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The Unique Storytelling of Found Footage Horror

The found footage subgenre of horror is a breeding ground for a myriad of content, blending raw storytelling with a mix of integrated marketing and product launches. Many are drawn to it after encountering popular films like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, assuming it’s an easy route to financial gain with minimal investment. 

As a devotee of found footage, delving into these films often feels like opening a Pandora’s box. In early 2023, I encountered two lackluster horror movies in quick succession Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes and The Frankenstein Theory. In order to give a balanced view of this difficult to do right subgenre, I looked at two shining examples of exceptional storytelling within the found footage realm, the pillars of the subgenre: The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity (2008).  


Movies are hard to make, as my favorite horror YouTube channel Dead Meat always likes to reiterate. The fact that these stories made it to the screen is a miracle, and should be celebrated.  

None of the flaws in these movies are the actors’ faults nor anyone on the production team, they did what they could with the budget and script they had. Maybe someone out there does enjoy these two movies.  

Without much adieu, we shall look at Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes and then The Frankenstein Theory.  

Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes 

“Bigfoot:The Lost Coast Tapes” is a found footage horror film released in 2012, directed by Corey Grant. The story follows disgraced investigative journalist Sean Reynolds and his team trying to resurrect their careers by going to see a hunter in Northern California who claims to have a body of a dead bigfoot. There seems to be more going on than they could have anticipated though.  

Reynolds was a strong believer in the paranormal and used to host a reality show about paranormal phenomenon, until his most popular episode was proven to be a hoax. As the movie opens 4 years later he sets out to stat a new show, disproving people’s accounts of the paranormal. He wants him and his team to prove that a hunter’s claim of having the body of a bigfoot is fake. His team includes a sound guy named Kevin, the cameraman Darryl, and his producer Robyn.  

The team travels to Northern California to record the documentary and visit the hunter, named Carl Drybeck. When they meet him, Drybeck is acting weird, and it sets off the team. He makes them put on sacks over their heads as he drives them to his camp site in the middle of nowhere. During the first night they record the stories he has of encountering and hunting the bigfoot. When the generator’s power is cut Drybeck claims it’s bigfoot attacking the camp. Everyone hears strange noises and retreats into the main cabin for the night.  

The next morning the team is awakened to the sounds of Drybeck’s truck driving away, with the money they were going to pay him, $75k. The hunter seemingly abandoning them to die to whatever was causing the problems the previous night. The team freaks out and tries to continue with making the documentary as normal, investigating the signs of the attack from the previous night, and down by the river. The sound guy, Kevin, has had enough and goes off to return to the town nearby 8 miles away. When Drybeck returns that night with his friend Mr Laroche who is bloodied up and in need of help. The team wants to take him to a hospital but Drybeck insists they can’t.  

That night Drybeck, Reynolds and Darryl go into the woods to find the body of the bigfoot he had hidden, while Robyn stays behind at camp so she can look after Laroche. She watches Kevin’s handheld camera which they found earlier and there is a video of him being attacked and killed by something off screen. The rest of the finale follows the doomed crew as they one by one are picked off by multiple bigfoots offscreen. Reynolds is left in the cabin by himself as thee is roaring and bright lights shine from outside, he apologizes to whoever is watching and his friends and family. He opens the door before shouting that what he sees is not a bigfoot and the camera falls over, giving us a view of the floor. The last shot is of something hairy, presumably a Bigfoot, picking up the camera.  


This movie had some good moments. A good mystery, it went off the rails when it started to imply that the bigfoot were aliens. And the fact that we didn’t even get to see a bigfoot fully at all was so frustrating. Having watched this on streaming twice, I got bored both times when I watched it. I skipped around, none of these characters were particularly interesting. And that’s the worst thing a movie can be, boring. I do not have much to say about it, I do not recommend it unless you want to point and laugh at a bad movie or are trying to watch all found footage horror ever.  

The movie cost $650k, and only had a limited theatrical run before going straight to DVD.  

The Frankenstein Theory 

“The Frankenstein Theory” is a found footage horror film released in 2013, directed by Andrew Weiner. The movie follows a documentary filmmaker named Jonathan Venkenheim who sets out to prove the existence of the legendary creature known as Frankenstein’s monster. Venkenheim, played by Kris Lemche, is determined to uncover the truth behind the classic tale written by Mary Shelley, believing it to be based on real events that his ancestor caused. 

The story begins with Venkenheim presenting his theory to a group of academics, claiming that Shelley’s novel was not a work of fiction but rather a distorted account of real events involving a scientist who succeeded in creating life from dead tissue. However, his claims are met with skepticism and ridicule from his peers. 

Undeterred by the skepticism, Venkenheim sets out on an expedition to Canada, where he believes the original events took place. He is accompanied by a small crew, including his skeptical producer and cameraman. As they venture deeper into the remote wilderness, they encounter strange occurrences and evidence that supports Venkenheim’s theory. 

The tension mounts as the crew faces harsh weather conditions and dwindling supplies. Along the way, they encounter locals who warn them of the dangers lurking in the wilderness. Despite the warnings, Venkenheim remains determined to uncover the truth, convinced that they are closing in on the location of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory. 

As they journey deeper into the wilderness, the crew’s skepticism begins to wane as they witness increasingly bizarre and terrifying phenomena. They stumble upon the remnants of what appears to be an abandoned research facility, further fueling Venkenheim’s conviction that they are on the right track. 

However, their expedition takes a sinister turn when they encounter a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows. As the crew members start to disappear one by one, they realize that they are not alone in the wilderness. They are being hunted by a creature that defies explanation – Frankenstein’s monster. 

In the final act, Venkenheim and the remaining survivors come face to face with the monster itself. In a heart-pounding showdown, they must confront their deepest fears and fight for their lives against the relentless creature. 


When The Blair Witch only alludes to showing the Witch, it’s scary, when we see Frankenstein’s monster in this movie it is disappointing. This movie could have been so good, it had a good concept and I was just so disappointed. The thing I think could have made it better is Venkenheim is a grifter who stumbles into finding the monster and that would be a great twist I think. It also would have made his death where he is ripped in half (off screen) by the monster.  

This movie is disappointing on a different level as a fan of the book Frankenstein, which has the monster be this handsome in an uncanny valley type of way and who is also able to speak cohesively. That would have been another good twist, rather than the pop culture Frankenstein who can only speak a few words or grunt.  

“The Frankenstein Theory” is all in all a let down and a waste of time. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with no critic score and a 23% audience score.  


These movies need no introduction, The Blair Witch Project kicked off the whole found footage craze in 1999, despite The Connection (1961) and Cannibal Holocaust (1980) technically predating the film, it wouldn’t be popularized until Blair Witch. Paranormal Activity is also one of the most popular ones and being a pillar of horror. We will start with Paranormal Activity as of the two I find it the weaker one, but still a solid 9/10 movie.  

Paranormal Activity

“Paranormal Activity” is a found-footage horror film directed by Oren Peli. The story revolves around a young couple, Katie and Micah, who become increasingly disturbed by strange occurrences in their home. Micah, a skeptic, decides to document these phenomena by setting up cameras around the house. As the nights progress, the couple experiences escalating paranormal activity, including unexplained noises, objects moving on their own, and even physical manifestations. Despite Katie’s growing fear, Micah remains skeptical until the malevolent presence escalates, leading to a terrifying climax. 

The film employs a minimalist approach, using security camera footage and handheld recordings to heighten the tension and create a sense of realism. As the disturbances become more frequent and intense, the couple’s relationship deteriorates under the strain of fear and paranoia. With each night, the entity’s malevolent intentions become increasingly clear, culminating in a horrifying climax that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats. “Paranormal Activity” is hailed for its innovative storytelling and effective use of suspense, establishing itself as a modern classic in the found-footage horror genre. 

Instead of showing an actual trailer for the movie, they would show screenings of the movie and rely on the audiences’ reactions to the movie to sell people on it’s scariness. 

Overall, “Paranormal Activity” offers a chilling exploration of supernatural phenomena and the toll it takes on those who experience it. Through its clever use of found-footage techniques and subtle raw storytelling, the film delivers a terrifying and immersive experience that continues to haunt audiences long after the credits roll. With its simple yet effective premise and spine-tingling scares, “Paranormal Activity” remains a standout in the realm of horror cinema, spawning a successful franchise and leaving an indelible mark on the genre.  

It’s amazing how a movie made on a budget of $15k with a post production budget of $215k ended up making $192.4 million, a truly remarkable accomplishment.  


I hate jump scares, but this movie does it masterfully. The characters are so real, even if Micah falls into the boyfriend/husband who doesn’t believe his partner trope. The tension throughout this movie, as you look on empty rooms, waiting for a scare.  

If you somehow don’t know how this movie ends via pop culture osmosis, I highly recommend watching it with as little knowledge as possible.  

The Blair Witch Project

“The Blair Witch Project” is a groundbreaking 1999 horror film directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. The movie follows three student filmmakers – Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard – who venture into the Maryland woods to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. Armed with handheld cameras, they become lost in the dense forest, experiencing eerie phenomena and unsettling encounters. As tensions rise and paranoia sets in, the trio’s sanity unravels, culminating in a chilling climax. 

What sets “The Blair Witch Project” apart is its innovative found-footage style, presenting the story as if it were real documentary footage discovered after the filmmakers’ disappearance. The improvised performances of the actors lend an authenticity to the film, intensifying the sense of dread and suspense. The minimalistic approach to both storytelling and production contributes to the film’s raw and immersive atmosphere, amplifying the fear of the unknown lurking within the darkness of the woods. 

The film’s ambiguous ending leaves viewers haunted by unanswered questions, inviting interpretation and speculation long after the credits roll. “The Blair Witch Project” became a cultural phenomenon, sparking debate and fascination with its viral marketing campaign and innovative narrative techniques. Its influence can be seen in numerous found-footage horror films that followed, cementing its status as a seminal work in the genre and a landmark in independent cinema. 

The way they marketed the movie was so smart. They spread word on the Internet, there was a website showing missing persons posters for the characters to play into the story that this was real. There was the tie in documentary about the Blair Witch which treated the mythology of the movie as real. When you went to see it in theaters you were handed missing persons posters with the characters on it.  

The initial budget for Blair Witch was around $35k and when production ended was around $200k, then went on to make $248.6 million. An amazing feat that earned it the reputation it has today as one of the greatest found footage horror movies of all time, and one of the most profitable movies ever.  


The modern found footage genre would not exist without this movie. It was so popular and it brought it into pop culture. I owe my love of horror to The Blair Witch Project because it was one of the inspirations for the online horror series  Marble Hornets. The scares of The Blair Witch are simple, the characters finding mysterious symbols in the woods, hearing the cracking of branches, and rustling in the distance. One of the scariest scenes being when the tent was being messed with by mysterious forces and they all fled into the night, Heather screaming “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” at something off screen. Your brain fills in the blanks of whatever she may be seeing. And the ending scene, absolutely haunting, one of the most terrifying scenes in all of horror.  

I believe this is a good movie to start one’s horror journey and if you like horror already this is a must watch movie.  


Making movies is a difficult thing to do, it’s a miracle to put together one, doubly so to be a profitable movie. There are enjoyable things about all these movies, mostly the concepts of the first two bad ones. The YouTuber CinemaWins has a saying “every movie is someone’s favorite movie”, so there is likely someone out there who loves the movies that I don’t, and that’s the beauty of humanity.  

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