Filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick popularized the found-footage horror film with 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, a movie they created through Haxan Films, the production company they founded while students at the University of Central Florida. (Haxan is also responsible for Sanchez’s 2014 Bigfoot found-footage feature, Exists, as well as his “Ride in the Park” segment for V/H/S/2.) In the time since the massive success of that film, the found-footage approach steadily rose in popularity thanks to movies like REC, the V/H/S series, and, especially, Paranormal Activity.
The “Blair Witch effect” wasn’t immediate. It would take years for major studios to begin investing money in such movies. The first Paranormal Activity film had its festival premiere in 2007 then became a box office hit when Paramount released it in 2009. In 2008, Cloverfield used found footage to take a different approach to the giant monster movie and in 2013 Chronicle borrowed it for a superhero-inspired story, proving its effectiveness for films outside the horror genre. Found footage is still riding the momentum from those earlier films. Three found-footage features — Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, The Gallows and The Visit — have seen wide releases in 2015, to varying degrees of success. The most recent Paranormal Activity film finished sixth in its opening weekend, and received generally unfavorable reviews.
What does the future hold for found-footage horror? In addition to Myrick and Sanchez, Uproxx spoke with director Adam Wingard and film critic Brian Collins – two men looking for a higher standard in horror cinema. Wingard helmed the razor sharp home-invasion film, You’re Next, the tense thriller The Guest and an entry in each of the V/H/S films. He’s currently working on an adaptation of the Japanese manga, Death Note, as well as the American remake of I Saw the Devil. Collins splits his time writing for Birth.Movies.Death and his Horror Movie a Day site, and is one of the leading voices in horror criticism.