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Exists (2014)

ExistsExists is a 2014 found-footage, lost-in-the-woods-with-Bigfoot horror film from Eduardo Sanchez, which means that any jokes I could make about maps being kicked into creeks or people looking for Josh in the darkness would just be the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. So let’s see if we can avoid that Blair Witch Project-shaped pitfall in this review.

Brian and Matt are brothers heading out to their uncle’s isolated cabin in the wilderness of East Texas to shoot some extreme biking videos for YouTube. Also with them are Matt’s girlfriend Dora and their friends Todd and Elizabeth. Driving there at night, they appear to hit an animal with their car, but dismiss it when they find no evidence at the scene. Over the following couple of days, however, the group find themselves stalked and threatened by a large, strange, hairy and – most importantly – very angry creature. Its attacks against them increase in frequency and ferocity until the group are fleeing for their lives against this enraged Bigfoot…

This movie has one of those one-word titles that is just begging for a bad joke. “Exists? It definitely does!” It’s also one of those films made in the 2010s, when there was a sudden and inexplicable glut of found-footage Bigfoot films – and unlike the similar situations with the Amityville and Paranormal Activity franchises, there doesn’t appear to have been any big or even medium-budget catalyst films to kick the knock-offs off. Perhaps it’s just a case of filmmakers (budding or otherwise) realising that, when it comes to found footage movies, the two cheapest filming locations are usually abandoned buildings and isolated woodlands, and since you generally need a permit for the former…

In typical found footage fashion, there is of course a “Hud” – that one character who keeps on filming everything no matter what, usually with the excuse/vague justification of, “We have to document everything!” or “No-one will believe us otherwise!”. In the case of Exists, this role falls to Brian, who is by far the most annoying character in the film (and not just because of the camera). Brian is loud, obnoxious, dumb as a box of rocks, and yes, he doesn’t let go of that camera for anything. Cabin under siege by an angry Bigfoot? Brian’s filming it. Looking for his missing brother? Filming. Trapped in a camper van that’s been thrown down a hill by the aforementioned angry Bigfoot? You guessed it. Begging for his life? Got to document everything, bro! And the worst part of this is that [SPOILER] Brian is the only survivor by the end! He doesn’t even have the decency to get killed by the avenging Sasquatch like everyone else for the sin of continuing to film in the face of everything that happens. [SPOILER END.]

Now, I know I said at the start of this review that I was really going to make an effort to stay away from all my usual Blair Witch Project-esque jokes that I make in found-footage reviews, but… See, at one point in the film, Matt volunteers to try to cycle away to escape the angry Sasquatch and get help (or at least a decent mobile phone signal), only to get clotheslined off his bike and carried off. Later that night, while trying to escape themselves (and while using night vision on the camera because it’s probably a law of filmmaking or something at this point), the others hear Matt screaming for help, and so we end up with a scene where characters are looking for another character, at night, while shouting things like, “Tell us where you are, Matt!” Talk about writing what you know, Eduardo Sanchez.

Exists does get a couple of points for not falling back onto the crutch of CGI (with the exception of the digital camera glitching and tearing effects, which are fair enough), and also for getting actor Brian Steele to play the Bigfoot. Who is Brian Steele, you might be asking? Well, he’s the 6’ 7” guy who played friendly Bigfoot Harry in the 90s TV series Harry and the Hendersons, and so there’s a nice touch of irony there (He was also one of the Predators in Predators and the – uncredited – “Creature” in Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, among many other monster roles). That’s all the leeway I’m willing to give it, however.

The problem with Exists is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Cardboard, unlikeable characters; endless shakycam to cover up the fleeting glances we get of the antagonist/threat; wafer-thin plot with no real resolution… We’re 15 years on from The Blair Witch Project (yes, I know, but I’m making a valid point here), yet we’re still running around lost in the woods and screaming for help while something just off-screen menaces us. This stuff is bad enough when new filmmakers fall into these bad habits. It’s worse when it’s from someone who’s had 15 years to learn and improve on things.

1.5 out of 5.

 


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