Found footage may have become a gimmick, but some found footage movies are truly scary... and truly sad.
The goal of this series is to show that being "manly" and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:
Found Footage Films
Found footage films are when a movie tries to pretend it's not a movie, but rather someone's home video or documentary that was "found." The non-professional nature of the camera movements can add to the immersion, though sometimes it also leads to motion sickness. A helpful side-effect of this gimmick is the extreme budgetary savings of not needing professional camera crews or equipment. This allows the barrier to entry to be much lower, and then more great horror films can be made. The double-edged sword is that a lot of bad ones get made too. As done to death as the F.F. gimmick is at this point, some gems do stick out amidst the sea of duds.
There was a time when found footage films were cool. That time was the first Blair Witch Project, and that time is long past. Much like a true horror villain, this gimmick won't stay dead despite the legions of schlock films that have used it up over a relatively short period. And of the good examples -- perhaps due to the more intimate nature of the gimmick itself -- many have moments of true emotion. As long as the villain hasn't gouged out your eyeballs with a spoon, you might find yourself tearing up.
1. The Bay
For those of you who haven't seen this film, please do. It's a perfect October horror flick, and one of the more recent found footage films to get the formula right. The "found footage" is a mixture of news reports, cell phone videos, and security cameras, and the variety does wonders. There's really no twist or plot points to give away, so I don't consider it a spoiler to say that the bug/parasite featured on the film's poster attacks a coastal town. The horror comes from the slow burn of how these bugs infest the town. There's a message about pollution in there somewhere, but when you're dealing with a creature that eats its victim's tongue and replaces it, pro-recycling messages are white noise.
The sad part for me is near the end and is perhaps up to my personal interpretation, so you'll have to tell me if you agree. Amidst haunting screams of tongue-less citizens echoing in the distance, a mother and her infant are trying to get away. In one of our cameras we see a fist-sized bug crawl into the car seat with the baby, just as the mom removes the child. It's not laid out if the bug got to the child or not, but a passing comment made later on states that the mother refuses to talk to the protagonist. This suggests to me that the child didn't make it. That's almost too sad for words, and parallels the real-life human scumbags that leave children in hot cars.
2. Paranormal Activity
Just because the series has turned into a cash-grab crapfest to rival the Saw franchise doesn't mean its humble beginnings didn't have merit. Unlike the progressively worse sequels, this first film was highly inventive, but also deep. The main female protagonist/victim knows she shouldn't be messing with the imaginary friend/demon that's been around her since childhood, but her douche boyfriend can't stop from poking it with a metaphorical stick.
She begs and begs him to stop, and gets angry at each progressive step he takes towards her doom. It's almost as if she's fighting two villains, one has no regard for her well-being and is emotionally manipulative, and the other is the supernatural intruder. In the end, he only notices that something's truly wrong when she stops fighting him and says she just wants to stay. The analogue would be a boyfriend who keeps inviting his girlfriend's abusive father over for dinner and only senses that something's amiss when she stops complaining about the beatings. Why you gotta go there, PA?