Truthfully, making found-footage films has become ‘the thing’ in recent few years. While a niche creation in the previous decades, the genre has become a cult favorite and – for some – a source of huge amounts of cash. When you think about it, there aren’t many such pleasurable – and relatively easy – ways to get rich from doing something that even an amateur could do, when given the opportunity. Improvisation is advisable, the budget is low, camerawork needs to be unsteady, shaky and blurry, the actors are often unknown (that was one of Blair Witch Project’s biggest advantages prior to the official premiere).
However, as ironic as it may seem, these days it’s not hard to observe a rather unpromising trend, which indicates that the genre has been stuck in a rut for some time now. The directors are simply out of any entertaining new ideas. What was once miraculous for horrors in general – and lead to the public’s new interest in them – has now spread over other areas of the cinematic world. And too much of a good thing can make people lose interest very quickly.
Indisputably, Hannibal Holocaust is the hard-hitting pioneer of found footage and one of its most gore-tastic examples. Soon after its release, many aspiring, ‘sick and twisted’ filmmakers wanted to achieve such an amazing level of blood-and-gore. Hence the sudden boom of this type of productions. Obscurity rose through the roof, as titles like August Underground (and all its wretched sequels) or The Last Horror Movie found ways to the hearts of all the true exploitation lovers. After a greatly-reviewed Spanish film [REC] became a worldwide hit, wealthy production studios decided that it’s time to put their hands on this money-making machine named found footage. Thus Quarantine was born, and even though it was incomparably weaker than its Spanish counterpart, it still grossed more than $14,000,000 in its opening weekend. This proved something, and proved it big-time – many regular yet previously closeted adrenaline-seeking folks went to cinemas in huge numbers.
Paranormal Activity only confirmed this increasing and amazingly unexpected trend. Unfortunately, it also showed a new tendency, this time a rather tricky one – directors started filming sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, you name it [my overall favorite being Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night]. There are ways of killing excitement and curiosity, and this definitely is one of them. What’s more, as I’ve previously mentioned, found footage productions flooded other genres, such as sci-fi (Apollo 18), superhero flicks (very successful Chronicle) teen films (horrible Project X), monster movies (Cloverfield).
The fact that most of them are highly unwatchable is an alarming one. The genre is gradually wearing itself out, and it’s a shame, because it has huge potential and is often a great source of high-class scare-fests. One can only pray that the tendency towards making other, similarly mindless pictures will quickly die out.
The last film I’ve seen that places itself in this category was V/H/S. This indie flick bases its plot on 5 different horror stories. It’s very uneven, though it has a fantastic retro style and recognizable amounts of scary, gore-ific moments. While some may claim that it’s just another dumb, blood-filled farce, I see it differently – it’s innovative in a sense that it gives some hope for a brighter future for this previously underestimated yet now overly abused genre.