Cinema Verite, possibly a term we are hearing one too many times these days. Such is the style of filmmaking that simply involves a single POV, a handheld camera, and action that unfolds during the duration of the movie. It has also been associated with “found footage” films (though found is not always the case). This has been a trend for the last 2 years based primarily on the reality vision coming off TV fare. So horror has taken to the POV stage, not entirely, but in alot of products. Looking back over my reviews on films in this style it occurred to me that there might be an audience who thrives on this style. Now to be fair, some of the more frightening films recorded have been shot in “this” style. Whether that’s up for debate is really not the issue. The box office returns have proved otherwise. So while they are cheaply shot, they also have been effective. There are those which are less than effective as well. This list comprises a listing of 20 cinema verite style films which are worth a watch. The term “best” is up for scrutiny however they are 20 that deserve a listing. I’ll add that…… some of these I’ve absolutely loved, while others have been less than that.
So what is this odd French term any ways?
per Wikipedia – Cinéma vérité (French: [sinema ve?ite], “truthful cinema”; English: is a style of documentary filmmaking, combining naturalistic techniques with stylized cinematic devices of editing and camera work, staged set-ups, and the use of the camera to provoke subjects. It is also known for taking a provocative stance toward its topics.
(Not in order or ranking)
01- Cloverfield (2008)
Cloverfield was created specifically to meet the cinema verite trend. However, it also was pretty damn good. We anticipated a creature. We experienced the destruction and we felt the panic within the city. I loved this film and really became enticed into the POV. The usage of really large green screens and other tricks make this simply work. I think the difference here than other giant monster films was it felt real. Whether a fan or not, it did huge box office numbers and goes into the history of cinema verite films.
02- [REC] – 2007 [REC] 2 – 2009
The [REC] films managed to hit a few marks when they arrived on scene. While they achieved that cinema verite style and pulled it off with great success, they also landed some marks in the zombie field. Now I won’t get into semantics on if they were zombies, possessed or the diseased…just that they fit the zombie genre pretty well. That memorable finishing shot, those creepy turns around corners. It was one of the few films that you felt the action coming at you as a viewer. I recommend both of them, but [REC] 1 was indeed a trend setter. It also brought to the forefront, walking thru apartments with a cam corder. My fav on the list!
03- The Fourth Kind (2009)
What could of been a great. It was until they tried too hard to make fiction into fact. The reports that came after stole some of its authenticity which ruined the effect for new viewers. Not entirely Cinema verite, but enough use to create a flavor throughout. We had a few top namers in this one which helped it hit the big screen. Still I find this a well done film. Throwing politics aside and Alaskan buzz kill, it reinforced our interest and fear in aliens and visitors.
04- 8213: Gacy House (2010)
A knock off that was intentional, had legit creepiness. The Gacy thing was secondary…as it could of well just been a ghost. We wont get into the reality of the script, though as a viewer, I felt some of the drama. I never really bought it was Gacy, but did buy into the haunting. A lower budget film that despite being obvious was not bad at all. It’s weakness may be the fact that its coming in after the fact of so many others. So the intention was less dramatic than it could be. Gacy was a menace, but I don’t think he’s been given a hell pass to come back and haunt.
05- Paranormal Activity (2007) | Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) | Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Simply one of the most successful of the group. Paranormal Activity was one film that “HAD” to be experienced in theatre setting. It sent an uneasy notion into viewers who suspect that all forces are not what they seem. The Blair Witch cycle had passed long enough to let this one breathe and relish in its simplicity. Each of the films offer something for viewers. The placed camcorder, the out of frame actions, the change in dramatics….perfect formulas for uneasiness. The industry has defined horror with new options. It was perfect timing when PA came a knocking. Some critics dismissed its normality, but the world was definitely hooked on the night vision tactics and ominous presence approach.
06- Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
The early great that is sometimes forgotten due to its graphic nature. Way before Blair Witch and others came this gem of a film that also happens to make out list of most disturbing films ever. The approach was innovative and over the top introducing something way ahead of its time. Though the violence, rape, and cannibalism all contributed to a dark presentation that was just too much for viewers. Even though it is created fiction, the film was perceived as reality making it too much to take. Ruggero Deodato proved a base which alot of future films owe there success to. Maybe not for the masses, but it is true cinema verite done right.
07- Troll Hunter (2010)
One bad ass trip of a movie. Trolls…you bet you. This is a great use of reality and special effects making a seem less presentation that just sings with innovativeness. TrollHunter is one of my recent favs and happens to work as a verite film itself. Do yourself a favor and throw this in when it comes into stores. TrollHunter explores a much kept secret job that has been claimed by one individual who has let these mythical beast under the radar. The use of location and setting makes for a great viewing time.
08- The Last Exorcism (2010)
Yep, the devil thing has been tried a few times in this style and failed. This theater release won over younger audiences who weren’t told enough to experience “The Exorcist” (when it arrived). It does have some edgy moments and a rather peculiar ending but its not one that will get the scary vote from hardened viewers. A professionally done production that works better than most. I believe its hype create more buzz than the film deserved but still a decent flick at the end of the day. Ashley Bell provided a solid performance herself…so kudos to the kid!
09- Lake Mungo (2008)
Alice Palmer goes missing, though it appears her spirit is still hanging around. One of the entrees in the 2010 – 8 Films to die for, which ends up being one of the top from that collection. A very eerie film that takes on fiction to reality back to fiction. The film tend to get under your skin which means its doing what it was intended. Strongly urged to check this out.
10- In Memorium (2005)
I’m not sure if this movie was ever released beyond the screener send outs. Which is a shame as I found it very effective. So while it may seem odd to list a film that is not available, I have belief that it will be. Those who care to read an advance review can grab themselves a preview. Essentially we have one character who is dying of bone cancer. He intends to document his last days. Though what occurs is the presence of an unwelcome spirit creeping the whole self documentary up. This film simply worked for me providing a notable decent level of scare ambience.
11- Evidence (2011)
It’s no surprise that alot of new films are taking on the cinema verite category. This thriller / horror movie takes a typical outing into the woods into a whole different experience. In some respects in combines several horror themes under its cinema verite umbrella. There is great effectivness in showing alittle and anticapting the unknown. “Evidence” takes that notion on pretty well with some interesting setups and ideas unfolding.
12- Evil Things (2009)
5 friends decide that a weekend getaway is just what they need. This road trip heats up when they feel they are being stalked. Director Dominic Perez takes this paranoia to another level introducing a healthy does of the unknown combined with this friendly house visit. The extra level of strange helps elevate this film to a frightful experience.
13- Atrocious (2010)
This film is making it way thru circuits borrowing from all its inspirations combined in the field of cinema verite. The primary creepiness comes from a labyrinth maze that summons up one pissed off spirit. This foreign film relies much on the tension of the unseen and the effects on those occurring off screen.
14- Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
A self-promoting serial killer who dreams of being the most infamous slasher of all time hires a documentary film crew to follow him as he launches a reign of terror on a small town. This serial killer in training film tackles this documentary style with humor and then terror. It actually turns the tables on its approach and changes from its documentary style to a real film. A nice example of a hybrid and thinking outside of the box. A firm choice here and a genre buster in presentation.
15- Home Movie (2008)
A film that takes the assumption of a normal family and turns it upside down. The kicker seems to be a possessive father who needs to document everything. While the perfect family unveils, we find evil things lurking within the children. This tension rolls out on camera very cleverly and to the entrainment of viewers.
16- Blair Witch Project (1999)
A legend of its time. Blair Witch basically kick started the trend due to its simple but effective presentation. A film that really shows us nothing ends up winning the fear factor in almost an entire generation. The success of this film broke records, spawned stars of the moments and really made the headlines the world over. It never did regain its first offering sensation, which slowly killer the franchise. Though horror lovers will most certainly remember the time they waited in line to see this much talked about explosion of a movie.
17- (tied choices)
The Haunted Boy: The Secret Diary Of The Exorcist (2010)
Children of the grave (2007)
While the Booth Brothers are known for their documentary work, the difference in their productions is that it is non-fiction or at least based on non-fiction. I highly recommend all of their work, however it was 2 features that caught my eye particular that were just too damn scary not to include on this list. By definition, their production only partially fit into the cinema verite category (meaning that they are not intended to be faked) however they tend to exceed many of the faked ones on this list just by pure presentation and delivery. For that reasons, I’ve included 2 entries that are worthy of best cinema verite. For a thrill, make sure to catch the “zombie Road” portion of “Children of the Grave”
18- Grave Encounters (2011)
A perfect addition to this bunch. Why perfect? It takes our affinity for ghost hunting shows, adds some harrowing fiction, and turns the tables on viewer experience. The kind of stuff we wish happened on “Ghost Adventures”. Lance and his team of paranormalists (used lightly) take on a whole mess of terrifying haunts when they are locked into this asylum. This fictional film takes things one step further with residence phantoms, dimensional circumstances and scary inhabitants. This is not your usual TV ghost show, which is why it’s scary as hell.
19- Lunopolis (2009)
While more science fiction than horror, it stills tends to send an eerie revelation into your psyche. Quite simply an amazing film, that really is the reason that these kinds of films should be made.
20- Chronicle (2012)
A surprise entry into the found footage style films, Chronicle is one of the top FX driven films in this category with massive city destruction and science fiction theology. It makes you wonder “what if” we did acquire the power of telekinesis. How would that change the world? While not a specific horror film, it is presented with a very dark overtone also making a crossover piece.
At the time of this list creation we have received word of several new cinema verite style horror films on the future release list. This is not surprising as the trend is still in motion. Perhaps an updated list will occur down the road as they arrive on the market. Though you’ll notice some titles you may not recognize yet on this list…which means you should seek them out!
Special Mention: (additional found footage style films):
The Tunnel (2011)
Eyes in The Dark (2010)
Paranormal Entity (2009)
The Last Broadcast (1998)
Silence, Ca Tue! (2008)
Zombie Diaries (2006)
Vampire Dairy (2007)
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)
Evidence of a Haunting (2010)
The Unbelievable (2009)
Outtake Reel (2011)
Reel Zombies (2008)
The Last Horror Movie (2003)
Man Bites Dog (1992)
Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998)
Alone With Her (2006)
Welcome to the Jungle (2007)
7 Nights Of Darkness (2011)
The Helpers (2011)
Bryan Loves You (2008)
Deserted House (2010) (aka The Haunted House Project (2010)
Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night (2010)
District 9 (2009)
August Underground (2001)
The Possession of David O’Reilly (2010)
Apollo 18 (2011)
Megan is Missing (2011)
The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)
The Collingswood Story (2006)
The Devil Inside (2012)
The Bucks County Massacre (2010)
The Dinosaur Project (2012)
Evidence of a Haunting (2010)
Paranormal Incident (2011)
Alien: Origin (2012)
Area 407 (2012)
Greystone Park (2012)
Hombre Y Tierra (2011)
388 Arletta Avenue (2011)
100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (2012)
Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
The Lost Coast Tapes (2012)
Cropsey is not a typical cinema verite film, which is mixed with documentary footage. By all accounts its still a great film that deserves a mention.
At the time of this report , the following were not available yet for review:
Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders (2012)
The Convent (2011)
The Ritual (2009)
– Top Found Footage Horror Films Listings
– Cinema Verite Listing of Horror Movies
Top 20 Found Footage Horror Movies (so far)