August 5, 2011

Reel Horror For The Voyeur



Cannibal Holocaust set the ball rolling, in terms of genre filmmaking, back in 1980 with its found footage premise, but didn’t hit the mainstream due probably to its incredibly extreme content. Sure, it’s a staple amongst genre fans but outside that world I would almost guarantee that your average guy or gal on the street won’t have seen it.



Then in 1999 the world shook to the might that was The Blair Witch Project. The story of three kids wandering around the woods aimlessly hit the mark and the movie cleaned up at the box office. A lot of this was down to the massive viral marketing campaign that accompanied it, but at the time no one outside of the horror world had really seen anything like it. Just over 10 years later and some look back at it with a sort of mild distaste but there is no denying its impact, or the fact that it is actually a very good movie.



Although The Blair Witch Project was seen as the start of the found footage style of movie, which we’ve already established that it wasn’t, there was also a little known movie entitled The Last Broadcast that predated it by one year. If you haven’t seen it you should if you get a chance. It’s not perfect by a long shot, and if I recall correctly suffered from a weak ending, yet you can see the genesis of this genre being further developed.



Fast forward to present day and this style of film has pretty much become the norm. Paranormal Activity steamrolled the box office and spawned two sequels, the second of which opens later this year, Hollywood got in on the act with the glossy Cloverfield and even George Romero had a stab at it with the flawed Diary of the Dead. This year alone has seen, or will see, movies such as Megan is Missing, Apollo 18, Atrocious and YellowBrickRoad, as well as Evidence which is set for a 2012 release. Other movies include Spain’s [REC] and [REC]2 (with two more sequels on the way), the Korean flick The Butcher, The Fourth Kind, Invasion and the Poughkeepsie Tapes. I could go on.



What is it that makes these movies so popular, or unpopular as the case may be, with fans? Maybe it is the feeling of being right in the center of the action? Or maybe it is the feeling of seeing something that we shouldn’t be seeing? TV shows have been doing it for years, showing accidents, car chases and other events that attempt to satiate the voyeur within us all. These films maybe a way of watching “real” events without actually having to deal with reality, or maybe they are just good fun to watch. Well, good fun when they are done well. As much as some people like to throw money at movies in the attempt of somehow improving a story, and let’s face it money does not a good story make, these flicks are conducive to small budgets. I’m sure Diary of the Dead had a low-ish budget yet it still seemed far too over-produced for my liking.



Whatever it is that makes these movies so popular I’m not totally sure, although the fact that we all like to watch definitely has a part to play. As long as there are quality movies of this ilk being made I will continue to watch them. Why the hell not? Slashers had their run, the dreaded torture porn is still limping along, so why not another style of movie?

1 comment:

Mick said...

Found footage movies are some of my favourite horrors when done well. I think the appeal is that it makes you feel as if you're actually in the thick of the action instead of just being a spectator as in conventional films!

I'm a big fan of some faux documentaries also. Films you mentioned like "The Last Broadcast" and "The Poughkeepsie Tapes" are very good examples. Another very good one is an Australian film called "Lake Mungo". You should give that one a watch!

Michael :)