Movie Feature

The best & worst of 'found footage' movies

By Tay Yek KeakMovies - 09 March 2012 4:02 PM | Updated 13 March 2012

The best & worst of 'found footage' movies

Three dudes zipping about up in the sky in "Chronicle". A giant monster going destructo-nuts in New York in "Cloverfield".  Some pee-scared kids panicking in a spooky forest in "The Blair Witch Project".  And now, the devil hopping from a crazy, homicidal woman to other possessed suckers in "The Devil Inside".  They all have one thing in common.  No, they’re not rushing for the new iPad. 

They’re all filmed in 'found-footage' or what I like to call 'Jerky Cam-style'.  You must know what that is, right?  That’s the docu-style school of grainy found-footage flicks which is basically about a movie pretending to be a documentary.  Man, so many shows – even TV ones (check out the new paranormal-adventure series, "The River") – are aping them even monkeys might soon be doing them. 

Now, why do people keep shooting films in this cheapo manner when Oscars are handed out to folks who spend millions dressing up sets to look more glamorous than a trannie’s closet?  For instance, the super-opulent opening scene of Martin Scorsese’s would’ve made the devil declare bankruptcy in The Devil Inside. 

Because straightaway with these kind of movies, three things happen. 

One – the film immediately looks like a true story although it’s as bogus as nipples on a fish.  Hey, you know the rule –" Paranormal Activity" is happeningly real; but Normal Activity sucks, man. 

Two – the movie instantly appears urgent and hip as if it’s straight out of YouTube or the phone cam of a toilet peeper. 

Three – sales of Panadol shoot up like rockets to counter everybody’s severe headache.  Hey, we must all do our part to promote healthy living, what. 

Man, making a movie looks so easy these days anybody can do it as long as he has a shoulder to put the camera.  But if you don’t have a shoulder, never mind.  Just rest your head somewhere else and migraine through these crazy grainy flicks.       


Big-a** monster

Cloverfield (2008)

Footage:  From a vid cam recovered after an attack on New York City by a giant monster 

Description:  Kinda like filming Godzilla at its ankle level.  Lots of panic-running with the camera pointing here, there and everywhere, especially straight up in the air.  The monster, a spider-crab hybrid, is not shown fully until the final scenes.  But you know it’s not the cutesy Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

Cameraman:  Some dude who starts out filming a farewell party for a group of hip New Yorkers before the whole thing turns into an actual farewell party for everybody 

Best shot:  The monster looking down and killing the cameraman from the POV (point of view) of the poor fella

How you can DIY this:  Run.  Pant.  Point the cam up into the air as if you’re filming a bird about to poop on you.  Then scream: “Omigod!!!  Look at the size of that thing!!!”.     

Jerky-cam headache: 

Can’t-see-a-bloody-thing horror

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project

Footage:  From a vid cam belonging to three missing student-filmmakers who go to the woods of a small town in Maryland to make a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch

Description: At first, the kids are very garang skeptics just shooting the clues in the forest thinking they’re all stupid superstition.  Then the filming turns into outright panic as they get spooked and run like headless chickens in the dark.  

Cameraman:  One by one they take the camera and disappear

Best shot: The super-classic one of the girl talking, pleading and sobbing in utter fear into the camera which even The Simpsons have parodied

How you can DIY this: Point the camera into a dark corner with some trees.  Maybe got something, maybe not.  Add a lot of confused shouting.  Then run like hell before dumping the cam.

Jerky-cam headache: Goes from to


Space horror

Apollo 18

Apollo 18 (2011)

Footage: From a hushed-up Apollo mission to the moon, officially unacknowledged because its trio of astronauts got nailed by creepy-crawly space spiders.

Description: Since it’s airless, black as hell and scary-lonely up there, the whole thing looks as though you’re trapped in a fishbowl in a desert.  The final scene sets you asking just where the heck they found this footage when it’s blown up in outer space?  In Yoda’s drawer?

Cameraman: Recorded by static cams placed in the lunar capsule, moon buggy, tripod on the lunar surface

Best shot: One poor sucker gets attacked by little buggers inside his spacesuit ….. which is like being drowned by the urine you just peed into your pants

How you can DIY this: Lock yourself into your closet.  Wear your freezing-balls winter wear.  Put a plastic bag over your head.  Start filming.

Jerky-cam headache:  (you’ll feel more stuffy than dizzy)

Jerks with super powers

Chronicle (2012)

Footage: Three jerka**es  suddenly find themselves endowed with super powers – fly, move objects, cause utter destruction – after they enter a mysterious hole in the ground stuffed with an alien rock

Description: Imagine a pimple-faced video geek who thinks Cloverfield would be way cooler if it had Superman.  The three pals fly all over recording their amazing powers and all the time, you’re yelling: “Dudes, call Steven Spielberg or James Cameron for the 3D version!!!”.   

Cameraman: One guy does the filming before all hell breaks loose and the rest of the footage is captured on cop cams, CCTV, and city surveillance cameras.  Quite clever.

Best shot: Up in the sky, a giant commercial plane suddenly flies out of the clouds and hits these fellas

How you can DIY this: Check out your latest Superman comic book. Put your iPhone on vid mode.  Get on your bed.  Jump and shoot. 

Jerky-cam headache: 


Ghost in the house

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Footage:  A young couple moves into a very normal two-storey house in suburban San Diego and weird stuff – we ain’t talking about clogged toilet bowls – starts happening

Description:  The door of the bedroom opens and closes by itself.  The blanket slips off.  Footprints appear. Strange sounds pop up in the middle of the night.  All the time, you keep telling yourself: “Man, am I glad I’m living with 20 people in a HDB flat.”

Cameraman:  The husband puts a video camera on a tripod right in front of the bed to record everything.  Kinda like Edison Chen.

Best shot:  Somebody throws the hubby right at the camera.  As though he’s either a cheap piece of trash or Russell Brand flung by Katy Perry.

How you can DIY this:  Put a camera in front of your bed.  If nothing happens, bro, you’ve got yourself a major horror blockbuster.  

Jerky-cam headache:  , plus 10 cups of kopi to keep you from falling asleep



Our very own hantu 

Haunted Changi (2010)

Footage: From the vid cam of four local docu-filmmakers who check out the abandoned Changi Hospital, reputedly one of the most haunted places in Singapore

Description:  Blair Witch Project – Uniquely Singapore-style. An abandoned, dirty old hospital with empty rooms, long corridors, locked areas and long-dead spirits can be a pretty scary place, dudes ….. even with Medisave.

Cameraman: A dude you don’t see until the final scene when somebody gets his head chopped off

Best shot: Is she there or isn’t she?  Somebody here keeps insisting that he sees a China woman lurking in the shadows.  Proving that our foreign talent policy really does let in everybody – dead or alive.

How you can DIY this: Go to NUH, SGH and KKH and start filming and running and screaming in panic at unseen things.  Before the folks in nice white uniforms haul you to IMH.

Jerky-cam headache: , and try the roti prata at Changi Village.  Damn yummy, man.


Possessed by the devil

The Devil Inside(2012)

Footage:  An American woman brings her severely possessed mom to the attention of two young priests in Rome, filming the process as a docu-film about exorcisms

Description:  You know, the sort of unholy devil-made-me-do-it stuff from supernatural strength to violent spasms to vile language which make the possessed victim look like a cross between a freaky gymnast and a football hooligan.  One pertinent question – Is the medieval devil in touch with modern video cameras or is it just showboating to the audience?  Because in exorcism flicks, they always kick up a big, angry fuss when told to exit asap like they’re Singaporeans at a Marina Bay casino. 

Cameraman:  One crazy fella keeps filming even when the possessed woman is found to be containing four demons   

Best shot:  A scary scene in a hospital where the devil shows a murderous side which would turn even Hannibal Lecter chicken

How you can DIY this:  Find a possessed person to film.  Yes, it’s tough to spot one actually possessed by the devil.  But you can always find some chick going stark raving mad over, say, Girls’ Generation.  Same thing.

Jerky-cam headache: