What Makes Unfiction So Scary? An Analysis of Analog Horror and Found Footage - Anatomy of Fear

Welcome to the Panopticon Theatre. ⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙ Today we discuss Unfiction, Analog Horror, and Found Footage, and what I think makes them particularly effective styles of horror, plus my take on how to succeed in making your own series. ⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙ Timestamps: 0:00 - Short 0:32 - Intro 2:00 - What makes them scary? 4:21 - Good Examples 7:28 - How not to do it 11:31 - My keys to making a successful series 13:27 - Conclusion ⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙ Sit in the VIP booths as a Member: Support the channel through Kofi: Join the discord: Twitter: More links: Business Contact Email (Do not use for non-business purposes, it will be ignored): ⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙⦿⊙

Panopticon Theatre

11 months ago

"Yeah, uh, this is what I was telling you about..." "I found these tapes in the basement... I guess the old owners left them." "I don't know why they didn't take them with them, but... I was gonna look through them, to see if I could figure out, you know, who they belong to so I can send them back, but..." "I don't know, I found something... kinda weird? And I was wondering..." "You know, maybe if you could check through the footage and uh, see if you can figure out what it is?" [Heavy static]
[Slow, loud knocking] [Panicked breathing] Found footage is a genre of filmmaking  that uses footage shot to appear as if taken in situ and recovered. It is  most often used as a tool for horror, though it can be used for other genres. It tends  to look deliberately low budget. It was generally recognised as a genre with the release of  the Blair Witch project in the late 90s, and since then has been used in many  different ways across different productions. Analog horror is a subgenre of found
footage  which has been around since maybe the early 2010s, but has been gaining more mainstream popularity  recently, particularly as we can see examples of it now in modern popular media, such  as with Skinamarink, which just recently released at the time of this video. This genre  specifically uses analog technology and other technology from around the late 1900s, or the  mimicry of it, as an element of it’s design, and can feature intentional glitches,  distortions and low-quality footage. T
hese - plus other elements – are often a  part of what became known as 'unfiction', a type of immersive storytelling media usually  produced by independent creators on the internet, who create fictional stories and scenarios  that attempt to appear as if they were real. These can follow a vlogging or documentary style,  footage from TV or tapes, social media accounts, video game footage or even  things like travel brochures. Today on the Panopticon Theatre, what  makes found footage scary? What
elements do the creators of this type of media use – or  misuse – to create these feelings? And what, in my opinion, is the key to successfully  utilising this style of horror? [INTRO CUTIN] I’m going to be exploring a  few of my favourite examples and how I think they either work or  fail to create this type of media. So, first of all, why do I think  this style is so effective? Found footage and analog horror often puts the  viewer not only in the front seat of the action, but often directly i
nvolves them in it. This  is particularly true when it comes to media with ARG elements. Some of the best and most  famous examples have the audience directly participate during the runtime of the series  by having them break down and solve puzzles, find hidden clues and even directly speak with the  characters of the series, usually through a social media channel. The more the viewer is involved  in the story, the more real it can feel, and therefore the more scary it is. Unfiction thrives  on
making itself seem real and realistic, like the events could actually be happening somewhere  out there in the world as you watch along. Viewer immersion is a key part of why this genre can  be so successfully unnerving when done right. Another element that adds to this  is the perspective characters. They are rarely some sort of competent  investigator or paranormal expert – often they are a friend or family member just trying to  find out what’s going on, or an employee looking over strange se
curity footage that they don’t  understand. Rarely do they have every piece of the puzzle, and those pieces they do have are  often not in the correct order and may not even be legible to them. They have limited information  and limited access to further information, and often they don’t even know what it is they’re  going up against. There is that old concept within horror media - the things you don't see are  scarier than the ones you do. This unknown creates this sense of unpredictability and
uncertainty  that leaves us feeling vulnerable and tense. This sense of near helplessness permeates the  media and adds to that horror factor – this is no action hero with an arsenal of weapons and years  of experience who can face this threat head on, this is just some college kid with a camera,  this is just someone who found this old game their dad was working on and wanted to find out  if it had any connection to his disappearance, this is just you. And yes, sometimes  that protagonist is y
ou – you are the one watching these tapes or these old bits of footage. What could you – or any of these protagonists – really expect to do if the force in  these videos does come knocking at your door? And for most of the protagonists of these series, it  will. The genre thrives on saying that this could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. This  taps in to our innate fears and sense of danger. Let’s look at some example of effective  found footage and why I think they work. One of the olde
r examples of this genre in the  internet sphere, Marble Hornets, was an ARG web series that developed from the Slenderman  mythos. It featured (assumed) protagonist Jay looking over tapes from a student film by  friend Alex Kralie that never reached completion, leading on to him discovering what happened  to Alex and everyone involved with the film and presenting it all to his YouTube  channel, filmed on a handheld camera. MH utilised glitching in both sound and video to  indicate the presence
of supernatural elements within the footage – when antagonist the Operator  shows up, or people or objects who are affected by it are on screen, glitching, screen tearing, audio  damage, and sometimes the footage just straight up cutting out, are commonplace. Otherwise,  the audio is completely as-recorded – there’s no background music or voiceover, only the sound  from whatever is happening on screen. Editing is minimal and is usually only explanatory text or  cutting out irrelevant areas of fo
otage. We are only ever shown what Jay has access to to show us,  which is often only part of the story and missing huge chunks of information. And when it’s  revealed that Jay has lost some of his memory, he, like the audience, only learn it when the  tapes detailing what happened are obtained. This leads to a great deal of suspense  and confusion, without it feeling like information is withheld for no reason. It  feels realistic – the lack of music and low editing means it really does feel lik
e the  serious presentation of events that occurred, rather than a show. And as we looked  at earlier, realism is often the key to making a found footage story feel scary. In  some cases it makes sense for there to be BGM, for example in game-style productions like  Petscop, but when it comes to vlog style series like Marble Hornets, often a BGM track  would be a strange thing to add to the content, looking at it from the in-world character’s  perspective. Why would a scared young man looking to
document these mysteries include a funny  little royalty-free vlogger jingle behind it? Basically, the more you can easily suspend  your disbelief and feel like the events of the footage could maybe really have happened or even  actively are happening, the more effective the horror becomes. If it makes sense in world, it can  make sense in our heads. It makes sense that the Operator can make footage glitch because it warps  reality – it wouldn’t make sense for a spooky music track to start play
ing whenever it shows  up. The more something makes sense in your head, the more seriously you subconsciously take it  - even if you know full well it's just a show, it creeps into your psyche and drops  that little seed of doubt and fear. Many similar productions use similar techniques to  bring you into the world they've created. Petscop, which I mentioned earlier, uses real  game company logos to influence that perception that Petscop could be a real  game. It's initially shot in an almost le
t's-play like format that many viewers will  be intimately familiar with, as the audience to this type of content is massively focused  towards those who spend a lot of time online. Other series, like the Mandela Catalogue,  are a bit vaguer in their realism over time, but draw you in with what look like realistic  public service announcements and broadcasts. The mystery flesh pit (which is  in much of a different format, but is still in the region of unfiction  horror) uses brochures and advert
isements that look like they could be genuinely  distributed by a real tourist agency. The realer it looks, the more  it draws you in and primes your brain to accept the more outlandish  parts of the story they're telling. Now that we've talked about why they succeed, let's talk about where a lot of horror  that attempts to mimic this format fails. Since we talked about Marble Hornets, I have to mention the quote-unquote  Marble Hornets movie Always Watching here, because it's a fantastic exampl
e of how to take  this format and just do it completely wrong. It starts with footage that our protagonists  never even see. It breaks the established in universe rules for how the Operator, er, operates.  It cuts in with footage our protagonists never had access to or should need to get access to, like  security cam footage that only serves to show them walking around, that could easily have been  solved with a camera cut. The protagonists are unrelateable and frankly unlikeable, unlike  those
of the actual series. This is all bad, but the worst of it, in my opinion, the real  reason Always Watching simply does not work, is that we're never given a reason  as to why we're looking at it, which I think is the key to all of the unfiction  horror genre - why are we, the viewer, seeing it? With Marble Hornets, Petscop, and similar, we  are being shown it because of the anomalous properties and being asked for help  or to at least see what's going on, or to document the events happening. Wi
th other  series, like Marble Hornets-alike everymanHYBRID, it starts as normal media footage that we might be  watching for other reasons, such as a let's play or in EverymanHYBRID's case a fitness channel,  and later evolves into it's horror as we watch. In the case of Mandela Catalog, this media is a  PSA - it's meant to be broadcast to the public. It later evolves into other footage,  but it was established enough as a PSA that we're already drawn in.  Others use advertising methods, which a
gain would be deliberately broadcast  to the public. EverymanHYBRID and Marble Hornets had characters interacting directly  with the viewers on their Twitter accounts, and EverymanHYBRID even had real life scavenger  hunts and events for people to participate in. Many, many pieces of analog horror, in my eyes, fail to grip you because they're too focused  on 'look at this scary image' and not 'you are in this world and this is happening  to you. Now look at this scary image.' Of course, examples
do succeed without  this element, but those that do often have more to offer than just scares  and draw you in in other ways. So, the key to unficton, in my eyes is this - you  have to bring the viewer into the world. You have to get them interacting with it as a player in  the game, not as a viewer. This is not traditional horror, where the viewer sits as a voyeur to  the content. You are creating on the internet, a platform with a world of possibilities for  viewer interaction. The series tha
t succeed don't just show the viewer a scary face or a  loud noise - they have them solving puzzles, digging through content, going to other  websites and finding hidden links, working together as a community to find  answers to what you present them with. If you just say to your viewer, here's Funny  Joe's Food Farm with Haunted Animatronics! Here's a recording of some security guard getting  killed! It doesn't mean anything. I mean, let's be real, the restaurant angle  is way overdone, but mor
e than that, if your viewer isn't locked into the world  you've created, it's just not going to be scary. Another, slightly less major element is the  production value. A lot of less effective internet horror relies on high editing - constant  video glitches, loud and sudden audio distortion, warped faces and environments - but the overuse  of these techniques is startlingly obvious to the viewer, and again it rarely gives us an  in-world reason the footage is like that. Better examples explain
themselves - the tapes  were water damaged, the game was never finished, the footage is actually just haunted -  but even that can't cover up when this distortion is clearly just thrown in as  much as possible for the scare factor. It's a part of analog horror, but  used without consideration as to why really just makes it look thrown  in and if anything breaks immersion. So, since I just complained a  bunch, I'll sum up my thoughts. Unfiction horror is a fantastic genre that has  a huge range o
f variety and potential. It's a rare case where non-professionals can easily  take a crack at producing their own media with the equipment they have available, regardless of  quality. It's collaborative and creative. And let me say that there's nothing wrong with creating an  'ineffective' series if you're having fun doing it - it's a lot of work either way and it's a great  way to develop editing and storytelling skills. I'm not by any means saying people shouldn't do  it if they don't think th
ey can get it perfect. But if you're looking to create your  own series in this style, here's my list of Unfiction and Analog Horror Keys: - Make sure all elements make sense in the world you've created. Why would this footage have a BGM  edited into it if it's being posted for careful analysis? How and why is this footage getting to  us? How are the protagonists accessing it? Does it make sense for an element to be a puzzle,  or are you just adding it to pad the runtime? - Don't change the rule
s of the world at random  - make sure you establish the functions, access and skills everybody and thing has. Don't suddenly  decide a monster can hack camera's when it's never done that before without good reason. Don't  suddenly decide your protagonist has access to his dead sister's laptop when 4 episodes  ago he explicitly stated he didn't know her password and has no other way to get it. - Get viewers involved in any way you can, and in unique and creative ways that make them  feel involved
in the world and story. If you can, give them a way to talk to the characters  directly, and let them solve puzzles and figure out things the protagonist couldn't. - Don't just throw in scares for the hell of it. Overuse of glitches and jumpscares can  actually kill the tension of the series and make it feel silly. And showing your hand  too early can ruin that tension equally, as when the viewer knows what the threat  is, it becomes significantly less scary. - Keep your POV character, if you h
ave one,  relatable above all else - they're a viewer insert! They should be weak and unable to deal  with the situation alone, not some buff genius who can instantly solve puzzles or bust their way out  of any danger. Let them get hurt or be threatened. - Following that, remember who your audience is  and what they'd find particularly relatable or scary. Don't pander to them, but understand where  they're coming to your series from and how you can use that to make your work even more effective.
- Don't overuse cliches. Seriously, we're done with restaurant animatronics. Unless you think  you can find a really unique way to do something, it's best to avoid the same old thing over again. - Most importantly, in my eyes - bring the viewer into the world and keep them there. Remember, this is just my personal opinion, but  as someone who has enjoyed and engaged with these genres for over a decade now I like to think  I have a good perspective on the matter. I've definitely seen both the wo
rst and best that  unfiction and analog horror have to offer. What do you think? Is there anything  I missed that you think is key to successful analog horror? Or do you just  want to yell at me for only talking about decades-old media instead of more recent  things? Let me know, and let me know also if you want to see me discuss any of the  media we mentioned today in more depth. [End] Thanks for watching today’s Panopticon  Theatre performance. What do you think? Did I miss anything? What do y
ou want me to talk about next? Make sure to sub and join  the audience if you want to see more.



Slight deviation in style today - did you like the little parody at the start? Big thanks to my lovely father for lending me the tapes (you totally can't tell one is just a George Micheal tape, right?), and also for playing the Spooky Hand! Who can guess what series we're talking about next? It's one of the series shown in this video!


When your knocking stopped, I heard more knocking behind me and had to pause the video to make sure. Wasn't surprised to hear the knocking continue as some people are doing some construction in a unit below us...


Love this! I'm always up to hear people talk about EMH, so that was a pleasant surprise!


your voice is so soothing and makes these videos about scary things feel less scary lol


your analysis is always so thoughtful! can't believe you don't have more subs?!


Another amazing analysis. Keep it up.


You’ve got an awesome voice for these videos


Nice video, looking forward to more!


banger video