by Ian Morton
The Found Footage Phenomenon is A Shudder Original New Film that charts the ebb and flow of the found footage horror genre; from its inception as hidden stock footage mockumentaries through to its recent successes with webcam based shenanigans. Told from the perspective of those behind the camera, it’s a decent chronology that picks out crucial events in the series history, but those already literate in this type of film may be disappointed that there isn’t a lot new here.
It’s best to think of the documentary as a celebration of a sub-genre of film that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. A series of talking heads begins by looking back at the origins of found footage, with a myriad of successful directors sitting down to discuss the influences of Dracula, War of the Worlds and Peeping Tom and the impact they had at shining a light on the voyeuristic side of storytelling and the drive that we as humans have to watch.
It’s from here that the directors of the documentary, Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott, find their footing, detailing each seminal event in the horror genre’s history such as Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Every filmmaker interviewed has a reason for being there, either giving you insight into the films they made or just giving an opinion, granting the film authenticity and a sense of expertise that many other documentaries rarely manage to achieve.
Those looking for more than hit film makers talking about tentpole movies however may be slightly disappointed that the documentary rarely discusses the other side of the genre. Describing found footage as ‘spiking’ in popularity, it’s definitely more an acclamation of success rather than dissection of failure, and while this might be fine for some, those expecting a more investigative film may feel it a little lacking.
The Found Footage Phenomenon premiers on Shudder on May 19th.