The vogue for low-budget found footage genre movies would seem to have petered out sometime after the release of “Paranormal Activity 2.” But the surprise success of “The Devil Inside” shines a spotlight on Hollywood’s continued, and in many ways renewed, interest in the form. In the coming months, a range of studios will take their shot at the genre, from a superhero movie at Fox to a supernatural airplane thriller at CBS. Let’s take a look back at some gems from found footage past. (Toni Salabasev / Magnet Releasing / Phil Caruso / Paramount / Summit Entertainment / Tribeca Film)
The plot: “The Devil Inside” is the story of a woman who confesses to a triple homicide and is eventually shipped to a hospital for the criminally insane in Rome with ties to the Vatican. Twenty years later, the woman’s daughter travels to Italy to find out if her mother is mentally ill or possessed. A cameraman captures the adventure as the girl teams up with two young priests who practice their own exorcism techniques outside the guidelines of the church. Like “The Exorcist” and may others before it, “The Devil Inside” follows footage of what really happens to people when they are possessed, and when an exorcism is performed on them. Breaking bones, blood, defying gravity and even unnatural windy gusts are all caught on film.
What goes bump in the night: Demonically possessed people.
How the footage was found: Presumably, the footage was recovered from a wrecked vehicle that inexplicably swerved into oncoming traffic, killing the daughter of a convicted, and psychotic, woman, plus a cameraman. (Toni Salabasev / Paramount)
The plot:In March 2003, an unassuming reality TV crew stumbles into an abandoned psychiatric ward looking for proof of the afterlife. After a lurid tour from the groundskeeper, the crew finds what they’re looking for. The only hitch: no one ever finds them.
What goes bump in the night: Suicidal patients and a lobotomy-hungry M.D.
How the footage was found: Seven years later, the footage surfaces without a trace. (Tribeca Film Festival)
The plot: A troubled evangelical minister agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed to chronicle the event and expose the fraud of his ministry.
What goes bump in the night: The demon-possessed farmer’s daughter Nell Sweetzer.
How the footage was found: The footage was taken by a documentary film crew. (Patti Perret / Lionsgate)
The Plot:A crew of student journalists think they’re hot on the trail of a bear poacher, only to find an elaborate government cover-up and the man who’s behind it all: Hans, the Troll Hunter. Hans takes them deep into the back country to track the ancient species while explaining his storied past. There are hill trolls, bridge trolls and trolls that love the blood of Christian men -- a fact that proves problematic for at least one of the crew.
What goes bump in the night:Trolls!
How the footage was found:The footage was found in the Nordic tundra after being overlooked by Norwegian officials trying to cover their tracks. (Magnet Releasing)
The plot: A young couple, annoyed by strange activity in their house in the middle of the night, sets up a series of cameras to capture their nocturnal visitor.
What goes bump in the night: An invisible demon.
How the footage was found: Discovered by police in the couple’s home in San Diego on Oct. 11, 2006, along with the body of Micah Sloat. (Paramount Pictures)
The plot: Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission, where two American astronauts were sent on a secret expedition, reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.
What goes bump in the night: Infectious aliens with spider legs that look like moon rocks.
How was the footage found: Classified footage of the mission was leaked to the media. (Dimension Films)
The plot:What begins as a flirtatious night out ends with the demolition of New York City. “Cloverfield” follows five New Yorkers as they struggle to survive the wrath of a gargantuan snaggle-toothed monster attacking the city.
What goes bump in the night:An amphibious creature with a penchant for destruction.
How the footage was found:The Department of Defense recovers the footage at U.S. incident site 447, the area formerly known as Central Park. (Paramount Pictures)
The plot: Police study a trove of 800 videotapes shot by a serial killer who documented every aspect of his crimes, from the stalking to the capture, torture and eventual killing of his subjects.
What goes bump in the night: A creepy serial killer
How the footage was found: The collection of tapes is uncovered after a police raid of an abandoned house in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (MGM)
The plot: A television reporter and her camera crew follow a fire department during its night shift. She follows the firemen to an apartment building when they get a call about a woman trapped in her apartment. What they discover upon arrival is the beginnings of an outbreak of a virus that causes its victims to turn violent.
What goes bump in the night: Infected zombie-like people.
How the footage was found: Never explained. But it’s presumed to have been discovered sometime after the building in question was cleared. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
The plot: Three film students set off into the Black Hills Forest to hunt down the story a local legend: the Blair Witch. Legend has it the witch possessed local hermit Rustin Parr forcing him to murder small children. As the students move deeper into the forest, they realize they are no longer alone. The hunters have become the hunted.
What goes bump in the night: The Blair Witch
How the tapes were found: A year after its disappearance, a bag of tapes surfaces showing the haunting demise of the young videographers. (Haxan Films)
The plot: An anthropologist travels to the Amazon to determine the fate of a missing American documentary crew. He finds the tapes left behind by the murdered crew and reveals how and why they were murdered.
What goes bump in the night: Angry Amazonian villagers. Though the behavior of the American crew is just as shocking and reprehensible. So let’s say the monster here is... us!
How the footage was found: It was being held by the Amazonian tribe, traded to the anthropologist through a cannibalistic ceremony.
Fun fact: Ten days after the film’s premiere, director Ruggero Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges, which were later amended to include a murder charge. It was only after Deodato assembled the film’s cast for a TV appearance and explained how the film’s graphic effects were achieved that the murder charges were dropped. Deodato was convicted of obscenity, however, and the film was banned for years in many countries. (Grindhouse Releasing)