Sara Grasberg


The Post-9/11 Found Footage Horror Film: Terror, Technology and Power in Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity


This paper explores the correlation between found footage horror films—which are characterized by their realistic style and marketing—and the increasing emphasis on and access to mobile media technologies after 9/11. These technologies help characters mediate experiences of terror by systemically and structurally changing the public and private spheres in two particular films of this subgenre: Cloverfield (2008) and Paranormal Activity (2009). Cloverfield takes place in the public sphere in the face of large scale terror, and the technology used in the film to document this terror mostly empowers citizens. Paranormal Activity takes place in the private sphere and depicts an invisible terror and technologies which mostly disempower citizens who use surveillance tactics for selfish and combative means. Theories of citizen journalism and surveillance are examined and applied to a close textual analysis of these films to consider why and how citizens use these technologies, and how viewers might understand how such technologies function. Further, this research closely deals with how new technologies are changing the way we experience and cope with terror. Whether these technologies can empower or disempower us depends on the nature of the terror and the public or private sphere setting in which the terror hits. The films promise that through correct use of technology and through the internet, public and private power merge, allowing a more fluid power dynamic and for healing to take place.