Cannibal Holocaust (1980) completely revolutionised the found footage film trend. This gory and extremely violent film – not recommended for the faint of heart! – is a controversial Italian horror film. As a found footage film, it portrays a documentary crew that travelled to the Amazon rainforest to document the life of the residing indigenous cannibals.
Many films of the same genre soon followed, cementing the found footage style as a strong genre in the film industry. With relatable qualities to modern cinema goers, this style appeals to the present trend of sharing every element of daily life online, increasing the believability of the films.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Considered to be one of the first films promoted online, The Blair Witch Project focused a big part of its marketing campaign on introducing the events of the found footage as real. With affordable, accessible Internet in its infancy, the creators of the film were able to make a website featuring information like police reports, missing people’s posters, and evidence of the Blair Witch and pass it along as real-life information. With one of the best viral marketing campaigns of all time, the film made around $250 million worldwide.
Through the creators’ inventive marketing, The Blair Witch Project made the found footage film style popular; the story of the three film students who disappeared in the Maryland Forest and the footage they left behind is an infamous one.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity was another film responsible for the revival of found footage films, helping to popularise the style. The film follows a couple living in a haunted home, and the security camera footage gives a close and intimate view of the happenings. Its success has opened the way to four sequels and many other films based on how tense and frightening the film is.
Another great example of marketing success is Cloverfield, a story about a group of friends on a rescue mission in the streets of New York after a monster attack. Very little information was released about the film in 2008, which sparked interest in audiences worldwide. Its focus on a group of friends keeps the audience interested and invested in the characters while balancing the destruction and panic of the attack.