This Is Spinal Tap
One of the funniest films ever made This Is Spinal Tap is almost certainly the greatest mockumentary in existence. The film follows the band Spinal Tap on tour and the absolute ludicrousness that comes with it. Brilliant joke is followed by brilliant joke followed by brilliant joke followed by being second on the bill to a puppet show. While not the first mockumentary it is the film that cemented the idea of what a mockumentary is.
What We Do In The Shadows
A mockumentary that shines a light on the vampire community of New Zealand and discovers that as well as being terrifying monsters they can also be quite difficult housemates. The four vampire housemates live a life in the shadows, using human familiars, or rather, familiar, to handle their everyday needs and to lure people to their deaths.
The Rutles is a mockumentary about a band that in many ways bears a striking resemblance to The Beatles and the film charts their successes and failures. As is appropriate for a film made by Eric Idle it is incredibly silly and has a very Monty Python feel to it, the narrator is very much lifted straight out of Monty Python. The four Rutles are Dirk McQuickly, Ron Nasty, Barry Wom and Stig O’Hara, and those are by no means the best name with Leggy Mountbatten, a Brian Epstein parody, taking that prize.
The Nowhere Inn
Perhaps the oddest entry on this list – The Nowhere Inn, is a truly bizarre mockumentary, pop star St Vincent (or rather Annie Clark) asks a filmmaker friend to make a documentary/concert film. But the friend some realises that while St Vincent is an unconventional rock star weirdo the real Annie is not as compelling. So the friend asks Annie to make it more interesting and she agrees to be effectively become St Vincent 24/7. Which it turns out can have some negative consequences. The film plays with the idea of identity and reality and not just in terms of making films and documentaries.
I Blame Society
After another rejected project filmmaker Gillian has a new idea for a film – a documentary of her following the steps taken by serial killers as they lead up to their first kill. One of the first scenes is Gillian asking her friends to repeat a comment they had made about her – that she would be a good serial killer. She chooses a victim, does recon on their house, does research on murder…at some point it becomes clear that this is no longer someone simply staging this for an interesting documentary but something much darker.
By no means a mockumentary all the way through parts of the movie are made in this exact style,making a documentary of the arrival of the alien spaceship, how they are treated by people, “interviews” with academics and experts. It also has moments of fly-on-the-wall mockumentary as a film crew goes to follow Wikus as he issues the eviction notices to the aliens.
A mockumentary tv show created by Saturday Night Live legends Bill Hader and Fred Armisen that developed out of SNL sketches. Each episode is it’s own mockumentary on a different subject – such as the career of soft rock band The Blue Jean Committee and door to door globe salesmen. The first episode, Sandy Passage, is a parody of cult documentary Grey Gardens; the real documentary detailing the lives of two reclusive, upper-class women lives in poverty in a crumbling mansion, and the mockumentary captures the oddness of the original and makes it even funnier.
For Your Consideration
Another mockumentary from the team behind This Is Spinal Tap this time focused on Hollywood and “Oscar-buzz”. A documentary is being made of the making on a film called Home For Purim, a low budget drama about a Jewish family and in the convuluted way these rumours start one person suggests there’s talk of Oscars and that snowballs. With that information out there the actors, writers etc all obsess about the possibility of them getting an Oscar. The highlight of the film is the portrayals of Hollywood news programmes where Jane Lynch and Fred Willard play obnoxious and idiotic “journalists” with Fred Willard (in the 70s at this point) trying to look like he’s in his 20s.
One of the oddest things ever to appear on the BBC Ghostwatch was supposed to be a live broadcast paranormal investigation, utilising a range of real television presenters to play themselves, such as Michael Parkinson and Sarah Greene. Parkinson stays in the studio while Greene visits a house that the residents claim to be haunted. It is a curious item of television history as it is not terribly convincing but was quite original at the time (I watched it as a child and was terrified).
The line between mockumentary and found footage genres can be a little muddled at times, but as Rec is construed as a documentary for Spanish television it counts. Angela is a reporter doing a documentary on local firefighters, going with them on calls, they arrive at an apartment building where it is believed a resident has fallen ill but is locked inside their apartment. When they get inside they are attacked by what can only be described as a zombie. They then quickly realise that the building has been quarantined by the authorities and any attempt to leave will have severe consequences.
Also Read: Director Deep Dive: Neill Blomkamp