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Framing the Found Footage Horror Film

Sayad, Cecilia (2014) Framing the Found Footage Horror Film. In: Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference 2014, 18-23 March 2014, Seattle, USA. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:42008)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


The filming of strange phenomena in “Paranormal Activity” is often followed by the characters’ analysis of the recorded material, suggesting that the image can contain the evil force disturbing the female protagonist’s sleep. It is as if by containing the supernatural inside the borders of a screen Micah and Katie could better understand, measure, and even control it. Ironically, the act of filming backfires, and instead invites the “monster” into the characters’ lives. This paper explores the found-footage horror film’s approach to this tension between containing and the uncontainable, which has pervaded theories of framing. Indeed, the frame becomes the element through which I investigate the implications of the found-footage horror’s documentary claim and style on our perception of the film’s connection with the surrounding real.

While considerations about the real in the study of horror usually address the possibility of a causal link between a general mood and the tone of the films produced at a certain point in history, this paper proposes a different approach—one that reflects on the increasingly tenuous boundaries separating representation from real life: the popularity of reality TV being this phenomenon’s clearest illustration. It is hence that I propose that we look at what the horror film’s relationship to the real says about the movies’ desire to at once erect and erode the boundaries separating the fictional diegesis from the world that surrounds it.

“Paranormal Activity” blurs the distinction between film and reality at three levels: the presentation of the story as real (collapsing fact and fiction), the diegetic status of the cameras (merging the filmic with the extrafilmic), and the style of framing (playing on the separation between on- and off-screen spaces, visually dramatizing the sense that the film and the extrafilmic are separated by a thin membrane). Though these elements overlap I will gradually move from a macro to a micro level—from the existential status of the represented events as fictional or documentary to the spatial separation between film and the extrafilmic, and finally to framing’s contribution to the resulting sense of instability at the other two levels.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: horror film, frame, found footage, documentary, realism, reality, paranormal activity
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Cecilia Sayad
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2014 17:25 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2021 12:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sayad, Cecilia:
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