It’s an oldie, but a goodie: back in 2007, before iPhones, before Paranormal Activity, before Marble Hornets, the video diary of Louise Paxton caused quite a stir on YouTube. Having just moved into her south London flat, Paxton initially started the vlog as a way to show off her living space and keep in touch with friends and family across town, but it quickly becomes instead a way to document the disturbing activity of a supposed “stalker” creeping around her home. When the police are no help, Louise becomes determined to document and collect evidence so that they’ll take her seriously. But as things escalate, it soon becomes apparent that Louise’s “stalker” may not be a person–but something much worse that she inadvertently let in. The final video is purportedly posted by her best friend, and contains footage of Louise’s final activities prior to vanishing from her locked bedroom, never to be seen or heard from again.
This series, which is also known as In the Dark, is notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the number of people who at the time were convinced that it was all true. It wasn’t, of course–the writer and producer has since come forward to take credit for it, and the actress playing Louise is alive and well and enjoying a steady career. This was a fairly early entry in the found footage genre of storytelling, before people became jaded to it and caught on to all the tropes. But part of the reason so many were fooled is that the videos are not only creepy and compelling, but also so convincing — even after events take an obviously paranormal turn. Louise is Missing is a better Paranormal Activity than Paranormal Activity.
Here’s a deep dive into the series and how it effectively blurred the lines between fiction and reality at The Ghost in My Machine, which is how I ended up watching it this weekend. The original website is here, but unfortunately the videos and the original channel are no longer available to US viewers. Fortunately for us, though, someone was kind enough to string all of the videos together into one feature-length movie, which you can watch below. A warning, though, to anyone who, like me, has a low-tolerance for shaky cam: there’s a fair bit of it in this. Not a ton, but just enough to force me to look away at times and leave me feeling mildly queasy by the end. It seems that’s just the price you have to pay if you’re a fan of found footage horror.