Zombie Cliché Lookout: Found Footage
Ever since The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999, the megaplexes have seen perennial entries in the “found footage” horror sub-genre. There’s just something about the cinema verite style that lends a viscera sense of immediacy to the horror that’s hard to recreate otherwise. It’s a cheap trick, sure, but in the right hands it can be a pretty damn effective one. The Blair Witch Project, for instance, worked a special kind of magic. With only the ghost of a story, second-rate actors, and an all but non-existant special effects budget, it created a legitimately frightening film. Of course, the guerrilla/viral advertising campaign that accompanied the film helped a lot.
There is one, huge issue with found footage-style films: you have to have a reason these schmucks are carrying around the camera in the first place. Unfortunately, very few movies give us a compelling reason for this, with most falling back on the idea that the character with the camera is using it as a coping mechanism for the insanity around him. Toss in a few lines about how important the video will be, and how people are going to need to understand how things went to hell, and you’re all set.
Of course some films, like the Spanish import [Rec] (and the American remake Quarantine) are a little more creative about things. In that film, the power is shut off fairly early, and the characters first use the camera because of its light. And once the light is broken we switch over to the camera’s night vision mode. It’s a small thing, but I felt it really helped with the suspension of disbelief.
Discussion Question: Found Footage Storytelling
What do you think of found footage-style films? Are they effective, or do you tend to get hung up on the mechanics of things (how many batteries do they have? How come they never change tapes, etc)? What about it’s cousin, the diary-style novel?