The Found Footage Phenomenon - New Release Review
Director: Sarah Appleton, Phillip Escott
Starring: Dean Alioto, Aislinn Clarke, Ruggero Deodato, Patrick Brice, Lesley Manning and more
Written by: Sarah Appleton, Phillip Escott
Produced by: Sarah Appleton, Phillip Escott
Original Score by: Simon Boswell
Charting the origins of the found footage sub-genre, tracking it through to the technique's current form, and asking what the future is.
Over the last couple of years, Shudder has been putting out some high-quality documentaries. From the brilliant 'Horror Noire' to the haunting 'Cursed Films' series, every documentary has had something new to offer in terms of specific sub genres of Horror. 'The Found Footage Phenomenon' (TFFP) explores the world of, well, found footage movies. From 'Cannibal Holocaust' to 'Host', the documentary covers several decades of the polarising genre. We get interviews with the likes of Rob Savage (Host), Patrick Brice (Creep) and Northern Ireland’s own Aislinn Clarke (The Devil’s Doorway), to name but a few.
The documentary has a basic structure, it's starting point is the controversial 1980 Ruggero Deodato film 'Cannibal Holocaust' and Dean Alioto's 'The McPherson Tape' from 1989 then works its way through the years, up to modern day, showing the gradual progression of the storytelling and the technology. I liked how the film was presented, easy and simple to follow, using talking heads who are often the creators of the project they’re talking about at the time. My biggest gripe with horror documentaries recently is having too many celebrity guests talking about the same movie at once; sure it can be fun, but 10 people talking about the same thing can make things muddled, whereas here, 'TFFP' is laser focused on what it’s talking about and I really appreciated that.
The overarching theme of technology changing over the years and evolving the genre is definitely the most interesting subject of the documentary. With cameras becoming more accessible in the modern age, there has definitely been an increased amount of found footage movies being made, for better or worse. Before the 2000’s, there was a mysterious aura around found footage films. For years, people believed that the camera crew was actually killed in 'Cannibal Holocaust' or that the 'Blair Witch' was real. Nowadays, few films are able to capture that magic. Modern found footage movies have succeeded by taking the horror into our homes with films like 'Host' and 'Paranormal Activity' being loved by audiences.
My only problem with the documentary is that the film never goes too in-depth into any one specific movie. I know this is more of a me problem and I could try to find out more information about each movie myself, but it seemed just as they were getting into the meat of each film, they’d cut away to the next subject. At one point, they talk about George A Romero’s 'Diary of the Dead' and how it screwed over the release of the British indie film, 'The Zombie Diaries'. I would have liked to have heard more from director Michael Bartlett about the situation, but unfortunately we only get a few seconds of his story. As I said, it’s not really the film’s fault, it has a lot to pack into its 100-minute runtime. On the bright side, it has made me go and seek out some films I hadn’t seen before like 'The Last Broadcast' and 'The Devil’s Doorway'.
I can highly recommend 'The Found Footage Phenomenon' to all horror fans. There’s definitely enough interesting points and arguments made in the film to keep you watching till the end. Most of the movies mentioned in the film are available on Shudder, so once you finish the documentary, there’s hopefully something on there that piques your interest.
- Adam Neeson
'The Found Footage Phenomenon' Documentary is available to stream exclusively on Shudder from May 19th