Found Footage Horror Movies Most People Could Actually Survive

The found footage genre gained mainstream popularity when Heather Donahue stuck her snotty nose in a wobbly camera and sobbed about The Blair Witch. Today, the shaky camera work, incessant screaming, and ambiguous endings are often dismissed as cliche and derivative, but that wasn't the case when "The Blair Witch Project" was originally released. Back in 1999, audiences were so unaccustomed to a shaky camera that moviegoers vomited in the aisles and walked out of the theater. Motion sickness combined with high-pitched wailing and mounting suspense was a recipe for vomit and refunds for some and a unique and intoxicating ride for others. Decades after Mike stuck his nose in a corner and Heather let out one last ear-piercing scream, the found footage genre continues.

Like abstract art, found footage films are often dismissed with the shaking of a head and an insulting comment about how a toddler could have made that, but the genre's catalog proves that's not true. There are countless found footage films, and sometimes a hidden gem is discovered, but most of the time it's only fool's gold. Despite this, the genre still has a solid fanbase that enjoys slipping into the shoes of intelligent characters in escapable peril and running from an enemy they may never get a clear look at. However, these kinds of adventures are few and far between. The protagonists of found footage films are often witless know-it-alls who swagger into dangerous situations and ignore every waving, neon red flag that graces their camera lens. The following list is full of situations and characters just like that. Specifically: it's about the type of found footage horror movies that you could easily survive if you were faced with a similar spooky situation, as long as you use your noggin. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

It may have kicked off the craze for the genre, but "The Blair Witch Project" isn't perfect. The story of a hairy, wood-dwelling, child-snatching witch satisfies the creepy factor, but the protagonists make her job a little too easy. In order to find and document evidence of The Blair Witch, Heather, Josh, and Mike venture into the woods, promptly lose their way, and go missing. This fate could've easily been avoided.

As this list will continue to remind us, it's never a good idea to go on any amateur investigation in a wooded area, but if it's essential, learn to read a damn map. Throughout the film, Heather insists that she knows exactly where the group is and that they aren't lost, which the others quickly discover is a lie. Her directional skills are so atrocious that Mike kicks the useless map into the creek and allows it to float away.

In addition to throwing navigation to the wind, it's also not a great idea to waltz into the woods with no regard for the forest or the supernatural force that calls it home. Along their journey, the group comes across several totems in the woods. Whether these rock piles and stick figures actually belong to the Blair Witch is unknown, but it's safe to assume they do. They should have just kept on their merry way and left the creepy creations be, but they knock over the rock piles, and Heather even takes one of the totems for herself.

While there is no justification for the murdering habits of the witch, it must have felt like these cocky, punk kids walked into her home and started rubbing their muddy feet all over the clean carpet. Not really the impression you want to give a homicidal being.

The Fourth Kind (2009)

"The Fourth Kind" is a blend of found footage and dramatic reenactments centered around a sleep study in Nome, Alaska. After the sudden death of her husband, Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist, continues the dead man's study of patients with sleep problems. She soon discovers all her clients associate their sleep disturbances with owls, who hang around the patients' bedrooms and keep them awake. For some reason, Dr. Tyler decides to hypnotize her patients, which kicks off a very unfortunate string of events. Something terrible happens to every patient she puts under.

Tyler's first patient kills his family and himself after his regression therapy. Most people would have chucked regression therapy into the waste bin at this point, and suffered terrible guilt for the rest of their lives, but not Dr. Tyler. She continues using hypnosis, and the second guy she puts under levitates above his bed, speaks in a dead language with a Dalek-esque voice, and ends up paralyzed from the neck down. Dr. Tyler only stops using the technique because the local sheriff threatens to throw her in jail if she doesn't, but her research continues. Through obscure books on ancient civilizations and art, Dr. Tyler comes to believe that the big bad owls are actually aliens, and she doesn't stop pursuing this idea until she loses her children, her mind, and her health.

Hot tip: stay away from dead languages, creepy owls, and hypnotizing psychologists. Also, probably a decent idea to avoid Nome, Alaska, or any other place that can only be accessed or escaped by plane.

Rorschach (2015)

This super low-budget film focuses on two scientists who set up shop in the supposed haunted house of a woman and her seven-year-old daughter. The mom, Jamy, claims that random objects in the house often disappear and are never seen again. Even more concerning, she claims to hear disembodied voices and unexplained knocking throughout the home.

At first, the scientists blame the phenomenon on old pipes and high-frequency electromagnetic fields, but their skeptical views are challenged when they experience the same unexplained events. The phenomenon reaches a crescendo at the end of the film, and the mother, daughter, and the two scientists run out of the house and vow to never return. No one dies, but the 7-year-old ends up with enormous bruises on her torso that are almost as large as the ones covering the egos of the two cocky scientists. However, it's not fair to place all of the blame on these characters because most of this is the mom's fault.

During the initial interview with the scientists, Jamy tells them buying the house was a no-brainer because it was so much cheaper than all the other houses in the neighborhood. She goes on to explain that her daughter found the creepy doll she carries around the house in the garage. Then, she reveals her mom died in the home shortly after they moved in. So far, we have an unusually cheap house, a creepy doll, and an unexplained death, which all happened before a single unexplained voice or knock. At this point, anyone with a basic understanding of haunted places would have been out of there.

Someone get this woman a copy of "Poltergeist," "The Amityville Horror," or any other haunted house movie ever made because she needs a crash course before she buys another property.

Willow Creek (2013)

"Willow Creek" is the story of Jim, a man on a mission to find the elusive Sasquatch and capture video proof of its existence. He travels all the way to Bluff Creek, California, to the site of a famous Bigfoot sighting in the 1970s, and he drags his skeptic girlfriend, Kelly, along with him.

Don't assume that Jim did any real research about camping, navigating, or surviving in a huge woodland because he didn't. He's not an average guy who might get lost, eaten by a large predator, or starve to death in the woods. No, no, no. He's Jim, Sasquatch hunter, the man who'll take one trip into the forest and pluck a mythical creature from his hidey-hole. He can't shoulder all the blame, though, because skeptical Kelly is just as ill-prepared. No one can blame her for not being scared of a creature from folklore, but lions, bears, and starvation are all real threats in a huge forest. Nevertheless, Kelly blindly follows clueless Jim into dense woodland.

In the middle of the night, they are awoken by guttural grunts, heavy footsteps, and a strong force pushing on their tent. One night in the forest turns out to be all the pair can handle, so they pack up the next morning and hike back to their car. Well, at least they try. After spending hours wandering around the woods (never looking at a map), the pair realize they're lost, and have to spend another night in the forest. For some reason that's never explained, they don't even bother setting up a tent, and instead choose to huddle together in the middle of the dark woods wielding a stick for protection.

To absolutely no one's surprise, they are both dragged away by a large predator, and never seen again.

Dashcam (2021)

This film, unfortunately, revolves around Annie Hardy, a chaotic, sociopathic, freestyle rapper with a loyal social media following. Right off the bat, Hardy is irritating, her raps are unbelievably cringe-worthy, and both of these things continue to get worse as the film progresses. She travels to England to visit her friend, Stretch, without letting him know she's coming, and almost gets him fired when she refuses to put on a mask in a restaurant. When Stretch and his girlfriend confront Annie about her behavior, she steals his car and his phone and goes joy riding around the city. Karma meets up with her when she stops by a local restaurant and meets Angela.

Annie accepts an envelope full of money to transport an elderly ailing woman from one restaurant to another but gets more than she bargained for when the woman soils herself in Annie's backseat. The night gets worse when Annie drops Angela off at the designated address and another woman tries to kill her. Eventually, Stretch tracks Annie down, and Angela reveals her ability to levitate and decapitate. The two friends spend the rest of the night running from a super-powered Angela and the mysterious woman chasing her. After a ridiculous number of car accidents, bites, and falls, Stretch dies. Amazingly, Annie lives on to assault her followers' ears with more freestyle raps.

There is a very simple way to escape Stretch's fate. Don't hang out with terrible people who take advantage of friends, steal cars, and traffic people.

Public service announcement

In traditional horror films, viewers are locked into a voyeuristic role where they watch horrible and frightening things happen to other people. In these films, the blood and guts associated with gruesome deaths are more interesting than the cast of annoying, dim-witted characters. It isn't necessary for the audience to connect with the characters in order to enjoy their demise. In fact, it's kind of satisfying to watch an ignorant, obnoxious cast member pay for their small horror film IQ, but the success of found footage films relies on strong, interesting, and relatable protagonists.

The found footage genre offers audiences a first-person account of mysterious, often terrifying events. Untrained hands capturing wobbly footage and distorted audio draw viewers into the world of the film in a unique and intoxicating way that the super-polished techniques of Hollywood can't replicate. However, unlike traditional horror, if the protagonists of these films are freestyle rappers with zero respect for others, crappy navigators with a Columbus complex, or unhinged psychologists with a shaky grip on reality, it becomes incredibly difficult to slip into the shoes of these characters as the genre demands.

However, even at its worst, found footage films can serve as cautionary tales for the cocky, curious, and woefully unprepared investigators lurking within humanity. So, please, keep your grubby hands off of witch's totems and free dolls, avoid freestyle rappers and hypnotherapists, and learn to read a map before you go Squatching.