Need something to watch this weekend? Mary Beth McAndrews has got you covered.
At first glance, found footage horror would seem to be a rather North American phenomenon. The biggest titles in the subgenre, such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity, are all American releases, after all. But such is the case with all international horror. It’s so often swept under the rug for more mainstream, accessible titles that don’t require subtitles. Yet there is so much more to uncover, especially when it comes to found footage.
Of course there are the big names in international found footage, like Britain’s Ghostwatch, Spain’s [REC] and Japan’s Noroi: The Curse. But as part of this week’s Found Footage Friday, I’m going to look at a few of the lesser-known titles that show off DIY horror filmmaking around the world. And don’t ever let those subtitles deter you; a little bit of reading can lead you down an exciting road of terror.
Japan’s Koji Shiraishi is a found footage king. He’s responsible for Noroi: The Curse, one of the most terrifying movies in the subgenre. But he’s also made some sleeper hits that, while slightly goofier, are still scary as hell and stretch the bounds of found footage. One of those hits is his 2013 film Cult. The film stars several idols who play themselves as they appear on a paranormal television show to investigate the exorcism of the Kaneda family. The screenshots alone showcase just how wild this movie gets. Shiraishi doesn’t care about making sense. He wants to go absolutely bonkers.
The Devil’s Doorway
Aislinn Clarke’s 2018 film The Devil’s Doorway is a rare Irish foray into the subgenre. Shot on 16mm, Clarke delves into the real-life horrors of Magdalene Laundries, Catholic facilities in Ireland meant for so-called promiscuous women. In the film, two priests, Father Riley and Father Thornton, are called to one such place after reports of a miracle. But of course, that miracle is much more sinister. The 16mm film gives The Devil’s Doorway a unique aesthetic not often seen in the subgenre. It would make a great double feature with Noroi: The Curse.
This French found footage gem is meant to look like it was filmed in a single shot. That alone makes it worth checking out. Nathalie Couturier plays a vlogger who explores abandoned locations for her YouTube channel. One night she and her cameraman head to a decaying mental hospital for her latest video. But the rumors of hauntings are true and the duo gets more than they bargained for. The lack of cuts ratchets up the tension as you keep waiting for something to appear around the corner.
Descent Into Darkness: My European Nightmare
Everything you really need to know about this movie is in the title. Director Rafaël Cherkaski plays Sorgoï Prakov, a journalist who travels to Paris in order to discover the European dream. But his desire to fit in goes sour and he slowly descends into madness as he realizes his perception of Europe is a total fantasy. At times it feels too real and Cherkaski himself said he got too deep into the role. It goes to some extremely dark places, so proceed with caution with this one.
Be My Cat: A Film For Anne
Romanian director Adrian Țofei places an aspiring filmmaker obsessed with Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway. He wants nothing more than to impress her and eventually woe her to be his. In order to do that, he employs the help of several unsuspecting actresses who are unaware of what hell awaits them. This is another film that’s extremely difficult to watch but incredibly well done. Țofei’s character is downright despicable and we’re always viewing the world through his POV. Țofei knows exactly what he’s doing and boy, does he do it well.
Before the found footage boom of the late 00s in the States, Takashi Shimizu, creating of The Ring, made the 2004 film Marebito. In the film, a man becomes obsessed with being scared (same, honestly). In his quest for fear, he heads underground and discovers a world full of monsters and ghosts. He then brings back a nameless young woman with a taste for blood. Nothing could go wrong!
If you’re going to watch any movie on this list, make it The Tunnel. Carlo Ledesma’s 2011 Australian pseudo-documentary delves into the government cover-up about abandoned train tunnels underneath Sydney. A came ra crew wants to discover the truth and what they find is monstrous. It’s a mix of found footage and interviews with the crew about their journey into the tunnels. There’s a particular scene in the film’s third act that haunts me to this day.