The Found Footage genre is a collection that’s home to the worst films in existence. If you’re hankering for some bad acting, bad writing, and bad directing in a single helping, this is the genre for you. The format itself dates back over thirty years, but it wasn’t until the completely crap and overrated Blair Witch Project became some kind of fake phenomenon, that the Found Footage film finally took hold. Once a businessman saw a high return from a minuscule budget, more and more of these shitfests were churned out, and as greed became the main factor in mainstream film during the last decade, the Found Footage genre exploded. This noughties run-off now sees more than several of these second-rate films released each year, and as long as cinema-going saps keep paying to watch these travesties, they’ll keep making more of them.
My main problem with this genre is that we the audience are never fooled into thinking that the “found footage” we’re watching is in any way real. So from the get-go the whole affair begins with an uneasy sense of amateur fakery. With the usual bog-standard opening featuring a disclaimer-cum-title that is intended to make the audience believe that the crap about to be inflicted upon them is 100% real, even this tiny element is constructed poorly; reading as believably as the intro to Star Wars. On top of this, it seems that only the talentless and the idiotic are attracted to this type of filmmaking. Watch any film from this genre and you’ll instantly notice that everybody in front of or behind the camera are complete twats.
Take Paranormal Activity for example; both the lead characters are so annoying and irksome, that you end up taking the side of the demon that’s haunting them. The character of Micah in particular is so moronic that at one point he flicks through an image library of demons and witchcraft, and then exclaims to his partner “it could be a ghost or a demon”. I would love to see where he gleaned that titbit of information from a stock image book. Then there is the prejudice and downright sexist character of Kate who sports the offensive contrivance of nagging, screaming, and then helplessly crying, like an out-dated horror metaphor for PMS. The pair of them make what is already a shaky and badly-focussed movie (on purpose I assume, since the camera has auto-focus and image stabilisation) into an even more tortuous film.
If your threshold of annoyance is set on high or your dickhead-detector is malfunctioning, then you may like these characters or may even enjoy this movie, but you still cannot tell me that this or any other Found Footage film resembles actual “found footage”. For one, if you ever watch real amateur footage on the TV or on the internet (or look at your own home movies) you’ll instantly notice that the camera never shakes that much. This is even more evident with documentary films, just take a look at anything being filmed during real upheaval such as war or extreme weather; rarely will the camera-shake induce nausea, unlike these shoddy pieces of shite. If you go and view some footage from real citizen journalists, you’ll realise that more often than not, the video is worthy enough to be shown on mainstream news. Rarely do you see continuous camera shaking and inane observational narration from the film-maker.
With Found Footage films made and set in the late noughties, you would think that the quality of the recording equipment would do away with the poor quality footage. In Paranormal Activity for instance, Micah struts around with a prosumer camera, a zonking great light, and a fuckoff microphone but the audio and video on the movie is still lo-fi. When you take into consideration that mainstream Hollywood movies began filming in High Definition in around 2002, it begs the question why this prick’s digital HD footage in 2006 looks like VHS from the 1986.
The quality issue is made worse when the plot concerns “real documentary makers”. Regardless of the level of training of each filmmaker, for some senseless reason EVERY piece of footage in EVERY Found Footage film constantly shakes and jitters as though the cameramen are suffering from seizures. I mean, if these documentary crews hadn’t died during these fake bullshit plots, the said footage would never be good enough to air as an actual documentary. So why are a bunch of alleged “documentary” makers going around and ignoring the rules of film before they’ve been threatened or menaced?
A bunch of alleged professionals pretending to be amateur by adding clichés such as camera shake, poor cropping, and exaggerated emotions, which in turn proves that these professionals are actually amateur; has to be one of the most paradoxical circles of fuckery in the history of film. The plot, the script (or improvisation), the locations, and even the editing are also so obviously fake that any real-life atmosphere is completely missing. And on top of the technical issues, every one of these lame flicks are so badly acted that it’s almost laughable to think the Directors and Actors’ intentions were to create realism. Films like the aforementioned Blair Witch all the way to the relatively recent Chronicle contain such high levels of amateur acting that the realism is instantly stripped from them.
Watch any film from the Found Footage genre and it seems as if the format itself is somehow cursed (quite ironic since most of these films cannot convincingly convey malediction). Even Directors who seem to hold their own such as Gareth Evans of Raid fame, manage to make a sub-par offering with their attempt (see the segment “Safe Haven” within V/H/S/2). The piss poor directing and acting in something like Cloverfield (coupled with an almost comedic monster) proved that throwing money at this genre can’t even raise the standard. And trying to move the format away from the Horror genre such as the super-crappy Project X just made the whole concept seem even more distasteful (if that was at all possible). No matter what you do with this horrid genre, it seems that there is never anything redeeming about the Found Footage film. Any time a critic tells us there’s an exception (remember all the praise for Trollhunter and even the first Paranormal Activity?) once you get round to watching them, you realise that these too are dreadful movies. They can take this genre to the Moon as they did with Apollo 18, and the end result is still garbage. They can even add a decent actor to the mix such as Suzan Crowley in The Devil Inside; but the finished product is still a false-looking, cheap and un-scary mess. In over thirty years there has never been a credible Found Footage film.
For an entire catalogue of movies that purport to be “real” and whose sole purpose is to portray reality; in the end they all fall flat on their faces when it comes to realism. This surely has to be the biggest failures in any film genre. Every one of these movies are completely sloppy and poorly put together, every film-maker involved (with maybe the exception of Gareth Evans) is a total and utter hack, and the plots themselves are never enough to be scary, but are too over-the-top to be real. The whole débâcle leaves anybody with a sense of taste feeling sick; mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Shaky At Best.