Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Back in June, I reviewed the excellent found footage film Willow Creek. So when Exists opened on Friday, I had to go see the other found footage Bigfoot film that I’ve been looking forward to this year, which happens to be directed by the same man who brought us The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sanchez. Now, I’m one of those people who unabashedly loved The Blair Witch Project, and was very hopeful that a Bigfoot movie from the same director would be just as awesome. Recapturing that magic a second time was not in the cards, but I was still very pleased. Some minor spoilers ahead…
Exists follows Matt, his girlfriend Dora, Matt’s brother Brian, their friend Todd and his girlfriend Elizabeth, on a trip to a hunting cabin in the Big Thicket of east Texas. The cabin, owned by Matt and Brian’s Uncle Bob, has been abandoned for years, allegedly due to an “incident” years ago that Uncle Bob had there. Brian is apparently a GoPro fanatic and likes filming every moment of every day, and there’s your deus ex machina for why the audience can see exactly what happened to these five friends. As they drive into the woods, they hit some unseen animal with their car, and soon start hearing strange sounds at night and come to realize that they are being stalked by something that isn’t too happy with them.
Although it’s a found footage movie from the innovator of the found footage horror genre, Exists does not play out like many other found footage movies. For the most part, this works in its favor, but sometimes not so much. First, why it works. This is not a movie where things drag in the beginning while tension is slowly built. The movie opens with the five friends driving through the woods at night, and as they play pranks on Brian sleeping in the passenger seat, they hit something with their car in the woods. And while the friends don’t know exactly what it was, we the audience don’t need three guesses as to what it might have been.
The group continues on their way, but we don’t have to wait long for the spooky stuff to start happening. Some criticize “The Blair Witch Project” and other found footage movies to be too slow, building up suspense for too long and then having a not-so-satisfying payoff. Well, Exists packs in a lot of action and doesn’t keep the viewer waiting for too long to get to it. And once said action starts, there’s no real relief from it until the movie is over.
Another thing that “Exists” does right is the sound effects. The creature’s howls and screams sound exactly like one would imagine a Bigfoot would sound: half-animal, half-man, and completely disturbing. The creature actually looks pretty good too, and acts realistically. Like Goldthwait did for Willow Creek, Sanchez definitely did his homework about alleged Sasquatch behavior. And I won’t ruin the ending, but I will say that it’s a bit more satisfying than most movies in the genre, and doesn’t leave nearly as many loose ends.
Sounds like the perfect Bigfoot horror movie, right? Well, it’s very good, but it’s not without some flaws. First of all, the most annoying thing to me is that it has opening credits, a score, and establishing shots. For me, I watch found footage movies to get lost in them. Part of the thrill is that you are immersed in the film, watching almost guiltily like a voyeur, and helpless to do anything for the poor souls on screen. There is a suspension of disbelief you need to go through in order to enjoy these movies. But if there is music indicating that something scary is about to happen, or establishing shots of the cabin that the group is currently trapped inside of, it can really take you out of the moment.
Another big drawback for me was the actors. With The Blair Witch Project and Willow Creek, the characters on-screen were portrayed by people we could all identify with. They seemed like ordinary people, not actors. In Exists, it is pretty apparent that these are actors, and the girls in particular have a few cringe-worthy deliveries of their lines. That being said, Chris Osborn as Brian steals the movie, and somehow makes his character likeable and sympathetic, when there really isn’t a lot in this movie to make you care about the characters other than the fact that they are human beings. But I suppose I can let that slide, as they sacrificed slower-paced character development for faster-paced thrills. It definitely works in this case.
A few scenes are unintentionally funny, looking a bit too much like a Jack Link’s Jerky “Messin’ With Sasquatch” commercial, but that’s probably more the fault of the commercials. An angry Sasquatch is an angry Sasquatch. In this movie, Bigfoot is a total badass, to quote the pretty girl sitting next to me in the theater.
Honestly, I tend to prefer the slow build-up typically in found footage horror movies. I also like not always getting to clearly see what the monster is. Exists may be a very different kind of found footage movie, but that’s a good thing. Minor issues aside, this was a heck of a fun horror flick, and just in time for Halloween. I will definitely be adding this one to my collection.