Producer JJ Abrams pulled off one of the rare creative coups when he began a compelling viral ad campaign to celebrate his gonzo Godzilla update. With Mark Reeves behind the lens and enough shaky cam complaints to make the Blair Witch seem like a dose of Dramamine, this amazing monster movie proved that POV filmmaking didn’t have to lack scope, intensity, or action. In fact, the best part about this movie was the flawless integration of oversized F/X into what was supposed to be a handheld camera capture. Many still complain about the logistics of carrying a camera during such a chaotic circumstance, but the result is something special.
V/H/S/2 does that rare thing among modern horror movies, it frightens. It terrorizes. It provides a nice level of gallows (or gory) humor and some amazingly iconic shivers. Few will forget the last act payoff of the various anthology pieces. Sure, the wrap around material feels overly familiar and poorly explained (the videos end up possessing people? Huh?) and some of the acting—especially among the teens in the final installment—borders on the bad. Still, V/H/S/2 is a consistently terrific genre omnibus, and an excellent example of a goofy gimmick seemingly past its cinematic sell date.
Not since [REC] and its equally masterful sequel have we seen something like this. For most, the first person POV found footage film is a hit or miss proposition with more whiffs than winners in the mix. Chronicle, directed with unbelievable skill by Josh Trank and written by John Landis’ son Max, it’s a satisfying experience that tells a superhero/villain origin story in a manner best built to serve the narrative. Sure, there’s a few flaws and a couple of complaints, but for the most part, it’s the best found footage film since a Spanish TV reporter decided to cover the local fire department on their overnight shift.
As the last two films on this list, these superb Spanish thrillers show what can be done with the found footage idea. In fact, both are so good it’s hard to pick which is the best. Each one takes an inspired set-up, a perfected follow through, and an attic filled with ghoulish geeks and turns them into a living nightmare of authentic horror movie maneuvers. The first [REC] is the movie all other found footage films pretends to be, a rollicking rollercoaster ride where you never know what’s around the next corner, where anyone can die at any time, and an ending that raises as many questions as it provides answer. Then the sensational sequel came out and added to the macabre mythology. Indeed, there are few regular films as perfectly matched as [REC] and [REC]2. That they also happen to be part of the found footage subgenre makes the accomplishment even more amazing.