Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 19/05/2021


It’s been the go-to subgenre for filmmakers on a limited budget for years now, and this documentary delves deeper into why the found footage format is still popular.

It didn’t start with The Blair Witch Project, but it certainly put the conceit on the radar for the general cinema-going public. Quite rightly, directors Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott go beyond the obvious trappings by taking a deeper dive into the style. There’s input from numerous filmmakers who have utilised or made their names with first-person shot movies and academics who have studied the subject.

We all know that Cannibal Holocaust is the granddaddy of the format and formed the basis of what we know as found footage, but the argument is made that the Bram Stoker novel Dracula sowed the seed for the way the found footage style presented the story. Dracula’s diary entries and recordings certainly fit in the same mould of what would come nearly a hundred years later.

The controversial TV show Ghostwatch is given the right amount of kudos, of course, and so does the often overlooked Belgian pseudo-documentary Man Bites Dog. Host was a big hit during the recent times of lockdowns when everyone in the world is experiencing the same emotions and fears and represents the evolution of equipment that is accessible to the general public and not just movie makers. As such, we can assume that the found footage subgenre and all its offshoots will be around for years to come.

The best documentaries can make the audience interested in something that they might not normally be. The Found Footage Phenomenon does that easily.

  The Found Footage Phenomenon is out now on Shudder.