As society and technology evolves, so too does the art of filmmaking. The 2010s saw a massive trend of “found footage” horror movies after being popularized by Blair Witch Project in 1999 and again by Paranormal Activity in 2009. But as technology grew and things like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime became more popular, the genre evolved again into what I like to call “Web Footage”.
This subgenre has been called other names like “Desktop Horror” or “Screen Film”, but all of these names simply refer to a movie that entirely takes place on a computer screen via webcams and where we see characters clicking on things, as if they’re sharing their screen with us the whole time.
So we thought it would be fun to look at some of the creepiest films from this subgenre released in the last decade, and relish in all that makes us even more paranoid to be in front of a computer screen armed with a camera and microphone!
5. Missing (2023) – Minor Spoilers
It was a toss up about whether to include 2018’s Searching or its 2023 spinoff/sequel Missing in this spot, but it goes to the latter and for good reason. Searching is a great mystery/thriller that keeps you guessing and the way they turn it into an in-universe episode of a true crime series in Missing is kind of amazing. But when it comes to creepiness, Missing takes the cake.
As much as we feel the horror for David Kim (John Cho) trying to find his teenage daughter Margot, there was an added sense of vulnerability and fear for June (Storm Reid) in Missing, as she’s only 18 years old and feeling lost without her mother. She’s much younger and unprepared for taking care of herself or living on her own, all while trying to deal with the mystery of finding her mother.
There’s also an added sense of danger and horror when June ends up being held captive and having to fight her way out. Essentially both films keep you guessing the entire time and weave fascinating mysteries, but Missing goes for that creepier, scarier vibe, especially when June is alone in her house at night, and fears someone may be coming for her.
4. Host (2020)
While the entire world was in quarantine and reeling with excessive loneliness and isolation, a group of British actors and filmmakers were putting together a demonic horror film entirely on Zoom that not only captured how the world was feeling, but managed to be pretty creepy in its own right.
Its premise and setting immediately made it relatable, but it took that sense of shared isolation, and gave us a new reason to be creeped out by it. It managed to create a creepy tone and use jump scares that never earned rather than cheap. Plus, it manages to pull off a few genuinely shocking moments, all with a runtime that caps out at only about 50 minutes, which is just enough time it needs to be effective.
3. Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Much like the Searching and Missing, it was a toss up whether to include the original Unfriended from 2015 or its 2018 sequel/spinoff. Here you have two films that utilize the same style, taking place entirely over Skype, but wholly different in style and approach. The first is fully supernatural and involves a vengeful spirit getting back at the teens who wronged her. Whereas the second drops all forms of the paranormal and instead deals with the uncharted waters of the dark web and the nefarious illegal activity that goes with it.
Where this movie surpasses its original is that it feels entirely plausible. Because there’s no supernatural element, the fear comes from dangerous criminals using technology to surveil, manipulate, and cause us great harm. One particularly chilling scene involves the anonymous villains “SWATing” one of the characters houses and getting the police to think he’s armed so they shoot him dead. You hear about things like this happening in the news, and it’s genuinely terrifying.
2. Ratter (2015)
Speaking of non-supernatural horror films that deal with the danger of real people doing terrible things, most people have never heard of Ratter. Starring Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars), this movie literally opens up a computer and phone being hacked, and the entire film we’re watching is the disturbing voyeurism of a dangerous criminal spying on a young woman living alone.
We see every moment from the mundane, to the embarrassing, to the intimate. And what’s most disturbing is that every second of the movie we’re watching, we’re seeing it through the POV of this voyeur invading the woman’s privacy and it kind of makes you feel icky, as well as terrified for her.
1. Megan is Missing (2011)
Let’s be clear, in no way, shape, or form is this movie fun or entertaining. It crosses lines that most people wouldn’t cross, and we wouldn’t fault anyone not wanting to watch it due to its incredibly distressing subject matter. Taking place entirely over internet webcams, Megan is Missing follows two underaged teenage girls and the horrors that befall them after befriending a stranger on the internet and giving them too much information about themselves.
It goes to incredibly dark places and remains very controversial for the way it depicts certain scenes of sexual assault. Like we said, this is an intentionally disturbing and distressing film that’s clearly meant to be more of a cautionary tale rather than a titillating horror film. That said, it remains up for debate whether or not it needed to be so graphic or so detailed to get its point across. But there is no debate as to whether this is the most disturbing web footage movie ever made, as well as one of the most disturbing movies ever made.
What do you think of our list? Are there any movies you would have included? Let us know in the comments!
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