of people who are constantly filming themselves. Uploading videos onto YouTube or Facebook, and when they see films reflecting what they’ve become accustomed to and see it interrupted by [the] paranormal, it becomes personal and scary.”

The plethora of found footage films that have been released lately indicates that this trend is here to stay.

“These films have a large fan base and it looks like many will take this idea and use it in different ways” said Aziz.


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