The found-footage movie trope has been used in almost every genre but is extremely popular in horror. This is probably because the movie often feels more personal, realistic, and jarring as if you were the person holding the camera. The trope itself was, essentially, first exemplified by Cannibal Holocaust but blew up after the massive success of The Blair Witch Project.
Over the years, there have been some god-awful found-footage films (we’re looking at you, The Devil Inside), but there have also been some really great ones. Here are 13 of the best found-footage horror films you have to watch the next time you find yourself awake at 1 AM.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Starting the list off strong is the film that made the found-footage genre what it is today. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you’ve got to start your found-footage journey with it. The film follows three college students investigating the Blair Witch in rural Maryland. They begin by asking locals about the legend before setting off into the woods, where their nightmare begins.
The film had an extremely small budget but absolutely smashed the box office and grossed almost $250 million dollars. The Blair Witch Project benefited heavily from the fact that the producers made everyone feel like this was a real event that took place. They had a whole website with fake missing police reports and interviews with people in an attempt to locate the three “missing” students.
V/H/S is an anthology-found-footage film from 2012 that has spawned numerous sequels since then. The film itself is comprised of a main story, known as “Tape 56,” and five short stories within the main narrative. The main narrative sees a gang get offered a large amount of money if they can break into a house and retrieve a single VHS tape. They eagerly agree and break in.
One character discovers a room with a dead man and TVs playing static. The movie jumps between the stories and the main story as different tapes get popped into the VCR. Overall, a decent found-footage film with different short stories to keep it interesting as the main story slowly progresses between shorts.
Hell House LLC (2015)
Creepy killer clowns and found footage, what else do you need? Hell House LLC is about an abandoned haunted house where 15 people were killed five years ago. A documentary crew interviews the sole survivor, who shows them a tape from the night of the incident. Hell House LLC got decent reviews and was praised by critics for the mystery and suspense set out by the film. If you watch it and enjoy it, you’ll be happy to hear that it got two sequels, and they’re both found-footage documentary films too.
All Hallows’ Eve (2013)
Another anthology-found-footage film, All Hallows’ Eve, features a killer clown named Art and a babysitter who just can’t stop watching a VHS tape. After trick or treating with the kids she’s watching, she finds an unmarked VHS in their bag and decides to pop it in and see what’s on it. Hint: it’s not good.
The tape follows three different stories, each connected to Art the Clown. This one is brutal, gory, scary, and might make you interested in watching the sequel, Terrifier. It isn’t a found-footage film but features more of Art the Clown and his murderous escapades.
After The Ring, V/H/S, and now this, we should all know not to pop random VHS tapes into a VCR— wait, do people even have VCRs still?
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
One of the original found-footage films, Cannibal Holocaust, is also probably the most notorious thanks to its extreme gore and the fact that authorities weren’t sure if the director actually killed the actors or not. The director, Ruggero Deodato, even faced murder charges until they figured out that the actors were all alive and well.
The film is about a group of filmmakers that got lost in the Amazon rainforest. A rescue crew finds their film footage, a documentary they were making about local cannibal tribes. Well, it should be obvious that something went wrong while they were making it, and the footage that follows is some of the goriest scenes you may have ever seen. Even by today’s standards, Cannibal Holocaust holds up well.
[REC], or just Rec, is a found footage film from Spain and is considered to be one of the best found-footage films out there. If you’re from the United States, you might remember it as Quarantine, which is the American attempt at a remake (it’s not as good, but still a good watch.)
Rec is about a reporter and her cameraman who get quarantined inside an apartment building after a mysterious infection begins spreading inside it. The infection causes people to be extremely aggressive and violent. Think bloodthirsty zombies paired with shaky night-vision found footage.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Depending on your age, you might remember the hype and fear surrounding this movie when it hit theaters back in 2007. The success of the first film launched a whole slew of sequels until seven total Paranormal Activity films had been made.
Paranormal Activity follows a young couple that has just moved into a new house. The wife thinks a paranormal presence has been following her for her whole life, so the husband decides to set up cameras around their home to capture it. Turns out, there is a demon that has been following her— and it isn’t happy.
Trollhunter is not necessarily horror, but still somewhat scary at times. The film follows a documentary crew as they try to track a bear poacher. Eventually, it turns out that a man they suspected of being a bear poacher is actually hunting trolls, large beasts that inhabit Norway and have been kept out of the public’s eye by the government. Trollhunter is a decent flick if you’re into fantasy, found-footage films, and a bit of horror.
Cloverfield is the first installment in a series of three inter-connected movies and follows the found-footage trope. The film is footage found from a handheld camcorder that was recovered in New York by the Department of Defense. After a large earthquake causes a city-wide power outage, you soon find out that it was no earthquake.
Advertised as a monster film, Cloverfield features elements of horror that make it still a good watch to this day. Plus, the follow-up movies are just as good, if not better, but sadly are not found-footage films.
Even though it isn’t as good as Rec, Quarantine still is a decent-found footage film that every fan of the genre should watch at least once. It has essentially the same exact plot. A camera crew follows firefighters to a call in an apartment building, where they are then quarantined as all hell breaks loose.
If you don’t like watching foreign films or subbed movies, Quarantine is a decent adaptation of Rec, but you should really check out the original. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
As Above, So Below (2014)
Has anything good ever happened in the catacombs below Paris? As Above, So Below proves that no, nothing good ever happens in the catacombs below Paris. A young historian and explorer named Scarlett Marlowe is trying to follow in her father’s footsteps and find the philosopher’s stone. Her work eventually leads her to Paris, where she enlists the help of some local catacomb guides to help her find a secret chamber deep beneath the city.
It could have been scarier, but a found-footage movie that takes place in the Parisian catacombs is a fresh take on the genre and was well-received by audiences but not by critics.
The Conspiracy (2012)
Creepy and slightly gaslight-y, The Conspiracy delves into the world of the rich and powerful. What are they doing at Bohemian Grove? Why did a van pull up outside my house as I typed that? Who are these men dragging me away from my des—
Jokes aside, The Conspiracy is a decent found-footage film about a guy named Jim and his conspiracy-believing friend Aaron, who thinks he stumbled across something big. Jim is skeptical but can’t deny that strange things begin happening.
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A group of college students decide to make a documentary about Deborah Logan, a woman with Alzheimer’s who lives with her daughter and is, unbeknownst to everyone, possessed by a demonlike being. As she begins displaying more and more strange behavior, things start turning south for the film crew.
It’s a race against the clock to get that spirit out of her and save her before the demon can complete his work. This movie also has easily one of the creepiest scenes involving an old woman and a little girl that is now iconic in the world of horror.
Found footage films are a great trope that does well in the horror genre. They’re creepy, can be done on a low budget while still looking great, and there are plenty of ideas out there for dumb film crews getting into wild shenanigans.
Hopefully, you found a new film to add to your watch list, and if we missed a found-footage horror movie you love, let us know in the comments, and we’ll try and squeeze it into our list.