Scarlett in As Above, So Below

The 10 Best Found Footage Horror Movies (That Aren’t ‘Blair Witch’ or ‘Paranormal Activity’)

It’s controversial but it needs to be said, I think The Blair Witch Project (1999) is overrated. Not that I don’t appreciate it—the film helped jump-start the found footage subgenre and rattled horror fans at the time. But, let’s be honest, it’s really only the last 5 minutes that people remember the most. And an ending simply doesn’t save a whole movie. There are many horror fans who don’t care for it, and as a result, some have sworn off or dismissed the whole found footage subgenre.

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Which is too bad, because, over the years, found footage has captured the hearts of many horror fans. It can be really freaky and effective because of how real the movies tend to feel. Whether the style for the films is handheld cameras, computers, or phone screens, etc.—the end result can be fun!

Though, just like other subgenres, it’s a process to shift through the duds to find gold. Most people have seen the Paranormal Activity franchise, but where do you turn when you want something a little off the beaten path (but still a fantastic watch)? And if that’s why you’re reading this, you’re in the right place. Out of all the found footage that I’ve personally watched, these are the best.

Grave Encounters (2011)

ghost girl in Grave Encounters
(Tribeca Film)

Okay, as far as foolish decisions go, the characters in this movie are at a level 10 foolish, but stick with it. The plot follows a crew of a paranormal reality show, Grave Encounters, who lock themselves inside a supposedly haunted/abandoned psych hospital. You can probably see where this is going—their search for paranormal activity leads them to find exactly what they wanted, but at the cost of their lives.

The movie naturally starts off with the producer explaining the cancellation of the show and that they uncovered this raw footage—and then you’re off to the races. There are some problematic moments. Making the only character of color be a Black man who uses the ‘f’ slur is…yeah. But aside from a few gripes, this is a really nerve-wracking found footage movie. The entities are frightening and the history behind the hospital is really ugly. It’s worth checking out.

As Above, So Below (2014)

Scarlett in As Above, So Below
(Universal Pictures)

Despite its unwarranted negative reviews, this is a damn good found footage horror movie. The film follows Scarlett(Perdita Weeks)’s documentary crew who are seeking the Philosopher’s Stone in the Catacombs of Paris. But they soon uncover a darkness that’s lurking beneath Paris and not everyone makes it out alive.

This movie builds a lot of tension and keeps you guessing who will make it out alive. And Scarlett as a character is incredibly ambitious, which costs people their lives. The atmosphere is eerie, there are genuine scares, and overall it’s a memorable found footage horror movie. If you’ve never watched this, go in with an open mind and ignore the critics’ reviews!

Unfriended (2014) 

blaire in Unfriended
(Universal Pictures)

Spirits taking revenge on people who wronged them isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s the oldest one in the horror books (so to speak). But this movie still finds a way to give an old dog some new tricks.

The film follows a group of friends stuck in a Skype conversation with the spirit of a dead classmate who seems intent on revenge. Somehow, this one has so many twists and turns that it makes up for what could be a really typical concept. And the scares have an interesting feel to them because they are set on a computer screen. And as secrets are revealed, we find our “protagonists” have done some pretty terrible things. Leaving the audience to wonder whether they deserve what’s happening to them.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

deborah logan in The Taking of Deborah Logan
(Eagle Films and Millennium Entertainment)

“Absolutely horrifying on so many levels” is probably the best way to describe this film. Not only does it depict the horrors of Alzheimer’s, but a very violent possession as well.

The plot focuses on a documentary crew who is making a film about Alzheimer’s patients, only to find something sinister during filming. Possession films can be cliché, but this one is freaky throughout because of how unpredictable Deborah(Jill Larson)’s possession is. Plus, her behavior could be explained away due to being ill, and the ambiguity of whether or not it’s all real, creates a sense of unease. Also, Sarah (Anne Ramsay) is a queer protagonist and the co-writer and director, Adam Robitel, is openly gay! It’s a pride month horror win.

The Visit (2015)

becca and 'nana' in The Visit
(Universal Pictures)

Okay, this isn’t an underrated film in any capacity, in fact, it was well received when it came out. However, that doesn’t mean it deserves mention any less. After some less-than-perfect offerings over the years, M. Night Shyalaman really nails the fear factor here.

The plot focuses on a single mom and her two kids, whom she leaves with her estranged parents to go on a vacation with her boyfriend. What starts as merely a bizarre visit turns into something much worse. And the kids’ documentary-style film becomes a form of collecting evidence/uncovering the mystery. Leading to a very fun twist. The writing and direction is obviously good, but the acting from Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould is a big highlight. 

Hell House LLC Trilogy (2015-2020)

evil clowns in Hell House LLC
(Fbi Films)

The first film is the best out of the three, but it’s still a pretty good-found footage trilogy. The series focuses on the mystery of the Abaddon Hotel, and why people keep disappearing or dying there. And what exactly makes it such a hotspot for horrible activity.

The terrifying nature of the Abaddon Hotel is an aspect of the film that’s enticing enough. But what makes the films (the first and third in particular) so scary is how they are filmed, the deaths, the Hell House tune, and the spirits (especially those damn clowns!). Not to mention how many characters attempt to make money using the hotel, knowing full and well horrible things happen there. If you like a continuous story, then these films might be for you.

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

(OTL Releasing)

Unlike its predecessor, with its supernatural threat, the threats in this movie are very human—making it all the more disturbing (with cybercriminal hackers as villains). The film follows Matias (Colin Woodell) who finds a laptop in the lost-and-found at a coffee shop. Instead of leaving it, he takes it and ropes his friends into twisted situations involving the dark web. Matias isn’t a bad guy though, he just wants to help his girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), who is deaf. This sequel’s usage of computer screen style is surprisingly as good as the first (maybe even better). And the characters aren’t as unlikable, so you root for them more. There’s even a queer couple who are clearly supported by their friends. Overall, it offers a spin on found footage horror with antagonists who aren’t so cut and dry. 

Spree (2020)

kurt and jessie in Spree
(RLJE Films)

“A modern day American Psycho” is how some people have described this film. The plot follows Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery), a social media-obsessed rideshare driver. After his pathetic attempts at becoming internet famous, he takes to livestreaming the murders of his passengers to go viral. Joe Keery’s acting doesn’t come as a surprise, we all know he’s great at what he does. And he really plays Kurt as such a tremendously pathetic person. Most of his victims aren’t worth crying over though, and the movie delves into the dangers of trying to be famous. Especially during the digital age where people are willing to do just about anything. It’s not necessarily the violence that’s wild. It’s how far Kurt is willing to go in his pursuit of fame. Also, it must be mentioned that David Arquette has a minor role in this!

Host (2020)

Friends on Zoom call on Host
(Vertigo Releasing)

It would be silly to not mention this film, wouldn’t it? The plot is so original as it’s set during the pandemic (literally) and focuses on friends who make a mockery of a Zoom séance. Only to be terrorized and killed by an evil entity. There’s something about the way the film is shot (everything was done remotely) and how frightening the scares are. This movie has such high levels of creativity and the acting feels so real that you could almost mistake the characters as real people. It’s a movie that earned the love and praise it’s received.

V/H/S/94 (2021)

raatma in V/H/S 94
(Shudder)

Mentioning the other V/H/S films would be a bit redundant. And this one doesn’t have any dud segments. In fact, every segment is interesting and also Raatma is so damn freaky. This entry follows an aggressive police SWAT team who stumble upon a disturbing cult compound and a collection of tapes left behind. Naturally, each segment has varying levels of violence and scares. Somehow, despite being a sequel, it’s at the very top of the list for the V/H/S films (feel free to disagree) and shows that found footage still has speed. And sticking with the film ’til the end will guarantee a payoff. 

Honorable mentions:

  • Creep (2014)
  • Creep (2017)

(featured image: Universal Pictures)


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Author
Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.