Think back to the first found footage movie you ever saw in theaters. Something is unsettling about being locked into the perspective of the camera. You are being forced to follow jarring camera movements as the space around you becomes smaller and smaller with each scare. A good found footage film will either get a good scare out of you, or you just throw up from motion sickness.

These films have become predictable and often waste the audience's time trying to force us to care about obscure situations that are out of touch with reality. But [REC] isn’t like the rest. It stands proudly over the others because it finds horror in the thing we despise the most—isolation.

Ryan Hollinger breaks down what makes [REC] the best found-footage film of all time (sorry, The Blair Witch Project).


[REC] builds tension at a rapid speed. The film is barely 80 minutes long, but everything goes from 0 to 100 once the forced quarantine starts. Every moment is unpredictable, and there is never a chance to recover after the tension snaps. Plot details are added constantly to keep the audience engaged as the scares lurk right around the corner. 

One of the simple ways that the film uses tension is by containing the world of the film in a small space. The spiral staircase and a limited amount of rooms make the claustrophobia that found footage films are notorious for even more oppressive. 

The second way the film builds tension is through the characters. The characters in [REC] are everyday people that don’t have anything remarkable or archetypal about them. They just react to their discomfort; there are awkward conversations before and after interviews, insecurities that show themselves through how a person talks, and their raw reaction to scares. 

Lastly, tension is created by the beautifully blending sub-genres of horror. [REC] is a found footage film about a zombie outbreak that is caused by demonic possession. Those are three horror sub-genres wrapped up in an 80-minute movie, and it is done to perfection. With subtle side comments made by supporting characters and a quick revelation at the very last second, the last 10 minutes of the film leave audiences breathless. 

Staircase'[REC]'Credit: Filmax, Magnet Releasing


The characters in the film make the footage feel genuine. Ángela (Manuela Velasco) shows the switch from her casual conversation to her professional mode when she is interviewing. A nuanced detail that the filmmakers added was that Velasco was a presenter in real life and knew how to switch in and out of that professional mode. It is a small detail, but it makes a huge difference when trying to make a character feel like a person who exists in our reality.  

[REC] does something that every good found footage film does. The characters are constantly acknowledging the camera. 

Almost every single character looks directly into the camera unless they are told not to by Ángela or when they are trying not to die. It’s hard not to look straight into a camera when one is pointed at you. By allowing characters to peer straight into the lens, the audience recognizes that these people are average people who don’t feel comfortable around cameras like an actor would. 

Characters also deliver lines over one another to make the conversations feel natural and unscripted. Many scenes were improvised, and some of the scares were not written in or mentioned to the actors to get a genuine response out of them. When it’s dark in a scene, it’s because it is actually dark. All of these small details add to the realism of [REC]. 

InterviewManuela Velasco as Ángela in '[REC]'Credit: Filmax, Magnet Releasing


Found footage films have been slandered for being super easy to pull off. The bad ones use off-screen jumpscares, inconsistent cameras, and actors that dramatically react to nothing. The inconsistent camera in a bad found footage will have a character holding a handheld camera that is deliberately shaky to a well-crafted shot that is only there to evoke emotion from the audience. Many bad found footage films are now cheating with multi-camera and drones. (Please, for the love of film, don’t use drones in a found footage film.)

Consistency with the camera is important and meaningful. In The Blair Witch Project, the audience understands that these amateur filmmakers have no experience with cameras, and the unfocused shots and close zoom-ins emphasize this. Pablo (Pablo Rosso) in [REC] is an actual camera operator and knows what he is doing. He will do whatever it takes to get the best shot (cheers to all the fine camera operators out there), and this translates in the film as him just doing his job. 

The person holding the camera must have a purpose to hold the camera, and if they are clumsy with the camera or have a natural talent for getting the best shots possible, just make it believable. 

Rec-2007-manuela-velasco-pic-1'[REC]'Credit: Filmax, Magnet Releasing

When it comes to making a found footage film, remember that the world of the film needs to be grounded believably. Try to make the characters feel like “real” people and surprise them and the audiences with scares that no one is expecting. 

Did we miss any tips that can help make a good found footage film? Let us know below!

Source: Ryan Hollinger