Frenetic aesthetics: Observational horror and spectatorship | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-3275
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3283



This article examines a contemporary subgenre of horror cinema that appropriates the aesthetics of observational documentary. In these films the camera exists in the diegesis; the camera is usually controlled by a character and is meant to move in a way that plausibly represents how this person would handle it if the situation were real. The term ‘observational horror’ is given to the subgenre as an alternative to ‘mockumentary’, which is a style of film that stands in contrast to it. The article focuses on the unique nature of viewing experience these films promote. It argues that spectators are confronted with instability, a paradox in regards to what is promised by these films, what and how this is delivered, and how and why this makes them feel and react in particular ways. The article includes close readings of The Blair Witch Project, [REC], Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): anxiety; documentary; epistephilia; experience; first person; horror; phenomenology
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