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What Is Sinister?

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 16:02 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2012

On the Five Live show last Friday I referred to the new horror movie Sinister as a 'found footage film'. This seem to have annoyed some people - was I right or wrong to call it that?

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great article Dr K,surprised there was no mention of 1998's the Last Broadcast,which never really got the attention of other 'found footage' films...

  • Comment number 2.

    Dr. K, Found footage is both a technique AND a genre. I would say Sinister is a partially found footage film. However, not all found footage films have to be scary. Think back to 1993 with Michael Keaton in "My Life", in which he is diagnosed with cancer and leaves tapes to his unborn son, who watches them at the end. It is quite literally a found footage story, but rather than having the audience discover the footage, we watch it being created.

  • Comment number 3.

    While watching It I never felt I was watching a found footage film, its a much more traditional horror film which has a character finding footage relevant to the plot, but don't films in every genre use this plot device.......
    The Chernobyl Diaries isn't a found footage film either, it's just shot in a documentary style, unless I missed a title card or character talking to the camera operator...

  • Comment number 4.

    The defining conceit of the "Found Footage" genre is surely the idea that we (the audience) could have stumbled across this recording ourselves, and that, from start to finish, it is a self contained snapshot of an event. In Sinister, the found footage that is shown is embedded within a traditional narrative structure that exists around it and is ultimately a diagetic plot device. Otherwise, any film in which we watch a character watching footage can be called a found footage film.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry Mark, you're wrong on this one. Sinister is not a found footage film. But that is certainly a genre.

    Just because a character literally finds some footage in the plot of the story does not mean it is a found-footage-film which plays on the conceit that the FILMMAKER has found this footage (and in some cases put it together for you). In the case of Cloverfield, they make it clear at the start that we are meant to be watching a tape that has been acquired by the US military.

    Anyway, I personally am looking more forward to the latest instalment of the growing found-ring-film genre on December 14th!

  • Comment number 6.

    The Found Footage Genre vs. The Aesthtic of the Psedeodocumentry is a topic that has been debated by horror fans by quite sometime. In my humble opinion films like the Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter, Paranormal Activity belong in the latter. Why? Because what the audience sees is what was recorded of the (fictional) events that occured. Cannibal Holocaust is a different film entirely since it uses elements of psedeodocumentry in a fictional film thus placing it more to the found footage genre.

    Funnily enough everytime I think of found footage films, I always wonder where does one place a film that has a written archive of eyewitness accounts of the events. For instance John Carpenter's The Fog; Father Malone finds a hidden written journal of a brutal historical event when the founders of Antonio Bay dispatched a ship's crew and captain. Can this qualify as found footage?

    Also you haven't put me off seeing Sinister. I had no plans to see it anyway.

  • Comment number 7.

    If “found footage” is to be a genre, I don’t think every film you just mentioned would qualify. The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Troll Hunter would all qualify because they are all recovered video from start to finish. Cannibal Holocaust and Sinister would not qualify because the footage is only an element in a larger story. If we were to take the latter case as being “found footage,” Ringu would fall into that genre because of the video tape.

  • Comment number 8.

    Your Wrong!
    A found footage film should give the illusion of reality to the experience. Sinister is not a found footage film as it has Ethan Hawke in it plus it looks like a hollywood 35mm celuloid movie. An obvious reminder that what were seeing is not real. I have yet to see the film but judging by the trailers that is.

    Cannibal Holocoust, Blar Witch, Cloverfield and Project X have no well known faces in them and are sold on the concept of found footage.

    If the good doctor thinks that a film just has to have Found Footage in it then surley 8MM, Super 8, The Ring, Scream 3, Iron Man 2 and Star Wars would count.

  • Comment number 9.

    I wonder would 8mm and Lethal Weapon 2 or Alien Autopsy come under found footage films as the plots feature film which is found.

    You missed out The Jersey Devil Videos film in your list.

  • Comment number 10.

    Not at all, Mark. This whole found footage nonsense has become tired and formulaic beyond dispute. "Sinister" is just unfortunately, another run-of-the-mill horror film, trying desperately to be something else. Whatever happened to those psychological horror movies that meant something, instead relying on abrupt shocks, and jump-cuts. I just put on "The Shining" just to remind me of horror that once was...I'll just leave the rest to the "Paranormal Activity" and "Insidious" mob, which a lot of todays modern horror flicks are solely marketed on.

  • Comment number 11.

    Found Footage movies are cheap and cheerful. No orchestrated soundtrack, no name actors, no need for a polished product; just a good idea and a viral marketing campaign. And As someone who used to have a job watching cctv cameras, I can assure that some of the things you see in our city streets after midnight on Saturdays can be as horrible as anything you see down the multiplex!

  • Comment number 12.

    I've not seen Sinister, however judging by the trailer I wouldn't label it a found-footage (FF) film as, and correct me if I'm wrong, it's predominantly filmed like a conventional horror film. Saying it's FF because someone actually "finds footage" is almost like a bad pun. It'd be like me calling Rambo 4 a slasher film because Rambo technically slashes someone with a knife in the film.
    In terms of whether FF is its own genre, I say no, seeing as there's FF films in the superhero (Chronicle), comedy (Project X) and disaster (Cloverfield) genres as well as in horror, even if horror is where the format is mostly used. FF is to me like film-noir, in that although most films in the style are crime thrillers, there have been many notable occasions where it's been used in other genres e.g. Blade Runner as a sci-fi noir, or Basic Instinct as an erotic neo-noir.

  • Comment number 13.

    I would class ' Evil dead ' as found footage movie even though it audio.I think you can safely say this is the first found audio horror movie.Unless anyone can tell me differently.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm probably asking a very silly question: how does the "Found Footage" compare and contrast with the MacGuffin?

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm a little surprised, Mark, you didn't mention "Apollo 18," a found footage film that takes the concept all the way to the Moon---and to new levels of absurdity. Honestly, did the filmmakers think anyone would believe an additional Apollo mission could be kept secret? A Saturn V rocket disguised as a satellite launch! You'd have a better chance of hiding an elephant behind a toothpick---

    Okay, rant over. But I think these films are a gimmick within the horror genre and should be treated as such.

  • Comment number 16.

    I do feel that when listening to your review on Sinister I did a slight double take when you called it a “found footage”, I didn’t agree at first, but then remembered the fact that Ethan Hawke’s character actually finds the footage made me understand the point. Found footage is NOT a genre but merely a stylistic approach to get the story and it's atmosphere across and can come in other forms (like Cloverfield being in the midst of the panic).

    Could you say that District 9 is part found footage because it comes across as being like a documentary with CCTV footage integrated into the film? Not really, the first thing some people say is that it’s a science fiction film. Blair Witch is a horror/thriller that’s done in the found footage style.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dr K, When you said the phrase "found footage" you contextualized it, i think this was a case of not listening properly. Nowadays people are used to pithy sound bite style reviews, in contrast to your own more languorous approach to film criticism. I find that your reviews are work best after i've seen the film when i know what you're alluding to and can see how it measures up to my own interpretation. When i watch to your reviews much is conveyed through the inflexion in your voice and body language, if your mood is generally positive i'll give it a look but if you can barely summon any enthusiasm for a film, then i'll pass.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've always seen the found footage films as a cinematic update of the epistolary novel. The realism of the footage, like in The Blair Witch Project, enhances the horror of the story, in much the same way as the journal extracts did in Dracula.

  • Comment number 19.

    But come on, think about it. How is the found footage concept any different than all the other plot devices and gimmicks that have been repeated ad nauseam in horror movies over the decades? Freddy, Jason, Blair Witch---they're all in the same club now, resurrected in every way imaginable, and very tired.

    Happy Halloween.

  • Comment number 20.

    ***Disclaimer, haven't seen Sinister, basing this on trailers***

    For me a 'found footage' film has 2 caveats:
    1- It is presented as footage from real life within the film's universe. To take the example of Cloverfield, obviously not footage from our real world, but it is presented as footage from 'real life' within the movies universe.

    2- The camera (and logicaly the camera operator) is present within the movie's universe (and as such will probably be interacted with by the other characters).

    Unless the trailers are hiding it, there isn't a camera crew in universe following Ethan Hawke's character around his house filming him getting scared out of his pants, so in my opinion not a 'found footage film'. If there is then they've got balls of steel for telling the monster to wait till they got set up before freaking the poor guy out.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mark, I think you have conflated two very different (fundamental) concepts. "Found footage" describes the way in which the film is presented to the audience -- i.e., the device through which the audience sees the action is the video camera which recorded the footage. It is external to the thing being presented and does not act as a plot device because it is the way in which the movie is being conveyed to the audience. This is very different to a character within the film itself discovering some old video footage and then playing it. This is internal to the movie. For example, REC is found footage. The Ring (Ringu) is not. The only way in which the two concepts could meet is if someone filmed themselves watching some footage they had found and then the audience is shown the film made by the character watching the footage. I take it Ethan Hawke does not film himself watching the footage he found? If yes, it is a found footage film; if no, it simply can't be.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think in the minds of most people a 'found footage' film is one in which the action on screen is presented in such a way that we're invited to believe (or at least pretend) it represents real events captured by real people. To say a film in which one of the characters watches some footage they've found is therefore a found footage film is as ridiculous as saying a film is a western just because one of the characters happens to be a cowboy. And no, if I hear that a movie is a found footage film it wouldn't put me off. If anything I'm likely to want to see it more as I really like the found footage genre, however any found footage film has to work really hard to entertain me nowadays since it has become quite a tired old genre (I'm thinking of Parasnormal Inactivity here), but every once in a while a real gem comes along that really surprises you and does something interesting with the genre (e.g. Rec, Troll Hunter).

  • Comment number 23.

    I think it's as valid a sub-genre as sci-fi horror or gothic horror...It's a shame that it's seeing a revival of brainless Hollywood cash-ins (along with any other once great horror format such as zombie horror or "gothic" horror), as Cannibal Holocaust despite the unpleasant things going on behind the scenes is a timeless masterpiece, as though I still have not seen Blair Witch both that and Sinister look pretty decent too (as does Rec)...

    More to the point, despite the shameless (and failing) cash-ins mentioned by Kermode here there is also the opposite problem of more obscure films not getting the recognition they deserve, such as Noroi: the Curse, an excellent found footage folk-horror from Japan (easily in the top 3 J-horror films), which unfortunately has not been given the widespread release it deserves

  • Comment number 24.

    can't believe you never mentioned 'man bites dog' in that genre list. ok it may be seen as a big of a mock-doc but it's the best of them all in my mind.

  • Comment number 25.

    To me, I wouldn't necessarily say that 'found footage' films were a genre. Though describing Sinister as such isn't doing it a disservice, as it is a relevant part of the film's exposition and in giving it a review, Dr. K has to cover such points. It is only viewed as a negative term, because it is simply become a lazy plot device and in recent years the horror genre in particular, has become saturated. You could argue the same in reference to the 'torture porn' or 'gorno' films.

  • Comment number 26.

    It's important that the person filming is involved in the story and that the viewer is the one watching the found footage. It gives those movies a different atmosphere. That's what seperates those movies from the rest and not that there happened to be some found footage in the movie. Of course it's misleading. Not that I wouldn't go see it because one critic labeled it wrongly.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'd plumb for technique rather than genre. I was going to more expansively site Dracula (as per 18. Huseyin above), as an epistolary novel, but which also contains "news" clippings as a narrative conceit. Orson Welles used this in both his Mercury Theater War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane. The technique presents footage as dramatically real, not allowing for narrative point of view which may be distorted, or questioned, while tied to the "camera" 's point of view, but lacking the omniscience of an authorial narrator.

    "Found Footage" is only a genre in as far as those who've employed it, marketing bandwagon style, to structure then push their films, and it shows the impoverishment of both the filmmakers and those who sell those films that the best they aspire to is to be compared to Blair Witch (they aspire to its profits), a thoroughly mundane excuse for shaky cam (I found Blair Witch really tedious). More successful forays are those films that rather than have stories which only exist to prop up the technique, use footage to tell their stories, : I'd cite Chronicle, [REC], Diary of the Dead, The Troll Hunter and even the at times annoying Cloverfield.

    If you regard Sinister as a found footage film, just because found footage is part of the plot and shown within the film, does this mean that Peeping Tom, Citizen Kane, Raising Cain, Hugo, Blow Up, JFK, Blow Out and The Conversation (found sound), or even, arguably, parts of Berberian Sound Studio, are found footage films?

    Finally, for a bit of contrast, what about documentaries like Tarnation, Capturing The Friedmans, and Catfish (it would be facetious to make this point about all documentaries, these I think are relevant). Tarnation is arguably a collage of found footage, which capitalises on the author's self obsession and personal tragedies, similarly Capturing... uses the subjects' own footage, to push different interpretations of the story throughout. Catfish, which presents found footage as well as selective glimpse of both social media, and the "as it happens" investigation, but is clearly using editorial withheld information to aid its narrative. Forget Cannibal Holocaust, Albert Brooks saw all this coming when he made Real Life.

    Haven't seen Sinister yet. I'm guessing from the clips that the footage is a device within a standard film's narrative, but if it is used overwhelmingly, or if it happens to overwhelm the reality of the surrounding film, then perhaps it does qualify. I hope I've not now overintrigued myself into seeing Sinister with raised expectations.

  • Comment number 28.

    So in basic clarification a movie in the 'found footage' genre is a film in which a discovered article of video is central i some conceit to the plot rather than the more prosaic notion that the found footage is the film?

    In your classification is Grizzly Man and found footage subgenre of documentry film-making?

  • Comment number 29.

    Let's split the difference and call Sinister a "partial found footage film". Yes, it does feature found footage which is central to the plot, but that found footage is contained with a conventional narrative. Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom" has found footage in the story but I think it would be a stretch to call it a found footage movie. In your review, Mark, you did start by saying Sinister was another found footage film but as the review went on it became clear that the movie wasn't all first person narrative but that the found footage was just part of the overall story. Would that put people off from seeing it? Only if they stopped listening to your review after 2 minutes.

    Is found footage a whole genre? I don't think so: It's a style. It seems to be popular as a horror movie style but I remember it being used for a Vietnam war movie called "84 Charlie Mopic" which in my opinion is the best use of it. No one's done a found footage comedy to my knowledge....hmmm, must dash! Original idea germinating.

  • Comment number 30.

    I haven't seen Sinister yet so I can't fully comment but if this film is to be considered a 'Found Footage' movie wouldn't the Japanese Horror film 'Ring' also be lumped in with that since it is a film where the main character finds a video tape with footage on it and the plot of the film revolves around it.

    My own personal opinion is that found footage films are ones such as Blair Witch, Cloverfield and Chronicle where the film is itself the footage that was found and there isn't a exterior plot to it. I must also admit that when you said 'Sinister' was a found footage movie it had me thinking it was also a film of this type.

  • Comment number 31.

    Oh, for goodness sake. You all need to get more. Discussing whether 'found footage' is a genre is like debating whether a film with a voice over is a genre - IT DOESN'T MATTER. Does the device of a complete or partial found footage work in the context of the film? Does it add something to the enjoyment and appreciation of the viewer? If it does, excellent. If not, too bad, let's watch something better. If we go on like this, somebody will claim that the clip, held by R2-D2, of Princess Leia pleading for help makes 'Star Wars' a found footage movie. Can we move on please?

  • Comment number 32.

    As soon as you said 'found-footage' in your review it put me off right away.

    I have regarded 'found footage films' to be films where you experience the overwhelming majority of the plot at the same time as the person "filming" the footage. There may be some expository bookend-ing, but I'd assume at least 95% of the film would be some form of mocked self-shot footage.

    If 'Sinister' is not like this then, to me at least, I think you did not give it a fair description.

    I say FF is a way of telling a story rather than a genre. Although I haven't seen it (ALARM) I'd describe the recent 'The Wedding Video' as FF, but I wouldn't put that in the same GENRE as say 'REC' due to the lack of horror element (unless I seriously misread The Wedding Video's ad campaign.)

  • Comment number 33.

    Sorry: ...'get out more'...

  • Comment number 34.

    Oddly enough myself and my good friend went to see Sinister yesterday in the cinema. We had both heard reasonably good reviews about it, and I listened to the review you did yourself. Personally, I would identify with films such as Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity as being "found footage". A major plot device for Sinister was the "found footage" discovered in the attic by Ethan Hawke (the contents of which were easily the most unsettling aspect of the film) I disagree with your view that Sinister is a "found footage" film for one reason and one reason only. We know who is watching it. In BW and PA we are never told who is watching it, only that we are watching it with them. For me, the BW and PA found footage was extremely unsettling because you were immersed in it from start to finish. Sinister on the other hand had intersections of found footage before cutting to Ethan Hawke - a definite tension killer

  • Comment number 35.

    The fact that you described Sinister as a found-footage film does not put me off from seeing it. The fact that it's made by Scott Derrickson - director of such fare as the insufferable Hellraiser: Inferno, and the reprehensible Exorcism of Emily Rose - however, does.

  • Comment number 36.

    Whenever I hear you slating another " found footage" film I think its a bit of a shame as it can be such a good medium for horror.
    I know you probably have to sit through more of these rubbish ones than the rest of us, but I hope you wont write it off alltogether as you rightly have with 3d.
    When its done well, and the writer/director pays proper attention to maintaining the logic of us seeing the footage as was the case with Rec, Blair Witch, Last Broadcast, Cloverfield, Troll hunter, its consistency of medium can really immerse you in the film, its the opposite of 3d's spell breaking gimmickery.
    I would urge you to look beyond the awkward " weve just found this old camera " contrivance at the setup of these films, in the same way youve argued that films like The Raid belong to a genre of their own and therefore are allowed a small amount of critical leighway in order play to a certain strength of their own rather than ticking all the usual requirements of plausibility.
    I daresay you could probably quote dozens of bad examples, but i dont think you should throw the baby out with the bathwater on this, as many of those duds have often been guilty of misrepresenting the genre, by failing to do anything more than just make a crappy film that happened to be "found footage", not realizing that the verite style alone wont make for a satisfying film in the way that the above had all the ingriedients that make any film of any genre good.

  • Comment number 37.

    Found footage is the horror counterpart of the mockumentary. Some people think there's a line between documentary style and found footage but realistically such a line is completely untenable, no movie has ever succeeded in being one without being at least partially the other. So you're wrong, I guess, but you wouldn't have been wrong if you'd said "it incorporates found footage elements to a large degree" or some such thing.

  • Comment number 38.

    The guy finds footage and watches it.Thats central to the whole plot. How can it NOT be called a found footage film.Giving it the label found footage isnt putting me off seeing it.

  • Comment number 39.

    I think it was probably a misleading comment taken on its own as the modern accepted definition of Found Footage is more in the Paranormal activity range than a film about finding footage. However in context of the whole review I was not fooled not thinking the film was part of the found footage craze. Now onto Found Footage being a genre or a style. I would say it is a style like how animation is a style not a genre. Just like animated films with found footage you could apply the style to almost any genre, it just so happens that the bulk of them so far are horrors. In my way of thinking you could have a found footage horror or an animated horror etc.

  • Comment number 40.

    Sinister might be a film that's story centers around someone finding footage of something, but I don't think that necessarily makes it a "found-footage" film per se. The reason why films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, etc. are commonly seen as "found-footage" films is their similar style, not their subject matter. Rather than the films being about someone finding footage of something, the entire films themselves are the found footage.

  • Comment number 41.

    I wouldn't say it's unfair, more misleading perhaps, but I think even calling it that is open for contention. I'd define a 'found footage' film to be the showing of footage that has supposedly been filmed by characters within the story. In Sinister he does indeed find footage that is central to the narrative, but the majority of the film's content occurs outside of this footage. Then again, Cannibal Holocaust's narrative focuses both on the found footage and the characters who found it, so it's a hard one to call. I'd say the quintessential 'found footage' films would include The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, because they both focus solely on the ‘found footage’.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'd say its a style not a genre but all the films mentioned do relate to each other as that they all feature footage that is found. But as long as we dont go down the route of 'found-room' film, or found-house' film we shall be ok.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think you were definitely wrong in calling Sinister a found footage film. Well, without clarification. Having already seen the film, I listened to your review I kept waiting for the sentence that clarified to the uninformed that you didn't mean the film was presented as an actual piece of found footage, but no such sentence appeared.

    On the question of genre vs. technique I think it is pretty clearly a technique. If it were a genre that would be The Wedding Video and The Blair Witch Project share a genre!

  • Comment number 44.

    I think the word missing in most of this is an old-fashioned word, probably doesn't happen much in this youtube world of ours: Home Movies. If it were written as "Ethan Hawke finds some 'home movies' left over in the house he currently resides in", the genre changes to a horror film. If you say "It is a 'found footage' film in which ETC", the genre changes to the preconceived notion that the person holding the camera has an itch on their back just as scary things happen (I.E. - what horror films as of late have become)

    By finding "Home Movies", all major judgments given to found footage films can be rendered moot due to the fact that the film isn't exclusively Shak-E-Cam [TM], but a horror story. It's no different than finding a book written by someone who lived in the house you live in now is an autobiography (or Memoir) vs a Diary Entry. Found footage implies someone will find this and know, Home movies are memories for the people who watch them.

  • Comment number 45.

    To say Sinister is found footage movie is like saying Star Tek V is about Kirk meeting God or Under Siege is Die Hard on a boat, it is about that but also about something different as well.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hello Mark,

    A so called 'Found Footage' film isn't a genre. In much the same way that we wouldn't call "The Bourne Ultimatum" a 'hand-held' film or 'Momento' a flash-back film or 'The Artist' a black and white film a genre. By it's very nature a genre is defined by its tone, themes and subject matter and not by it's style. So their for a 'Found Footage' film is just a style in which to present a story.

  • Comment number 47.

    If you're talking about presentation, then I don't like found footage films as I'm one of those weeds who gets motion sickness from shaky-cam. And yes, in your review, I assumed you meant it was entirely presented this way, and I decided not to see it (or rather, wait for DVD).

    But what you actually meant was that it's a found footage story, with the footage used as a plot device. This is massively different. It's a crucial point to clarify as it really does determine if I buy a ticket or not. I still don't know if it involves lots of shaky-cam. Does it?

    I take 'found footage' as meaning a stylistic choice, as well defined as 'B&W' or 'Western' or '3D'. I don't think it can be a genre. It's just a technique, used almost exclusively for horror. Like plot devices of old such as "a car breaks down outside spooky location x", you wouldn't really say it's a 'car-breakdown movie'.

  • Comment number 48.

    I don't think it is a "Found Footage Film", or an FFF if you will (narf!), but I do sympathise with Dr. Kermode. The thing is, if you watch the review Dr. Kermode made, it seems he wasn't entirely sure on its genre-specifics either. It's a bit of a deviant one, this, and some movies are. There are strands that feel borrowed from many different places, and it's a bit of a brain-twister.

    I do however sympathise about the reveal thing because it's the one issue with the horror genre - be it movies, novels or games. There was a wonderful horror game called Condemned in the early days of this generation of games consoles that was genuinely tense, creepy and really held your attention. It was a very accomplished horror title. Cue the sequel - and it's barely half an hour before it reveals what is going on. At that point, the magic is kind of lost - and you've got hours of the game to go, and it just doesn't quite hit the same level again. Because when the mystery is the key ingredient, the moment you remove that you then have to compensate with something else. It's like baking powder in a loaf of bread. It gives a hell of a rise and makes it light and fluffy and flavourful, take it out and lots of people will find the end result stodgy and flat and a bit lumpen.

    It's a peculiarly sore issue for the horror genre, because people don't want to be seen doing a Lewton's Bus anymore. But at the same time, there's such a thing as premature escalation. Of course, the real problem is the definition of "horror", because personally I like horror but some things that pass themselves off as such aren't. Horror has to be scary, that's my baseline. At the heart of the horror genre is the want to be scared, to tickle that primal instinct in the back of our heads.

    It sounds like Sinister, sadly, isn't that. So I'd argue it's not a horror, it's a "supernatural mystery". That might be pedantic, but if we're going to get into a debate about genre specifics, let's at least ground it in something. At its heart, is it what it intends to be or do? I'm tired of "horror" movies that are about as scary as the average episode of Strictly Come Dancing and contain deus-ex machina that would make even The Doctor slap the director forcefully...

  • Comment number 49.

    The meaning of "Found Footage" seems to have shifted, mostly because of the cheap horror movies that have embraced it as a storytelling technique. As you say, after The Blair Witch Project is was hot and ripe for cash-in, which both defined it as a genre and gave that genre a bad name in the process.

    Is it unfair to call Sinister a found footage film? I don't know, I haven't seen it and I'm unlikely ever to do so because it looks tedious and predictable. By all means lump it in with other found footage films, I haven't seen one I liked yet and would be happy if this gimmick were dropped entirely from horror movies.

  • Comment number 50.

    1. my understanding of the conceit of the "found footage" is that 'we' the audience are waching found footage, not watching a movie star watching found footage, so Sinister is NOT a "found footage" film

    2. "found footage" is NOT a genre. it is a style, a filter through which we view a film in ANY genre. much like 'Animation' is not a genre either.

  • Comment number 51.

    With the evolution of technology, I think we're in a great position to collectively define what we mean by 'found footage'. It seems logical that it may have once referred to those classic movies where old film is discovered in the attic. But with all of us able to make quality movies with what we all carry around in our back pockets nowadays, I think its moved on. Now, 'found footage' has evolved into a bona fide genre, told entirely through the footage itself. This has usurped the previous 'finds footage during the movie', which now feels like a plot point uniquely positioned to advance the story - like finding a diary, map, trunk or any of the weird stuff in the Cabin in the Woods basement. I would suggest we now have two things: 'Found footage' and 'finds footage'. One is a genre and one is part of the plot.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'd disagree with Nick (50) and say that 'Found Footage' is a genre, it is can also be a technique or a macguffin.

    To explain: if the found footage is used as a plot device within the film (as I understand from Mark's review is how it is presented in Sinister) then it's a MacGuffin.

    If the whole film is presented as a tape that is found by the viewer (such as Paranormal Activity) then I'd describe that as a technique. Typical traits would be filming stuff that no normal human being would film - again, I refer you to Paranormal Activity... why would you film yourself analysing sound clips on your computer?

    Finally if you look at the word 'Genre' in the OED, it states: "A particular style or category of works of art; esp. a type of [literary] work characterized by a particular form, style, or purpose". Again, I'd say this fits, and that Sinister could easily be described as a 'Found Footage' type of Horror film, but one that uses the Found Footage as its MacGuffin.

    Ultimately though, does it really matter if Sinister is described by some as 'Found Footage' or 'Horror'? Surely all that really matters is whether you enjoy it or not.

  • Comment number 53.

    I don't think any film that uses the finding of footage as a major plot point can be called a "found footage film". Would you call Super 8 a found footage film?

    I think a "found footage film" should have extended periods where the audience is watching solely the found footage, as if it were a film within a film. As opposed to characters watching, discussing it or being affected by it.

    This would apply to Cannibal Holocaust, Last Broadcast, Blair Witch but not 8mm, Sinister or Super 8.

  • Comment number 54.

    In no way is Sinister a FF film. The director/cameraman etc of Sinister aren't characters in Sinister. The camera isn't part of the narrative. Presented on their own, without Ethan Hawke or his family or the cops, just shown by themselves, those reels of film would constitute found footage, but when placed into the larger context of a film that's been shot, lit (albeit inadequately), edited and scored and acted and written and directed, that footage isn't enough to make that larger context a "found" film. Indeed, I'd argue that Cannibal Holocaust isn't really found footage either as it's presented within a "movie world" context rather than a real world context - it's real and "found" to the TV executives watching those reels of film but they're not real themselves: they're acted characters in a scripted drama. You mention Chernobyl Diaries which isn't found at all: the camera crew are not part of the story.

    The awkward corner that FF paints itself into is the question "who's shooting this, who's put it together, and why?" You don't ask that question with a romantic comedy or a Bond movie or a Ridley Scott film: you don't need to as that's not part of the film. It's not presented to us as real. Blair Witch is, [Rec] is, Apollo 18 is (even though the very existence of the footage is negated by the plot of the film: if the plot's telling us the footage was destroyed or abandoned, then how can I possibly be watching it?).

    A fake documentary, such as Lake Mungo, is a slightly different beast as obviously the "participants" are aware of the camera and director and so on, but it's presented as the finished article rather than the raw footage straight out of the camera. Ditto, of course, This Is Spinal Tap.

  • Comment number 55.

    Sinister isn't a "found footage" film. A "found footage" film is one wherein the conceit is that someone, within the universe of the movie, has filmed the events taking place and we’re the ones who’ve found that footage. That person is as much a part of the film - as an active character - as the other things and people shown on screen.

    For that reason I don't think it can be called a genre in itself. It's a technique used to present a variety of genres and sub-genres, from supernatural horror (The Blair Witch Project) to zombie horror (REC), to what might be considered sci-fi or a disaster movie (Cloverfield), and many others.

    The reason it works best for horror films is that we're supposedly led to believe that what we're watching occurred in real life, making it all the more frightening. It's a step up from often equally implausible "based on a true story" titles. But essentially, it’s just a specific use of the camera to help create the desired feeling, like the cold detachment of The Shining’s cinematography or the freneticism of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s.


    Except yes, it does put me off, because to me it’s tired and gimmicky.

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm not sure whether you did Sinister a favour or not (haven't seen it yet), but I would disagree calling "found footage" a genre. Nowadays it is first and foremost a marketing tool (a label, if you will) to give a clear signal to the audience as to what to expect (mostly, a shaky camera and frustratingly open endings:), however, in terms of film and genre analysis I would call found footage a "discourse". I borrow this term from Craig Hight's excellent book on "television mockumentary" where he claims that it is more productive to call mockumentary "a discourse", since it is informed and shaped through the particular relationships it constructs with "documentary proper, with the discourses of factuality, and especially through the complexity of its engagement with viewers". So, a found footage film could be from any kind of genre (horror, comedy, romcom etc), but it represents a discourse of interaction between style, genre, industry and audience.

  • Comment number 57.

    Should films such as Blair witch, troll hunter etc not be found footage films but POV films.
    On another note having been bored to death by many of these recent Amercian found footage horrors. I've been more put off by the recent TV trailer for Sinister because of the hidden cameras in the cinema and fake tv doctors saying 'you broke my heart monitor' what rubbish. A poor way to market what seems to be a poor horror film or a great horror film not understood by some marketing team somewhere.
    On the found footage note again. Despite the US making rubbish found footage films. It is films like REC (original version) and Troll Hunter for me which have done this genre / filming style justice.

  • Comment number 58.

    Found-footage is primarily an aesthetic, but aesthetics are also key designators of genre so I suppose you could argue for both at the same time. What I find more interesting is how the style is almost exclusively the preserve of horror films (with notable exceptions like Project X aside). What is it about this genre that lends itself so well to the found-footage style? Is it the immediacy of the terror, or the ability of filmmakers to further blur the boundary between fiction and 'reality' via viral marketing etc?

    I would suggest that the prevalence of horror found-footage films goes back to the origins of gothic horror. The Gothic has always played around with the concept of discovered manuscripts and i think that horror film has merely adopted this in a cinematic context. Secondly, the sheer amount of terroristic documentary footage shot over the last decade (9/11, Katrina, etc) has possibly created an association between the documentary aesthetic and a fearful response. It seems to me that filmmakers have realised that this fear is the best way to employ the aesthetic of found footage.

  • Comment number 59.

    SINISTER is not a found footage film, it's a horror film, that uses the found footage as a stylistic device to further the narrative and the characters actions and incidents that escalate throughout the film. It's similar to something like 8MM and even CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, where we see grainy footage and we the viewer see from the characters viewpoints, the footage in question, usually as a shocking development, this applies to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST a lot. As people have mentioned previously, i would agree that found footage is not a genre, it could possibly fall under a sub-genre, of horror or sci-fi or any other genre where it can be used (END OF WATCH, that comes out next month is a 'found footage' cop movie from what ive seen on the trailer and the reviews ive read of it), and that arguement can be made for its status as a sub genre, though it is more of a stylistic device in the long run, as a narrative story is told from a camera/documentary viewpoint (TROLL HUNTER, BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) or as footage that the characters view to move the story on (SINISTER). Most of all its going to be around for a long time, particularly in the horror genre, go to the horror section in any dvd retailer and im sure you can pick out many 'found footage' horror flicks, many going straight to DVD, and also another PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (part 4) coming out next week. At the end of the day its an easy stylistic device for up and coming filmmakers to use, and it delivers required scares and jumps on a cheap budget, though like many things it will eventually eat itself and become a parody of itself (which i think theyve already done). Though through all the dross you can still find some decent found footage films out there such as V/H/S which i saw at frightfest and particularly enjoyed as it was portmanteau horror with found footage, or even LOVELY MOLLY, from BLAIR WITCH director Eduardo Sanchez, which incorporates creepy and voyeuristic camcorder footage at random points in the film along with the normal narrative events that unfold.
    As for SINISTER its very good, and highly recommend it, particularly if your a horror genre fan!

  • Comment number 60.

    I saw Sinister at a press screening a week before you reviewed it and the phrase 'found footage' never crossed my mind. Ellison's discovery, and subsequent watching of the Super 8 film reels is no different to a character finding and reading a diary, looking at paintings or, in the case of The Woman in Black, documents telling of past events.

    In answer to your second question, found footage is not a genre, but a style of filmmaking designed to give the film a sense of urgency and/or authenticity designed to make the audience question whether or not they are watching a document of real events. In the case of Sinister, it is clearly a fictional film, with the Super 8 footage merely a device to introduce the 'monster' (which could have been done by him reading aloud from a book or, as in The Evil Dead, playing a tape). It is perhaps a subgenre of horror, with the likes of [REC] (and its sequels) as the best examples of how a film with subjective camerawork can make a film far scarier than one with the objective camerawork.

    As there wasn't any subjective camerawork in Sinister aside from the Super 8 footage, which was then objectively shown, I see no reason to describe this as a found footage film as it has nothing in common with the most famous/notorious films to use that aesthetic.

    I really hope your description of Sinister as a found footage film doesn't put off those who didn't like films such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield or the Paranormal Activity (which ironically features heavily on the poster) films. Perhaps a clarification of what you meant by describing Sinister as a found footage film on Friday's wittertainment would help?

  • Comment number 61.

    A found footage film involves the audience seeing footage that appears to be real. Ethan Hawke in Sinister is watching the found footage, but the audience is watching him in a conventional horror film.
    Like any genre the term 'found footage' is about what WE are watching, not the characters.

    In Leon the character watches Gene Kelly films, but you wouldn't call Leon a musical would you?
    In Requiem For a Dream, Ellen Burstyn watches a game show (which like the found footage in Sinister is central to the plot), but the film itself isn't a game show.

    Anyway, Sinister is just another terrible horror film that gives away all the scares in the trailer, so who cares?

  • Comment number 62.

    Just came out of a screening of Sinister - if a film that centres entirely around the idea of footage found by the main character cannot be described as 'found footage', then the term 'found footage' is about as meaningless as 'bouncebackability'

  • Comment number 63.

    Interestingly, over at slate dot com there was a recent article about this "new and genuinely scary" use of the found footage trope in "V/H/S" and "Sinister". I've yet to see them so I can't answer your original questions, Dr. K, but I can tell that you're not the only one to categorize them as such (since both films use "found footage" clips embedded inside a larger, but very simple, frame story; over at slate it's considered that the frame story is not that important and is merely an excuse to tie the clips together).

  • Comment number 64.

    I also tweeted you this....
    You say Cannibal Holocaust as the first found footage film, you are forgetting the Mondo cane series.....

  • Comment number 65.

    'Found footage' is a naturalistic narrative technique employed to create a cinéma vérité documentary effect and give the audience the feeling of unmoderated observation. Although Sinister's plot contains the discovery of found footage, the film itself is not based on 'found footage' techniques and most people would not place it in the found footage subgenre of horror.

  • Comment number 66.

    If Silent House is a found footage film does that make Before Sunset a found footage film too?

  • Comment number 67.

    Personally I think "found footage" is a narrative device, used to give the illusion of reality. If it feels real the scarier it is. It's either used well or ill. It's the filmic version of a novel written in diary form or in letter form, used in Bram Stoker's Dracula and Shelly's Frankenstien. It's been over used because of the massive commercial potential, cheap and can potentially rake in a big profit margin. Hence the backlash against "found footage". I haven't seen Sinister so couldn't tell you if it is or not. Does it matter? The film is either scary or it's not, you enjoy it or you don't a found footage device doesn't really get in the way of that. It's either used well or it's used badly.

  • Comment number 68.

    I think the crucial part of "found footage" is that it is or can be found in the world of the audience. In that respect it isn't too strange to see it as a big enough technique to almost be called a genre. After all, animation is just another technique of telling a story and yet we name that.

    However, characters finding footage (whether or not it is important to the plot) is a story element that are probably best named as such. Vaguely referring to a film as a found footage film will inevitably lead to wrong expectations.

  • Comment number 69.

    If you say found footage film to me I immediately think of Blair Witch, Cloverfield et al where it is the entire premise.

    I am not a fan of these things, hate hand held shakey camera work with a passion and would be massively put off a film described as such.

    So yes, I think you are doing it a disservice describing it as such as for me found footage = Blair Witch style, not someone in a film finds someone else's old home movies.

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi Mark- a few interesting ideas popped up watching this blog. First surprised you didn't mention The Last Broadcast. This is a film which your mention actually made me go and watch and which also neatly illustrates the trouble with defining a 'found footage' film. Last Broadcast has a big chunk of what might be described as found footage in it, however the framing device is a documentary.
    In fact, I would say that if found-footage is a genre, it is a SUB-genre of faux-documentary, an attempt to present fiction as non-fiction, whether that is for humour or horror or suspense.
    Sinister has found footage in it, and its framing device is a conventional narrative horror film, which 'breaks the spell' as it were.

    However, getting into this argument throws up a much bigger problem- if we are putting things into categories, how do we divide them? By the emotions they provoke (romance, horror, thriller) or by the technical elements they use (animation, documentary, Dogme95, found footage). Go with the former, found footage cannot be a genre but go with the latter and it can.

    Finally let me ask if your good self or my fellow followers of the blog have been aware of the rise in found-footage horror ARGs on YouTube? For example, the seminal Marble Hornets?
    Look forward to hearing your replies.

  • Comment number 71.

    NOV- DEC 2010 A ghost story- which I wrote-My plot was a couple and daughter win a house lottery and in the cellar they find a box of old home movies, screen them on the wall- all the people who once lived in the house who were murdered & burried.All dead people - are projected on the wall - brought back -as ghosts in the house via the films-My story and storyboard are in HOLLYWOOD- 2 PRODUCERS & my Director's agent in NY. My short story was on www.issuu.com,. June 2011 for 10 days- 80 people read it.I removed it,3 weeks ago I discovered "SINISTER" the movie on youtube and was shocked to see they used my theme- plot. Same movie idea and characters ?Any story can be written around that plot- mine is not American Shock treatment.Be careful what you put on interenet

  • Comment number 72.

    By the looks of things, this is a story primarily about Ethan Hawke's character. It seems here that the main focus of the story is on Hawke and HIS REACTIONS to the footage, and therefore the footage that is "found" is merely a plot device rather than a genre-defining attribute. With any other found-footage piece, take for example Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, it is about OUR reactions to the footage, and the reactions of those within it to their circumstances.

    Cannibal Holocaust is a found footage film. After the initial narrative introduction which equates to little more than the brief sections of expositional text we're given at the beginning of most found-footage films; "their bodies were never found", "what follows is the only evidence to suggest..." etc. the film becomes primarily about our relationship with the footage.

    If it can be argued that Sinister is a found footage film, then surely the reaction to the "found footage" must be the primary source of interaction between audience and film. If we are being asked to root for Ethan Hawke and family more than the families in the Super 8 footage then this is not the case.

  • Comment number 73.

    So a "found footage" comedy about two people getting married is in the same genre as a found footage horror movie about kids looking for a witch, which is the same genre as a found footage sci-fi about astronauts on the moon, which is the same genre as found footage comedy about kids having a house party? of course "found footage" isn't a genre. that's like saying 'Black and White' is a genre

  • Comment number 74.

    So a "found footage" horror movie about kids looking for a witch in the woods is the same genre as a "found footage" comedy about a couple getting married, which is the same genre as a found footage sci-fi about astronauts on the moon, which is the same genre as a found footage comedy about a riotous house party?.. of course "found footage" isn't a genre. That would be like saying 'black & white' is a genre.

  • Comment number 75.

    Not sure whether it is or it isn't and quite honestly i'm not sure that a) it matters or b) that I care.
    What I would say though is whatever genre you link it to you are 100% correct to pull out the parallels between Sinister and the outstanding movie that is Cannibal Holocaust.

  • Comment number 76.

    I am a big fan of the found footage genre. Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity 1 and 3 (not so much 2), Troll Hunter, [REC], Chronicle, I just really enjoy them and how effective and scary they are capable of being. And certainly there are bad ones. George Romero's Diary of the Dead is a failed attempt, including both music and sound effects to highlight the film and in doing so destroys any effect the film could have had as a found footage piece.

    Is it a tired genre? Yes, but I greatly enjoy it when done well and differently, like the TK controlled camera angles in Chronicle.
    I also think that found footage presents an "easy" method of filmmaking which young filmmakers learning the craft can use as a learning tool.

    I wouldn't call Sinister a found footage film but I can understand where Mark's logic is coming from. Discovering footage and something inside it is integral to the story.
    Personally I would put Sinister alongside films such as Super 8, Cannibal Holocaust and Ring, where viewing a piece of film drives the plot for the characters.
    As a compromise, how about instead of "found footage" we call this mini genre "finding footage"?

  • Comment number 77.

    I haven't seen CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST but it seems to me that without the 'found footage' motif the film wouldn't even exist in the first place. The entire film is about a group of explorers who come across supposed footage of a tribe of real cannibals killing and eating their captives. All they know of this 'holocaust' is what is shown on the film which they have discovered; this 'found footage' is an active, integral participant in the film. I think that's a bit different from films like SINISTER which only use the 'found footage' motif as a plot device; it isn't really central to the story.

  • Comment number 78.

    My friend and I have decided that Found Footage sounds more like a genre if the word Footage is given a French pronuciation.

  • Comment number 79.

    Sinister is not a found footage film, its a film about finding footage.

  • Comment number 80.

    One has to keep in mind that most, if not all, found footage films are basically first person narratives. (The only non-found footage first person film I know of, is the one based on the Doom computer game. But I lack the encyclopedic film knowledge of the good doctor, so correct me is I forgot another.) First person narration in novels and short stories is a literary device to pull the reader into the story through the eyes of the narrator and it can work very well. It also can benefit from having the story told by an unreliable narrator and thus tricking the reader. (A trick non-found footage films like Memento, The Usual Suspects, and The Sixth Sense pull off without the need for a first person perspective. Movies just work differently, thus partially making the found footage restraints unnecessary in a great many cases.)
    But as to the question of whether Sinister is a found footage film. The answer is easy. The found footage in this movie is a plot device and not a narrative device, so no it isn’t. It is a third person movie the whole way through. You wouldn’t have called it a found footage film if the murderer’s perspective was written down in a diary which the protagonist discovered and read. That’s basically the same plot device as the found footage, isn’t it?

  • Comment number 81.

    I'll tell you whats's sinister: the fact that you haven't given Inglourious Basterds a proper (ie. non-hysterical) review yet. In fact, many of the reviews are becoming wierdly bad, for example your reveiw to Prometheus essentially boiled down to "I liked it", which is strange considering it was a complete shambles - there seemed to be about ten species of alien in it for goodness sake!

    I've forgotten the question.

  • Comment number 82.

    I don't think it is unfair to categorise Sinister as a found footage film, but it may be unfortunate that it doesn't keep better company. In the light of your post, Dr K, I could consider Found Footage to be a genre, but not a particularly useful one given how widely it can be interpreted.

    Whether a concept is a technique or a genre is dependent upon how it is used, and in the case of FF 'genre' films, if the FF is used as a plot device then that, for me, defines a genre. In films like Cloverfield, Blair Witch and Cannibal Holocaust the film's delivery is as much a conceit and plot device as it is, more literally, in Sinister and The Ring. The difference being in those films - Cloverfield, etc - the audience takes the role played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

  • Comment number 83.

    Found footage are films that try and make the viewer believe they have discoved the footage and are watching it for themselves. Instead of a "regular" movie that has a structure and different points of view other than the view of the hand held camera holder. Found footage films dont have music scores or different camera angles or multiple camera shots of the same scene. I watched the devil inside at the cinema and didnt know it was a found footage film. As soon i saw the wobberly camera bounce about i knew i was in danger. The film was rubbish with the worst ending ever.

  • Comment number 84.

    In my opinion, found footage films are defined by the filmmaker purportedly existing in the same world as the audience. As a technique it is this that gives the films the feeling that what you are seeing is somehow real. This would seem to disqualify 'Sinister' (not that I've seen it) as the footage that is found clearly exists within the film world not our own.

    Incidentally, is the good doctor aware of "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski, the only "found footage novel" I am aware of? It would also be a great contender for the unfilmable novel list from a previous blog.

  • Comment number 85.

    As I'm not really into horror, and found footage is something mostly limited to horror, I don't feel that qualified to say exactly what it is. In my fairly inexperienced opinion, then, it's a trope that names a sub-genre. It's not a genre; western is a genre, horror is a genre, action is a genre. Spaghetti western, ghost story, martial arts are all respective sub-genres of those, and to me it fits in that sort of group.

    However this, by all accounts, is not the same as Blair Witch in style. The whole of that film occurred *inside* the found footage. I don't know if Cannibal Holocaust does that as well, but the way it's described here suggests the footage is some but not all of the film. Sinister, if I'm understanding this, is a traditional style of narrative/cinematography that concerns a man who finds some footage, which is then shown for us, the viewers, as he watches it, presumably intercut with his response. If that's right, calling it a found footage film is like calling Apocalypse Now an action film because there are some gunfights in it, or saying Easy Rider is a film about bikers (or perhaps that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about spying...). No, it's a trope; Blair Witch is wholly about that trope, so it's completely fair to call it "a found footage film", whereas here it's used merely as a plot point.

  • Comment number 86.

    I was slightly surprised when Dr K decided to critique Sinister along the lines of being a found footage film because in previous examples where he has expressed disappointment at the overuse of the device, particularly in horrors and thrillers, it has almost always been in reference to films which try to use the faked authenticity of the footage to draw the audience into a state of mind where they suspend their disbelief and become concerned about the characters' welfare, despite the fantastical layers of fiction which are gradually added e.g. Chronicle (2012). So it's basically a more creative way of inserting the cliched 'This story is based on true events' claim at the start of a film - or sometimes you get a combination of the two, as in the excellent Lake Mungo (2008). I think you have said yourself that the film makers are often playing on the familiarity that the modern world has with surveillance footage and news footage in order to manipulate the viewers emotional response to fiction - you could draw very obvious comparisons between news footage of 9/11 and Cloverfield. Cannibal Holocaust mainly did the same thing, blurring the lines between fiction and reality more than any other film of this type - but it also seemed to back out of its approach at times, occasionally reverting to art-house cinematography e.g. the scene involving the tree dwellers, or abstracting itself further by showing news company execs discussing the ethics of the footage that they had supposedly found (as if anticipating the controversy the fictional film would cause) - but most of the film does trick the viewer into being disgusted by the behavior of fictional characters. It seems like Sinister is more in the category of Videodrome, Freeze Frame, Fear X or The Ring i.e. it portrays the way we interact with technological communications and how they change us, whether it is via a projector or a video player (the abyss staring back into us), rather than pretending to be the actual footage itself. Grouping Videodrome and Blair Witch into the same genre is like grouping High School Musical with The Big Lebowski because they both contain surreal dance sequences - the intent is completely different. In Sinister, you are supposed to empathise with the viewer of the found footage, where as Blair Witch encourages you to place yourself in the shoes of people who are in the found footage. Often, the use of the device seems to imply that the film maker neither has the skill or budget to produce realism like e.g. Michael Haneke, Ben Wheatley or The Dardenne Brothers, so instead they fall back on a cheap trick in order to try an dupe the audience, but then shoot themselves in the foot with ridiculous over-explaining and convoluted exposition e.g. Tape 407 or Evidence.

  • Comment number 87.

    All I know about found footage movies is that they're easy to write, easy to make, make you loads of money, and don't require any talent. Whatever happened to the days when a horror film could be scary without having to resort to stereotypical characters, overly explicit gore sequences, and filming techniques that make unrealistic horror schlock seem realistic?

  • Comment number 88.

    It's not that you were wrong Mark, it's as the original comment says; it was misleading.
    If there is such a genre as found footage film then I completely agree that Sinister should be lumped in there with the rest but, people assume you mean that the whole film is found footage in the way that Blair Witch is and it should be noted that it's found footage combined with standard footage.

  • Comment number 89.

    I have to admit I winced when you called Sinister 'another found footage' film. I'm afraid I think it's definitely neither - this is because in my mind 'found footage' is a style. The medium of the storytelling is the 'found footage'. In Sinister, the film is told in a more 'normal' fashion, it just happens to be about 'found footage', which we are shown. You could argue that any movie featuring found footage could belong in the genre but I think it would makes the border lines of the genre a bit blurry.

    Also, calling it 'another' found footage film implies it is just another 'Parasnormal Activity, Cloverfield, Atrocious or even ugh, The Devil Inside. Because Sinister is largely dissimilar from those films it's not really fair to give people the idea that it is one of those. It's better, really.

    Personally, I like 'found footage' films because when directors get them right we are treated to a Rec, Blair Witch Project or even The Tunnel, which for makes up for most of the others. Shockingly awful as they are.

  • Comment number 90.

    Sinister probably does count as a found footage film in the same sense that Cannibal Holocaust does, although it isn't fair to lump it in with the current glut of entirely found footage turkeys.

    So I think that, if you are going to define Sinister as found footage, it's worth qualifying that it doesn't rely on the found footage gimmick and merely uses it as a device.

    Sinister is a found footage film, but not an entry in the found footage sub-genre.

  • Comment number 91.

    I concur with many of the views posted here already: to be a found footage film, the film's narrative must entirely play out within the found footage. This is true of "The Blair Witch Project", "Cloverfield", "Paranormal Activity" and many others berated by Mark, but "Sinister" is a film that FEATURES the finding of footage, but only uses this as a dramatic device. I have not seen the film, but the trailer indicates photographs as well as film, so the home movies that Ethan Hawke finds are simply clues in a mystery that he investigates.

 

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