Tue. Jul 27th, 2021

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Episode 6 – The Shaky Camera – Found Footage

14 min read

New Last Week

As the curve finally starts to flatten, people are breathing a sigh of relief, and life is slowly returning to normal.  Still not sure if they’re gonna have theaters open here in NY by mid April, so look for time changes to the movie Antlers (2020), which I’m particularly excited for.

BUT, it’s not over yet!  COVID-19 is still largely an issue so please continue to socially distance appropriately.

This week on the Nightmare Feed, we’re going to be discussing “Found Footage” or what Reed Alexander likes to call ‘Shaky Camera.’  In fact, Reed was once quoted as referring to Found Footage Horror as “The newest, shiniest, most polished, and overused piece of shit that’s been taking over horror as a genre” and once suggested that as a genre “This trend needs to die, be cremated via incinerator, stuffed in a mirrored box, placed at the bottom of a well, and the well filled with concrete.”

Well eventually Nightmare Feed’s own foul mouthed horror critic warmed to the ‘Shaky Camera’ genre and even found a few gems hidden in it that he will share with you latter, on the pod cast.

So… what is Shaky Camera, when is it good, and when is it not okay.  We need only look to Reed Alexander’s review of Alien Abduction (2014)

  • This movie had atmosphere.  It had its own god damn atmosphere.  It wasn’t leaning on the camera to make up for set problems, like crippling bad sound tracks and set design.  It was mature enough to spend thought and effort into these things.  The shaky camera was no more than an effect.  It was a tool to mask the unfortunate lack of special effects budgets that most small-time production companies suffer from.  AND THAT’S OKAY!  Look, I understand that a direct shot of the rubber alien costumes would totally kill the wonderful atmosphere you worked so hard to put into this movie.  That’s what the shaky camera is for.” ~Reed Alexander

As compared to his review of The Taking of Deborah Logan, when he lashed out at the use of Found Footage.

  • Look, it was necessary for a group of young aspiring actors making The Blair Witch Project. They needed a way to create elements of a dark and chaotic atmosphere on their shoe-string budget and this was their only option. Hollywood does not need to do that and in fact, there are very few reason that it’s even appropriate. You basically just have the camera guy wiggle around his view to create atmosphere when you’re simply, A) too lazy to set the atmosphere your damn self, B) lack the imagination necessary to set up a proper atmosphere in the first place. Seriously, fucking stop it… …This movie didn’t need to be some fake ass mocumentary in order to make the plot relatable. THE EMOTIONS OF THE ACTORS MADE THE GOD DAMN PLOT RELATABLE!!! This movie didn’t need a jackassy camera guy filming himself tripping over his own two feet to make atmosphere. Deborah and that damn house WERE THE FUCKING ATMOSPHERE YOU DUMB TWAT!!! The movie Nell didn’t need a fake documentary crew to make one of the most magical movies about isolation and human connection.” ~Reed Alexander

They don’t call him the foul mouthed horror critic for nothing…

Movies

Rumors swirl as David Buckner is tapped to take on the Hellraiser franchise.  With trash film after trash film haunting the Hellraiser series, can Buckner (better know for his work on The Ritual) breath new life into the Cenobites? Well, there’s more good news, as David S. Goyer is now hopping on board to help write the reboot!  Goyer is best known for really revitalizing Batman with The Dark Night, a movie that actually managed to make Gotham dark and Batman fucking scary.

Salem’s Lot is also getting a REBOOT (cue dramatic music…) and they’ve found the director to do it.  Gary Dauberman (Better known for the IT reboot, because seriously, FUCK the whole conjuring franchise) has been selected to direct, with James Wan spear heading the project.

While trolling the interwebz, I found a particularly interesting possession horror movie called ‘Behind You.’ This one doesn’t look like it’s gonna get more than a limited release, so start harassing your local indi theaters to pick it up!  It looks like it has a similar feel to The Possession of David O’Reilly (2010), but without the whole ‘Shaky Camera’ problem.

The Viral streaming project DUST has been pushing hard for a successful feature length film, and they seem to have nailed it home with their new 2020 release Sea Fever.  This looks like a weird cross between Cabin Fever and Harbinger Down.  It’s Quarantine horror, in the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), seeming to lean heavily on isolationism and paranoia.  I’m excited to see what they can do and hope this movie at least gets a limited theater release, though it will likely just get a streaming release on DUST.

Games

Ok, so I do play a lot of games and stream them on Twitch from time to time.  My main focus is usually Retro games and Horror games.  So, my recommendation may come as a surprise.  It is definitely not the best horror game of all time (my pick for that would probably be between Doom and Resident Evil 2), however for recent horror games, my pick is Blair Witch.  It is a first person psychological horror game inspired by the cult classic film.   

The premise: After a child goes missing, you and your trusty dog Bullet must venture into the forest, solving environmental puzzles and engaging in some flashlight based combat as you unravel a supernatural mystery. The game’s camcorder puzzles pay homage to the original film, and the whole experience is just dripping with eerie atmosphere

Joe and Al’s Top 5 Pick

Reed’s #5) The Possession of David O’Reilly (2010)

This wasn’t just good for found footage.  This was also an interesting take on possession horror in general.  As I’m often to point out in many of my reviews of possession horror, the industry has sorta lost the point.  -SPOILERS-  As I noted in my review of The Devil Inside (2012), possession horror is about discovering the motivations of the demon.  One of the reasons why the original The Exorcist (1973) was so damn good, is because it was an investigation into the sinister motivations of Pazuzu.  If Satan is the possessing spirit in The Devil Inside, and can basically hop into anyone with deep regrets, why did it spend multiple years in one person tormenting them?  Why not just hop person to person until it’s in the pope?  What exactly is the motivation here?

The Possession of David O’Reilly tries to take a different approach to possession horror by looking at it in a different light.  The Demons after David aren’t trying to get inside him, so much as they are trying to get too him.  The point is to drive him mad, not take him over.  The demons in this film mess with any individual they can get to and try to get that person to commit some horrific atrocity.  It’s also an amazing look at mental illness as we can never be perfectly sure David isn’t just loony-toons.

It’s a shoe-stringer, so the Shaky Camera is used to hide the awful practical FX.  But the acting is pretty good and they never get too gratuitous with the Shaky Camera.  Definitely worth giving a chance

Joe’s #5) Paranormal Activity (2007)

Soon after moving into a suburban tract home, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) become increasingly disturbed by what appears to be a supernatural presence. Hoping to capture evidence of it on film, they set up video cameras in the house but are not prepared for the terrifying events that follow.

Currently streaming on Starz (requires subscription).

Reed’s #4) Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story (2015)

Sticking WAY closer to cannon than the absolute travesty that was Slenderman (2018).  This movie follows the mythos as laid out by the Marble Hornets Project.  A series of found footage YouTubes, which follow the legend of The Slenderman, as taken from the original Creepy Pasta.

Really, if you’re a fan of Ol’ Slendy, this is the adaptation you want to see.  It follows the mythose, adds it’s own sort of flavor, and keeps the Shaky Camera aspect of this found footage movie far more tolerable than most.  It’s actually fairly clever the way they use the medium, almost as if Slendy is ;always watching,’ as you the audience normally would, through the protagonist’s recording devices.

The FX are okay, the acting is okay, the plot is pretty solid, and while it did leave out a ton of material from Marble Hornets, it only had the standard 1 hour and 30 minutes to cram the concepts of about 6 hours of found footage YouTube videos.

Joe’s #4) Diary of the Dead (2007)

The dead are returning to life to feast on the flesh of the living. As civilization dissolves in this nightmare scenario, a group of college students travel across Pennsylvania in hopes of finding refuge at their friend’s secluded mansion. Film student Jason (Joshua Close), tapes their journey, and the movie is presented as his footage. The fifth chapter in George A. Romero’s zombie saga that began with “Night Of The Living Dead” features the social commentary the series is known for.

Even before releasing Land of the Dead, Romero wanted to do a film about “emerging media”.[6] After releasing Land, which he felt was “big” in scope, he wanted to go back to make a relatively low budget film and felt that his “Emerging Media” idea could easily fulfill it.[6] Even though the film is shot in a found footage style, Romero still chose to use a cinematographer, as opposed to letting the cast film the movie themselves. In his decision he cited what he saw as the failings of The Blair Witch Project, which he found “dizzying”, also noting that “it didn’t quite make sense.”. Romero stated that the movie overall was more difficult to shoot than a traditional one as “It really needed to be choreographed down to the shoelaces”

Not on streaming services, but available for purchase on iTunes for $12.99.

Reed’s #3) Digging up the Marrow (2014)

The first mockumentary mentioned on this list, but certainly not the last!  I didn’t include any any Found Footage Hybrids, as I wanted to stay true to the genre.

This follows Adam Green, the famous horror director, as he investigates the life of a shady character William Dekker, who claims monsters are real.  Adam, not just being an icon in horror, but also a fanboi himself, follows this individual on a journey to discover ‘The Marrow,’ an enclave of these supposed monsters.

While this sort of barrows a lot from the plot of Nightbreed (1990), that’s sort of the point.  This isn’t just a mocumentary, its a fan fill, for fans, by a fan.  Adam didn’t just get into horror because he thought it was a lucrative career, he’s a true Horror Head, every bit as much as Joe or myself, perhaps even MORE.  So of course this movie is about ‘what if monsters are real’ because that’s what we all secretly wish as a community.  And prepare to get your squee on, because Adam pulls out all the stops, introducing horror icon after horror icon throughout the film.

Joe’s #3) Hell House LLC (2015)

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.

The film, shot as a documentary, follows a group of Halloween haunted house creators as they prepare for the 2009 opening of their popular haunted attraction, Hell House. Tragedy strikes on opening night when an unknown malfunction causes the death of fifteen tour-goers and staff. The film reveals the lead-up to the tragedy and documenting what exactly went wrong that night which has been a mystery to the public.

Found Footage Critic praised the cast, premise, and cinematography, giving the film a rating of 7.8 of 10

Currently streaming on Tubi and Shudder.

Reed’s #2) Butterfly Kisses (2018)

An absolutely fantastic take on Urban Legends, including an absorbing mythos, that is a mocumentary about a mocumentary where all the film crew mysteriously disappeared.  This was just absolutely fantastic with the sheer level of detail they put into, not just constructing the urban legend, but also constructing the original mocumentary that this mocumentary is about.  If that sounds like an absolute cluster fuck of madness, you’re right, and it gets better.  This movie gets so meta at one point, it starts to dangerously border on Found Footage Hybrid.

They make no small point of evoking the original Found Footage Horror that started this trend, The Blair Witch Project (1999).  Think about it like this, “what if someone did a documentary about the Blair Witch incident, after the original kids all mysteriously vanished?”  They do a particularly good job at selling the idea that, at the very least, the urban legend is real, even if the documentary is fake, and never shy away from the possibility (like The Blair Witch Project) the original documentary was faked by the new documentary crew.

This movie is just fantastic, I really can’t stress this enough, you have to give it a shot!

Joe’s #2) Cloverfield (2008)

As a group of New Yorkers enjoy a going-away party, little do they know that they will soon face the most terrifying night of their lives. A creature the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Using a handheld video camera, the friends record their struggle to survive as New York crumbles around them.

The film is presented as footage from a personal camcorder recovered by the United States Department of Defense in the area “formerly known as Central Park“, bearing a disclaimer stating multiple sightings of a case designated “Cloverfield”.

J. J. Abrams thought up a new monster after he and his son visited a toy store in Japan while promoting Mission: Impossible III. He explained, “We saw all these Godzilla toys, and I thought, we need our own American monster, and not like King Kong. I love King Kong. King Kong is adorable. And Godzilla is a charming monster. We love Godzilla. But I wanted something that was just insane and intense.”

All of the major characters received a personal Myspace page, all of which are accessible and featuring available photos, though blog posts have been removed.

Due to its presentation as footage from a consumer digital recorder, Cloverfield has no film score, with the exception of the composition “Roar! (Cloverfield Overture)” that plays over the end credits. Similarities between “Roar!” and the music of Godzilla composer Akira Ifukube have been noted, and it has been suggested that the overture is a tribute to Ifukube’s work, which was confirmed by Matt Reeves in the DVD’s commentary track.

Currently streaming on Netflix.

Reed’s #1) Cloverfield (2008)

I really hate to give the number one spot to a Hollywood production, especially since Hollywood was primarily guilty of driving the Shaky Camera bandwagon that made it stale and uninteresting.  The problem with that, is that if you have the right director, the right cast, and the right concept, with the big budget, you can get some pretty amazing movies, and this is one of the best.

In my review of Cloverfield, I pointed out that Shaky Camera was used as a technique to bring back the horror element of Kaiju Horror.  While the concept of Kaiju should be absolutely terrifying, it’s honestly become a genre with a string of cheeky, hammy, and arguably PG-13 movies.  We lost the absolute sense of helplessness that should come with facing down a monster on the scale of Godzilla.

And to top that off, the acting, writing, and FX are all particularly amazing even though the movie is shot Shaky Camera.  The ‘Shaky Camera’ is just as much an effect as the CGI monsters.  From the perspective of the camera, you can connect with the staggering scale of the Cloverfield Monster.  So much of the movie is shooting up at the monster, capturing only momentary glimpses of a part of it.  It really is fantastic use of the medium.

Joe’s #1) The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project is a 1999 American supernatural horror film that tells the fictional story of three student filmmakers—Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard—who hike in the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. The three disappeared, but their equipment and footage is discovered a year later. The purportedly “recovered footage” is the film the viewer sees.

The film is heavily credited with reviving the found-footage technique which was later used by similarly successful horror films such as Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. A sleeper hit, The Blair Witch Project grossed nearly $250 million worldwide on a modest budget of $60,000, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time. The film launched a media franchise, which includes two sequels (Book of Shadows and Blair Witch), novels, comic books, and video games.

Not available on streaming services, but is available for purchase on iTunes for $9.99 or in a bundle with ‘Blair Witch’ (2016) for $19.99

Viral Content

Don’t forget to tune in daily to The Nightmare Feed to get a chuckle at our Meme of the Day!  Also, remember to brows the site for more viral content that comes along with it, including, Quizzes, Surveys, My review of Alien Abduction (2014) on Thursday, and Team Mantacore’s comics on Friday! 

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