Fantastic Fest Review: Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escot’s ‘The Found Footage Phenomenon’
Unmatched in their authenticity when executed well, found footage films have become a staple in the horror genre over the last few decades. Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escot’s new feature length documentary The Found Footage Phenomenon aims to catalog the life of this fascinating subgenre through an exploration of how it achieved it’s many successes and tracing the origins dating back to the mondo films of the 1960’s before working their way forward to more modern found footage outings. The documentarians have brought in a whole slew of filmmakers to talk about their own work or what inspired it in addition to what makes the subgenre tick and how it’s evolved over time. The interview subjects include Patrick Brice (Creep/Creep 2), Ruggero Deodato (The Last Cannibal World/Cannibal Holocaust), André Øvredal (Trollhunter), Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), Jaume Balagueró ([REC]), Kōji Shiraishi (Noroi: The Curse/Shirome), Rob Savage (Host), Michael Goi (Megan is Missing), Leslie Manning and Stephen Volk (Ghostwatch), Derek Lee and Clif Prowse (Afflicted), Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler (The Last Broadcast), and Dean Alioto (The McPherson Tape) as well as critics and authors who specialize in found footage films.
Stylistically it’s a fairly straightforward mixture of talking heads and film clips which might disappoint some viewers, though it lends itself to a quicker pace allowing more information to be fit into the film’s one hundred two minute runtime. This unfortunately isn’t capitalized on very well, as there’s a lot of this afforded time due to the presentation style that’s spent talking about a handful of films to the point where the speakers began repeating themselves and one another to some degree. It feels like this time could’ve been used much more efficiently by removing some of these redundancies in order to squeeze in more guests and films, as there are several glaring omissions in addition to some smaller ventures it would’ve been nice to see make an appearance, even if only in passing. Perhaps this is even one of the rare cases where the film could’ve benefited from being a bit longer too, as an added exploration into more screen life and web-based found footage would’ve made it feel more complete.
That being said it does a particularly good job at documenting the inception of the subgenre which is by and large the strongest aspect. This portion of the discussion is extensive, with a very large number of films (including some that are quite obscure) being referenced and dissected by the massive roster of talent that’s been assembled for the project. Seeing such a wide range of filmmakers whose work spans many different generations coming together to talk about this subgenre they’re all fascinated by is bound to be a real treat for even the most hardcore found footage fans, and newcomers are sure to walk away with a watchlist that’s a mile long accompanied by a newfound appreciation for found footage horror. Obviously if you’re not interested in these types of films then this won’t be for you, but if you are then The Found Footage Phenomenon will surely provide some new information as well as unseen recommendations. Keep your camcorders rolling for release information, which will be added here as it’s revealed.