Exists (2014)

15 years ago, along with co-director Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez reinvented the ‘found footage’ movement with his seminal, freshman effort The Blair Witch Project. More than a decade later and he’s returned to his roots with Exists.

Exists is about a couple of brothers who take a trip to their Uncle’s remote woodland cabin with a few of their friends in tow. One of the brothers, naturally, insists on filming the events. On the way, the friends hit something with their car and although they’re spooked, they continue to the cabin and settle in, despite the faint knowledge that something else may well inhabit the woods. Before long, Brian (Chris Osborn) thinks he sees something lurking in the trees so he sets up cameras to catch whatever it is and prove to the others that he’s not just a vaguely paranoid stoner.

The first fifteen minutes of Exists verge on laboriously mediocre but once the action starts it’s relentless and you simply won’t care about the fact that most of the characters are often loathsome and two dimensional – and although they make their fair share of ridiculously bad decisions and sometimes react in detrimental ways, they show an admiral level of self preservation that’s usually lacking in the sub-genre.

At times, Exists leans a little too far toward cliché but the effectiveness of the scares and the sheer enthusiasm that pours out of the second half more than make up for it. It’s also a film that will likely please Bigfoot fanatics, managing to nail the sounds, visuals, strength and visceral terror that should be associated with it. Sanchez obviously did his homework and it’s paid off.

The Bigfoot himself is a beautiful creation. This is not the hairy-wetsuit-Bigfoot from the Lance Henrikson bomb Sasquatch, it’s not the played-for-laughs wookiee-a-like from Harry And The Hendersons and it’s not the completely unseen presence from Willow Creek, this Bigfoot is a brilliant combination of prosthetics, makeup and animalistic acting. Not an ounce of CGI in sight!

Many of the scenes take place in broad daylight and normally that would be a cardinal sin for a low budget horror film, but the fact that it frightens so effectively, even when well-lit is a testament to the Bigfoot they’ve created and the conviction the makers must have, quite rightly, had in it.

The direction is minimal and somewhat erratic, as with most found footage efforts, but it’s hard to find too much fault in it as it certainly serves its purpose. Although he tripped a little with the woefully misjudged Seventh Moon, after Altered and Lovely Molly, Sanchez definitely goes further toward proving that he’s the more talented of the Blair Witch duo.

Exists is a rare thing; not only is it a good found footage movie, it’s also a good Bigfoot movie. Although the characters are disposable, the threat is very palpable, the pace is swift and the running time is brief. It’s not terribly original and the storytelling medium used is certainly well worn, but it does have some quietly subversive moments, including a Final Boy and a surprisingly long-lived black character.

Make no mistake, Exists is cinematic fluff, but it’s fluff at its entertaining best if you approach it in the right way. You won’t concern yourself with the ‘why’ or the ‘how’, you’ll just be content to sit back and indulge in a joyful slice of Bigfoot action. Better yet, watch it back to back with last years wonderful Willow Creek and you’ll be in for a double bill of Sasquatch treats.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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