Check out these 5 “documentary” films to die for

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Even if you’re a horror movie buff, found footage horror is kind of a divisive subgenre – which is fair, because most of them rely on cheap gimmicks that help hide small budgets and bad effects. But for some it is considered a more realistic and engrossing form of cinema, if done well.

Found sequence horror franchises such as Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project have helped bring the format to life, but a few notable films are overlooked by the success of popular titles or the failure of bad ones.

Here’s a look at 5 documentary-style horror movies to check out:

The Medium (2021)

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Thailand’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars, The Medium chronicles the harrowing experiences of a family of Thai psychics, where gods and demons coexist in the most unsettling way possible.

Nim, an ingenious psychic, strives to eliminate an evil entity that is tormenting her niece. It’s a very patient mystery-solving process that may have just overstayed its welcome in the first half. But once the commercial end of the story kicks in, this simmering urban horror builds itself.

Presenting itself as a collection of footage put together by a documentary crew and also found with their cameras, the film shows extreme paranormal events while maintaining the mockumentary style with frequent intertitles explaining the situation. Despite its share of cliches, the film’s grounded premise of Thai demonology paired with the top-notch performances of its Thai cast really ensure that The Medium can easily get under your skin.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

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The Taking of Deborah Logan involves a documentary team studying Deborah, the former owner of a telephone operating service, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although reluctant to expose herself to a group of strangers, she is encouraged to participate by her daughter, Sarah, who hopes to keep their family home with the money made from the production. As Deborah begins to show signs of illness, certain behaviors suggest something supernatural may be at play.

It’s Jill Larson’s performance as Deborah that makes the movie worth watching. In one scene, she looks like the nice old lady next door. Moments later, she’s a demon of your worst nightmares. Deborah’s deteriorating mental state, which has taken a heavy toll on Sarah, creates a shared mania that makes increasingly abnormal events seem almost reasonable. It’s not until the third act, when the physical manifestation of the supernatural is revealed, that the audience receives undeniable evidence of possession.

The Visit (2015)

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The Visit follows two children, Becca, an aspiring author, and her younger brother, Tyler, a serious germaphobe and aspiring rapper, as they go to visit their grandparents whom they have never met.

Despite its predictable premise and not-so-scary plot, The Visit’s strength lies in giving in almost completely to found clichés. Nana’s increasingly unsettling nocturnal rages and Pop Pop constantly dressing up for a costume party that never materializes long enough to make it to the end of the film.

M. Night Shyamalan is no stranger to movie buffs, and while The Visit isn’t one of his best-known films, it’s a decent entry into the found footage subgenre. Peppered with poor rapping skills showcased by the younger brother in the film (which annoyed me, but might be welcome comic relief for some), The Visit is best described as surprising rather than terrifying. If you’re really into found movies, then The Visit is worth checking out.

As Above, So Below (2014)

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If you know the Divine Comedy and Dante’s journey through the 9 circles of hell, you’ll enjoy As Above, So Below. Although the film draws from various mythologies, it is Dante’s Inferno and its intricate rendering of hell that most accurately reflects protagonist Scarlett Marlowe’s journey, making it an unconventional mockumentary that offers construction layered impressive world.

The film follows Scarlett’s quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone. She assembles a team of explorers as they venture into the French Catacombs and uncover the dark secret that lies beneath the City of Lights. This movie has garnered a cult following over the years, with audiences wondering whether or not it’s based on Dante’s Inferno or Hermeticism, as the movie’s title directly references its core premise. If you like to dive deep into Easter eggs once you’ve finished a movie, As Above, So Below will give you plenty to browse.

Noroi: The Curse (2005)

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Over the years, this Japanese horror film has become a classic for found footage enthusiasts, not only because of its unconventional way of telling stories, but also because it manages to blur the lines between fiction and reality.

The film follows a freelance journalist, Kobayashi, as he investigates a series of seemingly unrelated paranormal events linked by the legend of an ancient demon called the “Kagutaba”.

Noroi is presented more like a conventional documentary intended to entertain and inform a mass audience, so it looks more like a real movie than a random old amateur movie. The film’s commitment to presenting itself as a true documentary can be shocking if you’re not prepared for it. Like any seasoned researcher, Kobayashi closely analyzes several disturbing clips throughout the film. This, along with other scenes opposite the film, leaves the audience wondering if the legendary demon is real or not.

So even if you don’t particularly like the format, these found movies are worth checking out if you’re a horror fan – or just in the mood to scare yourself!

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