Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language throughout, some Violence, Sexual Content and Drug Use
Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez
Written by: Jamie Nash
Starring: Chris Osborn, Samuel Davis, Dora Madison Burge, Denise Williamson & Roger Edwards
In 1999, Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick floored audiences with the excellent BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. That film had one of the spookiest atmospheres imaginable and managed to make sounds of twigs snapping in the distance into something downright terrifying. BLAIR WITCH is a modern horror masterpiece that spawned the found footage craze bringing about films like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, REC, and V/H/S. Since then, Sanchez and Myrick went their separate ways and neither of them have really gone on to do anything exceptional or memorable. Sanchez did manage to thrill certain crowds with LOVELY MOLLY, but he’s returned to the subgenre that he helped reboot in EXISTS. This is a handheld take on Bigfoot, so how did he fare this time around?
EXISTS follows a group of pretty people who drive out to a cabin in the woods and cross paths with the legendary Bigfoot. They capture footage of their Sasquatch encounter that’s full of chases and death. That’s pretty much the plot of the film. It’s as basic as you can imagine. Simple stories can be fun and entertaining in some films, but they can also be boring if you’ve seen a similar plotlines play out many times before. EXISTS suffers from the latter. In fact, it’s more fun to picture Sitterson and Hadley from CABIN IN THE WOODS setting up this scenario. EXISTS is the kind of film that CABIN was satirizing to begin with. Hell, there’s even a cabin in the woods featured in this story.
As to be expected from a found footage horror flick, the camera work is none too stable. It’s not as if visuals are out of control all the time, but Sanchez still supplies a couple of nausea-inducing moments that may bring out motion sickness in even the most jaded individual. What EXISTS does far differently from BLAIR WITCH is the threat is frequently shown. BLAIR WITCH regulated the witch to noises in the background or being just out of frame of the camera. It was a risky approach, but one that worked. This technique let the viewer’s imagination terrify them rather than a girl wearing green make-up and a hat. Bigfoot is front and center in EXISTS. In fact, that’s the film’s best quality because there are really cool effects used to bring the beast to life. The monster looks impressive for the most part, but a typical slasher formula derails most of the good brought by the effects. The story also sort of pusses out in its conclusion. Thus making EXISTS the second found footage film to have a happy ending this year (the first being AS ABOVE, SO BELOW). A bad ending is an essential piece of a found footage horror story. To deviate takes away from the execution. Not that the annoying music score didn’t do that enough.
To make matters even worse, these characters are the dumbest you’ll see in a horror movie all year. Nearly every cliché in the book is used. These include but are not limited to: no cell phones, car that won’t start, ignoring your uncle’s creepy warning, splitting up, taking the shortcut as opposed to the road, etc. Again, maybe the CABIN IN THE WOODS guys were underground running the show the whole time. The dialogue is amateurish at best. While it could be argued that the F-bomb was overused in BLAIR WITCH (to be fair I’d be swearing the same way in that scenario), EXISTS seems to turn the word “Bro” into a swear word. It’s overused to the point that I was almost pulling my hair out and was rooting for Bigfoot to off the men first so I wouldn’t have to hear it much longer. Credit where credit is due , EXISTS has one of the most unintentionally hilarious horror movie scenes of 2014. It involves the token black character screaming at the woods to Bigfoot “Where you at!?! Where you at?!?” That made me laugh hysterically.
If you were to show me EXISTS and then tell me it was by the guy who did BLAIR WITCH, I probably wouldn’t believe you. The name is right there in the credits though. Eduardo Sanchez’s latest found footage movie plays out like George A. Romero’s new zombie films. He’s a filmmaker who once thrilled viewers with a terrifying horror story trying to return to his roots and grasping at straws. EXISTS is mighty terrible. Despite some impressive effects on the Sasquatch (that seems to combine guy in a suit and animatronics), everything else kills EXISTS. Bobcat Goldthwait released a better found footage Bigfoot tale earlier this year with WILLOW CREEK (which owed a lot to BLAIR WITCH to begin with). I’m sad that this movie EXISTS… (yes, I went there).