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Filtered Reality: Found Footage, Screenlife, and the Epistolary Tradition

On this episode of Sitting in the Dark, host Tommy Metz III is joined by Pete Wright and Andy Nelson for an exploration of found footage and epistolary films. As Tommy explains, the goal is to examine how certain horror movies have upheld the literary epistolary tradition on screen through the use of found footage techniques.

The episode provides an analysis of found footage pioneer The Blair Witch Project, examining how its use of multiple cameras and time jumps strips away the usual cinematic artifice to create heightened suspense. They then delve into Unfriended, dissecting how its adherence to the rules of screenlife cinema immerses the viewer in the fear of a socialscape driven by technology. Host builds tension in a similar way despite its lower energy, with the horror manifesting in the characters’ homes as captured by their webcams during a séance.

Oh how there be questions here: how the epistolary tradition translates effectively to film, the unreliability of each limited viewpoint, and how modern interfaces and tech glitches can maximize unease. They discuss the restrictions naturally imposed by found footage that heighten the suspense, and the use of familiar technologies we constantly engage with that breaks down the separation between fiction and reality.

For an incisive look at how modern horror films immerse audiences by cleverly adhering to the epistolary style, this episode of Sitting in the Dark is essential listening. Tommy and crew pare an expansive topic down to its essence, analyzing pioneering films that maximize unease through their ingenious use of limited camera angles and familiar technologies. This is a conversation on how modern greats manipulate horror to blur the line between reality and nightmare.

A podcast exploring horror in film across classics and subgenres with Kyle Olson, Tommy Metz, Ray DeLancey, Pete Wright, and more.