You can thank (or blame) the phenomenal success of 1999's The Blair Witch Project for the avalanche of found-footage horror films that have rolled into theaters in its wake. Fifteen years later, we kicked off 2014 with the spin-off film Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones -- the fifth movie in the scarily successful PA franchise. Tomorrow, the highly regarded Afflicted, another new entry in the found-footage genre that received positive notices on the festival circuit, will open in select theaters, and will also be available to watch via various Video On Demand platforms.
Not every found-footage horror flick is of the same caliber as Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, but the camera gimmick has been used to create some serious scares over the years. Settle back, take some Dramamine, and watch the footage we found on YouTube below if you dare.
The Blair Witch Project
It wasn't the first found-footage horror film -- that honor belongs to 1980's Cannibal Holocaust -- but The Blair Witch Project ignited the current shaky-cam craze by grossing over $248 million worldwide on an initial budget of about $25,000. Although we never get to see the titular witch on-screen, the ending still induces goose bumps years later.
Incident at Loch Ness
You've probably never heard of this 2004 film, but it stars the enigmatic Werner Herzog as himself -- a director who is filming a documentary about the search for Nessie in the cold, murky waters of Loch Ness. Here is a clip of Herzog talking about playing himself in the movie.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
This 2006 film is about the titular psycho slasher who gives a documentary crew exclusive access to his reign of terror over the sleepy town of Glen Echo. Some familiar horror veterans are among the cast, including A Nightmare on Elm Street's Robert Englund and Poltergeist's Zelda Rubinstein. Here is a horror-geek news report that references Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.
Eight years after The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity scared all the cash out of moviegoers' wallets with an effective low-budget nightmare involving a couple that sets up cameras around their new home to catch evidence of things that go bump in the night. The result? Here is what happens when Katie Featherston doesn't get enough sleep.
This 2007 Spanish-language shocker about a reporter and cameraman who follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and get locked inside with something terrible spawned several sequels and an English-language remake, Quarantine. Take a peek inside this tenement of terror if you dare.
If an alien monster the size of a building started stomping around New York, would you run for your life… or film it? Thankfully for audiences everywhere, the characters in Cloverfield multitask like champs and bring us footage of the destruction -- including the Statue of Liberty's head being tossed down a Manhattan street like a toy.
Diary of the Dead
Zombie purveyor George A. Romero hopped aboard the found-footage bandwagon in this 2007 movie about a group of film students that run into real zombies while filming their own horror movie. Here is a memorable scene in a hospital where our budding moviemakers learn to always aim for the head.
The Last Exorcism
The problem with exorcism movies -- found footage or otherwise -- is that they inevitably get compared to The Exorcist and always come up short. Still, this 2010 film about a minister who lets a documentary crew film his final exorcism took a stab at it and scared up enough money to get a sequel and inspire other found-footage exorcism rip-offs like The Devil Inside. Check out this scene of the demon inside the possessed girl tormenting the minister.
What starts out as a group of students investigating a series of bear attacks turns crazy when they encounter a troll hunter and come face-to-face with the giants he is hunting in this 2010 Norwegian thriller. Here is the unfortunate thing that happens -- and what always seems to happen -- when you go poking around in the woods in the dark.
Ever wonder why the U.S. has never returned to the moon? This movie supposedly shows decades-old footage from NASA's secret Apollo 18 mission featuring two astronauts who are up to their space helmets in lunar lunacy. Here is a clip of what they find in a cave.
Here we have one of the best uses of the found-footage technique to date. Three high school friends (including Dane DeHaan) attain superpowers after encountering an extraterrestrial object and their lives soon spin out of control when they are unable to handle the responsibility of their new abilities. In one of the darkest scenes in the movie, two of the friends get in dire trouble while flying during a thunderstorm.
A found-footage horror anthology with 10 credited directors? Oh, why the hell not? The wraparound story involves a group of misfits that are hired by a mysterious third party to burglarize an abandoned house and find a rare videotape. Check out this absolutely crazy escape attempt from a house of horrors from one of the film's segments.
Chaos ensues in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs in this 2012 found-footage shocker. If something like this went down, people would inevitably document every blister and sore with their smartphones like this young woman does in the clip below.
Here is the rare horror sequel -- and the even rarer found-footage horror sequel -- that surpasses the original. The wraparound story for this anthology follows two private investigators that break into the house of a missing student and discover his collection of VHS tapes, which contain clues to his disappearance. One of the scariest scenes in the movie is from the "Safe Haven" segment, during which a documentarian tries to escape from a cult compound after the whole place goes quite literally to hell.
If you missed this clever little sci-fi/horror gem from this year about an international crew of astronauts (including Sharlto Copley and Michael Nyqvist) searching for life on one of Jupiter's moons, be sure to check it out now that it is available on disc and Netflix Watch Instantly. Here is a tense spacewalk clip that might remind you a bit of how you felt watching Gravity.