Cabin Horror Genre and Recommendations

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Cabin horror, sometimes referred to as “cabin in the woods” horror, is a subgenre of horror movies and books that typically takes place in a remote cabin or similarly isolated location of some kind. These movies often feature a group of young adults who are stalked and terrorized by some sort of supernatural or human threat. Some common themes in cabin horror stories include the fear of the unknown, the danger of isolation, and the consequences of reckless behavior. Overall, cabin horror movies often use their isolated and claustrophobic settings to create a sense of tension and unease, while also playing on the audience’s fears of being trapped and hunted by an unseen threat.

Some common tropes of the cabin horror genre include: 

  • The remote location: The cabin is often located far from civilization, making it difficult for the characters to get help or escape from their attackers.
  • The group of friends: The main characters are often a group of young adults who are on vacation together, allowing for the opportunity to explore themes of friendship and group dynamics.
  • The supernatural threat: The cabin horror genre often features supernatural elements, such as ghosts, demons, or other monsters.
  • The slasher element: Cabin horror movies may also include a human threat, such as a deranged killer who is stalking the characters and picking them off one by one.
  • The final girl: A common trope of horror movies in general, the “final girl” is typically a female character who survives the attack and is left to face the aftermath of the horror. 
Demon possessed woman from The Evil Dead movie.

Cabin horror has been popular since at least the 1980s, when movies like Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead helped popularize the subgenre. However, the genre has continued to evolve over the years, with movies like The Cabin in the Woods and Knock at the Cabin Door playing with audience expectations and subverting some of the traditional tropes of the genre.

Below are examples of popular films, books, and graphic novels in the cabin horror genre.

Cabin Horror Movies

The Evil Dead (1981) – A group of friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway, but stumble upon an ancient tome that unleashes a demonic force that possesses them one by one. This movie is a classic example of cabin horror, featuring a remote location, supernatural threat, and group of friends being stalked by an unseen enemy. 

Friday the 13th (1980) – A group of counselors arrive at Camp Crystal Lake to prepare it for the summer season, but are stalked and killed by an unseen assailant. This movie helped popularize the slasher subgenre of horror and features a remote location, group of young adults, and a killer on the loose.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – A group of friends travel to a remote cabin for a weekend getaway, only to discover that they are being monitored and manipulated by a mysterious organization. This movie plays with the audience’s expectations of the cabin horror genre and features elements of both supernatural and science fiction horror.

Movie poster for The Cabin in the Woods

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) – Two hillbillies, Tucker and Dale, buy a remote cabin in the woods for a vacation home, but their attempts to enjoy a peaceful weekend are interrupted by a group of college students who mistake them for deranged killers. This movie is a comedic take on the cabin horror genre, featuring elements of both horror and satire.

The Cabin (2018) – When a group of friends go on a weekend trip to a remote cabin in the woods, they unwittingly stumble upon an ancient curse that begins to take over their minds and bodies. This curse brings the cabin and the surrounding woods to life, creating a hostile environment where the friends are constantly under attack. The supernatural elements of the film add a layer of mystery and terror to the already tense situation, creating a unique and engaging horror experience.

The Lodge (2019) – Two children and their stepmother are snowed in at a remote cabin during the holidays, but as various conflicts begin to escalate, it becomes clear that something sinister is at play. The movie explores the deteriorating mental states of the characters as they become trapped in the cabin, which creates an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty. As tensions rise between the characters, strange occurrences begin to happen, and the line between reality and nightmare becomes blurred.

Cabin Horror Books & Comics

The Troop by Nick Cutter (2014) – A group of boy scouts and their troop leader venture to a remote island off the coast of Prince Edward Island for a weekend camping trip, but are soon stalked by a horrifying creature that feeds on flesh. The book also features elements of body horror, as the infection caused by the creature causes gruesome physical transformations and mutations in the characters. The combination of the group’s struggle for survival and the disturbing physical changes they experience creates a chilling and unsettling atmosphere.

Book cover for The Troop by Nick Cutter

Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock (2014) – A family moves to a small town in New Hampshire to escape their troubled past, but are targeted by a coven of witches who dwell in the nearby woods. This graphic novel adds terrifying narrative turns with the inclusion of the witch’s dark magic and the mystery surrounding the town’s past, creating a gripping and chilling read. Overall, Wytches fits within the cabin horror genre due to its remote setting, supernatural elements, and atmosphere of terror and suspense.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (2018) – A family vacations at a remote cabin in the woods, but are soon visited by a group of strangers who claim that the end of the world is imminent and that they need the family’s help to prevent it. The book creates a sense of claustrophobia and isolation within the cabin, as the family members are cut off from the rest of the world and forced to confront the strangers who have invaded their sanctuary. The story also does a great job of blending elements of psychological horror with supernatural and apocalyptic themes, creating a sense of unease and tension that builds throughout the book.

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez (2019) – The story follows a group of teenagers who are sent to a summer camp in the woods, but soon discover that the camp has a dark and deadly history. The camp was the site of a mass murder years before, and the spirits of the victims have returned to seek revenge on those who dare to set foot on the grounds. The isolation of the camp and the surrounding woods creates a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia among the characters, as they realize that they are cut off from the rest of the world and facing unknown dangers lurking in the shadows.

Book cover for Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez

The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn (2019) – A group of friends embark on a winter vacation in a remote cabin in the mountains, only to discover that the cabin and the surrounding woods hold a dark and terrifying secret. The book also features elements of supernatural horror, as the friends are confronted by mysterious and malevolent forces that seem to be connected to the cabin and the surrounding woods. The supernatural elements of the story add to the horror and create a sense of unease and uncertainty as the characters struggle to survive and uncover the truth about the cabin’s dark past.

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The Diverse History of Survival Horror

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We’ve all been in these survival horror scenarios before.

You find yourself in the middle of a dark and creepy abandoned hospital, your only source of light a flickering flashlight. You’re searching for your missing daughter, and you have a gut feeling that she’s somewhere in this building. As you move deeper into the hospital, you start to feel like something is following you, and every shadow seems to hold a new threat. Suddenly, you hear a sound coming from one of the rooms and it sends shivers down your spine. You slowly push open the door and find yourself face to face with a horde of twisted and deformed creatures, their eyes glowing in the dark. They let out a blood-curdling roar, and you realize that you’re low on ammo.

Classic.

What is Survival Horror?

“Survival horror” is a subgenre of the horror genre that focuses on a character or characters attempting to survive against some form of deadly threat, often in a situation where they are helpless or poorly equipped. This genre typically involves a combination of horror and action elements, as the characters must not only evade or hide from the danger, but also actively fight back against it.

Survival horror scenario abandoned hallway

In survival horror games and movies, the protagonist is often portrayed as vulnerable and in a disadvantageous position, such as being stranded in an isolated location or being pursued by a powerful and deadly monster. The goal of the protagonist is to survive by using limited resources, solving puzzles, and making strategic decisions.

The genre is characterized by its emphasis on suspense, tension, and fear. The atmosphere is often creepy and foreboding, with a focus on creating a sense of dread and unease for the player or viewer. The genre often incorporates elements of science fiction horror, with storylines that involve the supernatural, mutants, or viral outbreaks. It’s challenging to effectively trace the history of survival history because it overlaps with so many other genres. Instead we will just give a brief overview as it relates to video games, movies, and books.

Survival Horror in Games

The survival horror genre is most commonly associated with video games, and here its roots go back to the late 1970s through 1980s, with the release of horror-themed cartridge games like Haunted House (1972) and Sweet Home (1989). These early games established the basic formula of a character navigating through a dangerous environment while facing off against frightening creatures.

The survival horror genre came into its own in the 1990s with the release of Alone in the Dark (1992) on the PC and Resident Evil (1996) on the PlayStation console. These games popularized the genre with their combination of survival mechanics, such as resource management and puzzle-solving, with intense action and horror elements. The success of Resident Evil in particular paved the way for other successful survival horror franchises like Clock Tower (1996) and Silent Hill (1999), and it was Capcom who first coined the term “survival horror”..

Logo for Resident Evil survival horror video game

In the 2000s, the genre experienced a resurgence in popularity with the advent of new gaming technologies and a greater focus on creating immersive and atmospheric experiences. The release of games like Dead Space (2008), Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) and the Outlast series brought a new level of intensity to the genre, emphasizing psychological horror and creating more intense, frightening experiences for players.

In recent years, the survival horror genre has continued to evolve, incorporating new technologies and gameplay mechanics to create more immersive and terrifying experiences. For example, Until Dawn (2015) allows players to control multiple characters and the game changes based on decisions made, while Dead by Daylight (2016) features one versus four gameplay where one player is the killer and the other four attempt to survive. As virtual reality games become more popular, survival horror will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of horror gaming.

Other popular survival horror video games include: Fatal Frame (2001), Resident Evil 4 (2005), The Last of Us (2013), and The Evil Within (2014). The Last of Us also being a fan favorite tv show.

Poster for The Last of Us survival horror video game

Survival Horror in Movies

Much like in gaming, the history of survival horror in movies can also be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s, with early films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Halloween (1978) setting the groundwork for the genre, and later being followed by movies such as The Thing (1982) and Predator (1987). These films established the basic formula of characters facing off against dangerous and terrifying threats, often with limited resources and weapons. 

The 1990s saw survival horror being blended with other subgenres, such as “body horror”, with films like Candyman (1992) and Event Horizon (1997) bringing a new level of intensity and gore to the survival horror genre. These films expanded on the core formula of survival horror, incorporating elements of science fiction and supernatural horror to create even more frightening and suspenseful experiences for audiences.

Shot from Candyman survival horror movie

In the 2000s, the survival horror genre experienced a resurgence in popularity with the release of successful films like The Ring (2002) and Saw (2004). These films brought a new level of psychological horror to the genre, exploring the dark and twisted thoughts and motivations of the characters in a way that was both terrifying and thought-provoking. Other great movies from the era include 28 Days Later (2002), The Descent (2005), The Mist (2007), Eden Lake (2008) and The Ruins (2008).

More recently, the survival horror genre has continued to evolve and expand, with newer films bringing an increased level of realism and immediacy to the genre, creating more anxiety-inducing and unnerving experiences for audiences. You can find survival horror happening in the woods with The Ritual (2017), in the snow with Frozen (2012), in a alligator-filled hurricane with Crawl (2019), on a deserted island with Sweetheart (2019), and under the water with movies like 47 Meters Down (2017) and Underwater (2020) 

Other popular survival horror movies include: Buried (2010), The Shallows (2016), A Quiet Place (2018), and Alone (2020).

Scary island in survival horror

Survival Horror in Literature

The history of survival horror in books and comics can be traced back to the Gothic novels of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). These early works established many of the core themes and motifs that would come to define the survival horror genre, including the use of suspense, tension, and fear to create a sense of danger and unease. A lot of the genre owes thanks to the works of Lovecraft as well, which often feature investigative narratives and characters struggling to survive insurmountable odds.

In the 20th century, the survival horror genre continued to evolve and expand in the world of literature with the publication of books like Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1975), Scott Smith’s The Ruins (2006), and Comac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), along with the creation of popular comic book series like The Walking Dead (2003). These works brought a new level of intensity and realism to the genre, exploring the fear and desperation of characters facing off against dangerous and unpredictable threats.

Moving into the 21st century, the genre has continued to thrive in the world of books and comics, with the publication of works like Josh Malerman’s Bird Box (2014) and of graphic novels such as Grant Morrison’s Nameless (2017). These works bring a new level of sophistication and complexity to the genre, exploring the psychological and emotional aspects of survival in the face of horror and danger.

Other popular survival horror books/comics include: 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles (2002), The Last One by Alexandra Oliva (2017), The Hunger by Alma Katsu (2018), The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (2019), Below by Laurel Hightower (2022), and The Deep (2015) and The Troop (2016) both by Nick Cutter.

Final Thoughts

Today, the survival horror genre remains one of the most popular and enduring and diverse subgenres of horror, attracting fans with its multitudes of settings and its combination of suspense, tension, and fear. The genre continues to evolve and expand, with new games, movies, and other forms of media that explore new and exciting directions for survival horror.

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The Paranormal History of Skinwalker Ranch

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Mysterious low-flying spacecraft, doorways that appear in midair, disembodied voices, crop circles, mutilated cattle…the stuff of science fiction? Or just another day at Skinwalker Ranch? Though thousands of people have reported seeing UFOs over the decades, this particular 512 acres of property in the Uintah Basin region of northeastern Utah seems to be a hotbed for extraterrestrial activity. 

Terry and Gwen Sherman bought the now-infamous ranch back in 1994, presumably unaware of what they were getting themselves into, and Skinwalker Ranch has since become one of the most heavily researched, and controversial, paranormal spots in the world.

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The First Sightings

“For a long time we wondered what we were seeing, if it was something to do with a top-secret project. I don’t know really what to think about it.”

Terry Sherman

The family’s initial reports of bizarre and unexplained phenomena came from their first two years living there, where they and their two children witnessed a variety of unnerving events. Between 1994-1996 they saw three different types of UFOs, discovered eight foot by three foot rings of flattened crops, and lost seven cows (four disappeared, one apparently lifted straight from the snow in which it stood, and three were mutilated). The mutilations are particularly strange as the wounds were surgically precise and bloodless. The Shermans also report having seen strange animals, including a wolf three times larger than it should have been and impervious to bullets.

Road sign of ufo abducting a cow

Real Estate Agents Love UFOs

The Shermans shared their paranormal findings with the Deseret News in June of 1996, and three months later Las Vegas real estate magnate and UFO enthusiast Robert Bigelow bought the property. Bigelow, also the founder of an organization known as National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDSci), set up 24/7 surveillance of the ranch with his team of scientists, researchers, and guards. Over the decades he reported having numerous experiences and sightings, but according to skeptics he was never able to provide hard proof. At one point the United States Defense Department even became involved, conducting a secret investigation under the name Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP).

No trespassing signs at skinwalker ranch

Bigelow eventually sold the property in 2016 to Adamantium Holdings, which was later revealed to be a shell company of real estate tycoon Brandon Frugal, who wanted his identity to remain anonymous. Frugal is the one who acquired the trademark “Skinwalker Ranch”. The name Skinwalker refers to a malevolent being in Native American folklore. Many indigenous tribes believe these “skinwalkers” are witches who can transform themselves into various animals. Indeed there is a large population of Ute living in and around the Uintah Basin and they believe the ranch has been a haunt for skinwalkers for at least fifteen generations.

ute tribe skinwalker folklore

Final Thoughts

So have all the reports over the decades at Skinwalker Ranch been hoaxes? Are they less extraordinary phenomena with perfectly reasonable explanations? Or, as many claim, is there something otherworldly going on? It’s no surprise that in an area known to the extraterrestrial research community as “UFO Alley”, the Uintah Basin would draw worldwide attention. But there is a particular allure to Skinwalker Ranch, the crowned king of alien activity. It was even Google’s most searched cultural landmark in the U.S. in 2022. Thanks to media attention, billionaires, skeptics, and numerous books and shows, such as the History Channel’s currently running The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch, it’s clear that there is something about the ranch worth exploring.

To learn more about Skinwalker Ranch, check out Skinwalker-ranch.com and Skinwalkerranch.com. There’s also a detailed documentary on YouTube you can find here.

Further Readings/Resources

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/skinwalker-ranch/

https://www.newsweek.com/ufo-skinwalker-ranch-utah-pentagon-paranormal-1701730

https://www.saltlakemagazine.com/high-strangeness-at-skinwalker-ranch/

https://www.vice.com/en/article/m7qb54/inside-skinwalker-ranch-a-paranormal-hotbed-of-ufo-research

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Beware the Boo Hags of South Carolina

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Have you ever woken up in the morning completely exhausted even though you thought you got a full night’s sleep? You’re bleary-eyed and achy all over, but you’re not sure why. Perhaps you remember vivid dreams and a sense of restlessness that you couldn’t escape. Or worse yet, have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and been unable to move? Sleep paralysis affects a number of people, but what if the cause is something more sinister? Let me introduce the Boo Hag.

In the southern part of South Carolina, specifically the Lowcountry and Sea Island regions, there lives a group of people known as the Gullah. This community of Africans are descendants of the West African slave trade, brought to the area in the 1700s. Over the centuries they’ve formed their own unique culture that still thrives to this day. There are many iconic ghost stories and legends that come from the Lowcountry, but one of the most famous is the Gullah “Boo Hag”. 

Characteristics of the Boo Hag

In Gullah culture, a person has both a soul and spirit. When one dies their soul departs and their spirit remains. If they were good in life, then their spirit resides to guide and protect the friends and families they’ve left behind. But if they were wicked in life, then their spirit morphs into a terrifying entity known as a Boo Hag. Boo Hags are skinless, red-muscled creatures with blue veins and large reflective eyes. In some legends they have long gray hair as well.

Boo Hag sleep paralysis bed

These dark spirits are believed to creep into houses at night, slithering through exterior cracks and holes, and sit on the chests of their sleeping victims, sucking their breath out of their bodies. Sometimes they return to the same body to drain its energy over and over again. If you wake up in the morning feeling tired and short of breath, it may be because you were visited by a Boo Hag in the night. If you’re unfortunate enough to wake while the Hag is still “riding” you, then it may steal your skin to wear as its own (though some stories say it will rip off your skin and wear it like a coat just because). 

How to Avoid the Hag

There are some signs that a Boo Hag is near, including the smell of something rotting and air that suddenly becomes very humid. If you’re wanting to avoid a run in with the Boo Hag, there are a few things you can do. Taking a note from popular voodoo culture these rituals might help. One option is to paint your door and window frames in indigo blue (or “Haint Blue”), a color that the Gullah people believe has supernatural protective properties. Another option is to leave a broom, hairbrush, or even a colander near your bed as it is believed the Boo Hag is obsessive and will get distracted trying to count the individual bristles/holes. If it’s distracted long enough then daylight will come and it will have to depart or risk being burned alive by the sun. 

Window painted in indigo blue or Haint Blue
Window painted in “Haint Blue”

The Boo Hag has some similarities to other paranormal folklore, including various other hag myths, boogeyman legends, and sleep paralysis demons. They also have been compared to vampires, sucking breath rather than blood. Of course science will direct readers to hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations to explain such phenomena, but there’s always the possibility that it’s something the rational mind can’t comprehend. So if you’re visiting the Lowcountry, it’s best to play it safe; get out your brooms and don’t let de hag ride ya!

Sources

https://charlestonterrors.com/boo-hags-haint-blue-vampires-of-the-lowcountry-the-paint-that-stops-them/

https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-boo-hags-of-gullah-culture/

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/south-carolina/gullah-culture-boo-hags-sc/

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Best Found Footage Horror Movies

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

What makes a horror movie scary? The answer to that question is fairly subjective, but there are likely some commonalities across the board.. And while intense action sequences, shocking twists, chilling imagery, and startling jump scares all deserve a place on that list, one of the most important factors (in our opinion) is realism. The more believable a horror film is, the more genuinely terrifying it will be. This suspension of disbelief, the thing that pulls audiences into the story and envelops them in its horror, is a contributing factor to some of the scariest films ever made. The best found footage horror movies exemplify this.

This is why the found footage horror genre works so well in horror. Found footage movies are presumed to be recovered recordings of actual events. They’re shot with low quality cameras, cast with no name actors, and often created on a tight budget. And yet this obvious lack of “quality” is exactly what makes these films succeed. The handheld cameras and documentary-style narratives help shape movies that seem incredibly realistic – and when they’re in the horror genre this also makes them incredibly frightening. To give you a taste of what this wide-ranging sub genre has to offer, we’ve explored the history of found footage horror to give you some of the best found footage horror films!

Host (2020)

Host found footage horror movie poster

It’s July of 2020, and the United Kingdom is in the middle of a lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus. A group of friends have decided to use weekly Zoom calls as a way to stay connected, and in this latest call they have invited a medium to host a seance. Things start off innocently enough, but when one of the friends feels the presence of their dead friend Zack, things start to go off the rails. It’s a frighteningly good time, blending real world circumstances with supernatural scares. The entire movie was shot on Zoom during Covid, so it works as effective found footage horror movie as well as a marker of life during the pandemic. In the realm of “movies shot on the Internet” this stands out above the rest.

Creep (2014)

Creep found footage horror movie poster

A young, burgeoning filmmaker named Aaron has found a new gig: recording a video diary for a new client. Josef, who wants to film his final moments for his family, invites Aaron to his cabin in the woods. But Josef’s behavior is increasingly erratic and strange, and by the time Aaron realizes the truth of what’s going on it may be too late. This psychological horror film has the found footage horror movie genre hallmarks of a low budget and stripped down story, but it goes a step further by removing many of the obvious horrors. Instead it’s a case study of two men – one whose madness is slowly revealed and the other whose life is in danger because of it. It’s a risky choice for the genre, but it’s pulled off incredibly well thanks to the magnetic energy and chemistry of its leads Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice.

What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows found footage horror movie poster

It may not be as scary or disturbing as the other entries on this list, but as a horror comedy hybrid What We Do in the Shadows excels. The movie fits into another sub genre known as mockumentary, and the premise concerns a documentary crew who are filming a group of vampires who share a flat in a suburb of New Zealand. These vampires have varying powers and personalities, and much of the film follows their nightly exploits as they search for humans to kill and live their best undead lives. Comedic duo Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement wrote, directed, and starred in the film that has also launched a television show and a cult following of loyal fans.

Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Frankenstein's Army found footage horror movie poster

It’s towards the end of World War II and a Red Army team on the Eastern Front has received a Soviet distress call. The company traces the call to a seemingly abandoned church where one of their members is suddenly attacked and disembowled by a zombot – a murderous half man/half robot creation. It turns out that the church, as well as the catacombs beneath it, are teeming with zombots created by a mad scientist descended from Victor Frankenstein. The movie has its gory moments and the plot takes some interesting twists and turns, but the standout stars by far are the uncanny and unsettling monster designs and grisly practical effects. Altogether the film is a fun mix of grindhouse, sci-fi, and body horror.

The Conspiracy (2012)

The Conspiracy found footage horror movie poster

Two young documentary movie makers, Aaron and Jim, have decided to make a film about a local conspiracy theorist named Terrance. During the course of their movie, Terrance suddenly disappears, leading them further down the rabbit hole. Their search reveals a secret organization named the Tarsus Club, and soon they are wrapped up in its strange rituals and shadowy machinations. The film does a good job of striking a mysterious tone early on before shifting to mounting dread as the plot goes from faux documentary into straight horror. The final scenes are shocking, particularly one involving a bull’s head, and they will stay with you long after the movie ends.

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters found footage horror movie poster

Grave Encounters is about a reality tv show that focuses on the paranormal. Its crew consists of ghost hunters, occult specialists, and mediums who journey to various haunted locales. Each episode features a different spot, and their latest is an abandoned and presumably haunted insane asylum known as the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital. Part of the hospital’s sordid history involves a mad doctor who conducted ghastly experiments on the residents. The crew decides to spend the night in the hospital and becomes inexplicably trapped inside, filming what may be their last episode. Not only is this movie a humorous parody of actual paranormal reality shows, but it is also one of the more genuinely frightening found footage horror movies.

Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo found footage horror movie poster

The Palmer family is grieving the loss of their sixteen-year-old daughter, Alice, after she drowns while swimming in a dam. Her younger brother, Mathew, sets up video cameras around their house to record what appear to be images of her ghost as more dark secrets begin to unravel. The film is shot in a docufiction/mockumentary style, where the main story is communicated through a series of interviews with the family and found footage. More than just a supernatural thriller, the movie is a tense and mournful exploration of grief and how families cope with loss. There was no dialogue written into the script, and the ad-libbing of lines lends to the “real” feel of the movie. Overall, it’s a masterclass in making a powerful movie on a shoestring budget.

Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield found footage horror movie poster

Unlike most found footage horror movies, Cloverfield was created by a big name creator, backed by big name production companies, and funded with a moderate budget. J.J. Abrams was able to get the project secretly greenlit and utilized a viral marketing campaign of trailers, posters, websites, and merch tie-ins to build hype before the film’s release. The movie is about an enormous monster attacking New York City, and it’s all filmed cinema verite style through the camcorder of a character named Rob. The chaotic scenes of destruction, the incredible design of the creature, and the realistic shaky home video quality (which caused some moviegoers to fall ill) all work in tandem to create a tense and highly enjoyable found footage movie.

REC (2007)

Rec found footage horror movie poster

A reporter and her cameraman are covering the night shift of a local fire station for the television program While You’re Sleeping. A fire station gets a distress call from a nearby apartment building, and after they arrive the building ends up being sealed off due to the outbreak of a deadly virus. The virus, which presents like rabies, is causing the residents to attack and subsequently infect each other, spreading quickly throughout the building. Those who haven’t been infected, including the camera crew, must find a way to escape and survive. The Spanish film was an immediate critical and commercial success, even spawning a less-than-stellar American remake (Quarantine). 

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity found footage horror movie poster

Not many movies (except the next one on our list) are as closely associated with the found footage movement as the Paranormal Activity franchise. The first film centers on a couple named Katie and Micah who are trying to capture evidence of and communicate with the increasingly angry demon that haunts their house. The creation of one-man show Oren Peli, who did pretty much everything but act in the movie, Paranormal Activity was an unexpectedly massive success. It’s one of the most profitable films ever made and, because Peli decided to focus on believability instead of gore and action, it’s also one of the most genuinely terrifying films in the found footage horror movie genre. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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Paranormal Activity may have generated more sequels, prequels, and video game adaptations, but its success owes thanks to one of the first found footage horror films that pioneered the genre in America: The Blair Witch Project. The film, which follows doomed student filmmakers as they attempt to investigate and document the local legend of the Blair Witch, has all the classic tropes and markings of the found footage genre. It’s shot mockumentary style on handheld cameras, it features no name actors ad-libbing the script, it utilized a viral marketing campaign, and it grossed many times over its miniscule budget. It may not be the best found footage movie ever made, but it will always hold a special place in our hearts thanks to the groundbreaking work that paved the way for future films and enabled the genre to become a mainstay in pop culture.

Honorable Mentions

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
Unfriended (2015)
Hell House LLC (2015)
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
As Above, So Below (2014)
Afflicted (2013)
The Borderlands (2013)
Trollhunter (2010)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

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