The trailer for the third Paranormal Activity instalment surfaced on the internet with Catfish documentary star Ariel Shulman revealed as the new director. The horror is set as a prequel to the two previous films, directed by Oren Peli on minimal budgets, where a family is terrorised on video camera by an evil entity. The original was labelled one of the scariest films of the decade for its creepy realism but, as one of the many ‘found footage’ mockumentary style movies due for release, Apollo 18 and Yellow Brick Road to name a few others, we take a look at the top ten hand-held horror films that made us wish they would just put the camera down and run…
10. Troll Hunter (2011)
The recently released Troll Hunter is a horror-comedy following a group of students searching for the mythical trolls of Nordic legend. After a bear hunter reveals his true occupation as a government troll bounty killer, they venture out with him into the woods where the giant creatures sniff out human blood, munch on cars and explode in the daylight. An absurd yet comical monster-movie, Troll Hunter is like Norway’s Blair Witch legend with CGI and less crying down a camera lens.
9. Diary of The Dead (2007)
Though not the greatest in George Romero’s ‘Dead’ series, Diary Of… is a more modern update to its predecessors with a first-hand account of the zombie apocalypse. After hearing reports of cannibalism and rioting across the states, a small group of film-makers venture to find their families, only to be greeted by the walking dead before capturing the decline of society on film. Another tale of zombie survival, Romero’s film contains elements of social commentary as opposed to a good old zombie-jumping-out-of-the-closet scare-fest.
8. The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)
2007 was the year of documentary-style thrillers and Poughkeepsie Tapes is definitely one of the most chilling. Rather than being filmed from the perspective of the screaming victim, this film earned its kudos by having the bad guy use his presenting skills. After 800 tapes belonging to a deeply disturbed serial killer are found, police discover they hold accounts of the killer’s sickening murders with some of the torture recorded for his pleasure. Some pretty gross deaths make this film deeply disturbing as all the action you’re not supposed to see is played out in full.
7. The Zombie Diaries (2006)
Similar to Diary Of the Dead, Zombie Diaries captures life in the time of an undead uprising. The independent British horror uses actual footage of news reports in its opening credits, referring to the bird flu outbreak of 2006 before the cast venture into eerie deserted villages in the English countryside. Headshots and splattering brains coupled with claustrophobic accounts marks Zombie Diaries as a pretty realistic moc-doc that hits a little too close to home.
6. Cloverfield (2005)
In New York you can’t even film your brother’s farewell party without some unidentified space-creature smashing up skyscrapers and killing the atmosphere. Produced by J.J Abrams, Cloverfield was virally marketed months ahead of its release and was sold as a tape ‘recovered’ by the US Military. A group leave their apartment after an earthquake only to find an unseen monster is wreaking havoc upon Manhattan. From escaping mutant space-bugs and dodging collapsing buildings to watching the girl you’ve been hitting on explode behind a screen, our cameraman catches the chaos and military panic right up until the battery runs dead.
5. The Last Exorcism (2010)
Highly underrated, The Last Exorcism crosses The Wicker Man with an account of conmen tricks documented for our cynical pleasure. Reverend Cotton Marcus is an exorcist turning his back on the profession after a questioning of faith urges him to expose exorcism as a fraud. For one last time, he accepts an invitation to cure a ‘possessed’ teenage girl, Nell, whose father pleads for Cotton’s help. Upon arrival he stages the ritual in front of the family only to be caught out by the girl’s elder brother… yet things take a strange turn when Nell begins to show signs of genuine possession. Plot twists and camera hijacks unbeknown to the crew allow us to determine the truth for ourselves until the things come to a creepy, abrupt ending.
4. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
As the movie that started it all, Cannibal Holocaust was banned in several countries, including the UK for its brutal and graphic scenes which caused speculation that it was actually a snuff movie. Ruggero Deodato’s controversial horror begins as a documentary about an American film crew who are missing in the Amazon. A rescue team are deployed and barter with an indigenous cannibalistic tribe for the film reels belonging to the missing crew. It is only then their fates are revealed in a bloody and shocking conclusion of exploitation and cruelty. Deodato famously had to prove the existence of his actors in court following the notorious impalement scene.
3. Paranormal Activity (2009)
Making even your webcam a source of potential terror, Paranormal Activity took us back to a time before special effects and orchestrated all of its scares around bumps, bangs and knocks caught on a couple’s video camera. When Katie and Micah suspect a haunting in their California home they attempt to catch the ghoul on tape only to set off some truly memorable supernatural scares. The 2010 sequel was no less pants-wetting with Katie’s sister Kristie experiencing strange phenomena in her own home, only to be caught on the family home’s CCTV. A simple but effective take on the candid-cam genre that’ll keep you awake for days.
2. Blair Witch Project (1999)
When details began surfacing of three missing US students, the mythos surrounding the Blair Witch seemed frighteningly real. The entire film was originally marketed as genuine found footage though was later revealed to be shot in eight days with amateur improvisational actors and a whole load of freaky pranks pulled by the production crew to scare them witless. The three filmmakers venture into the Black Hills of Maryland in search of the legend of the Blair Witch using interviews from locals, yet only a few days into filming they become lost. The true horror and suspense shows in the genuine fear and paranoia of the cast alongside some camera work that will make you feel car-sick. The marketing campaign surrounding Blair Witch has become legendary, with the back-story making what you never see on camera all the more petrifying.
1. REC Series (2007)
If Blair Witch made the genre popular, Spanish horror REC was the film that took it up a notch and perfected it. We follow television reporter Angela and trusty camera-wielding assistant Pablo as they tag along with a nightshift crew at a fire station in Barcelona where they are called to a multi-storey building. Upon arrival they soon discover they are being quarantined inside with a swarm of rabid zombies and the film accelerates into hyper-speed. Much like a first-person shooter, the camera shudders through the darkness with glimpses of blood-dripping jaws and spooky demon kids coming right at you with full force. The sequel increases the fast-paced intensity with more jumps and an even more horrible, nightmarish finale. Truly one of the scariest films of all time and an original twist on the zombie genre, REC 1 and 2 take your worst fears and blast them with shotguns.