Review: EXISTS (2014){0}

The Bigfoot Project

Sometimes it’s really weird how these things work out: Dredd and The Raid came out around the same time, and they had a lot of plot components in common. More recently we saw two cult-related indie horror films (The Sacrament and Children of Sorrow) that were released (and produced) only months apart, and also bear a few striking similarities. Now we get two completely unrelated but very similar “found footage Bigfoot horror” movies inWillow Creek and Exists.

EXISTS_posterPersonally I don’t think any of these films “stole” from one another, but it’s always amusing to note how producers often think in similar fashion. For example, if you think about it, “found footage” presentation plus a “Bigfoot” horror story is kind of a no-brainer. We should have dozens of “Found Bigfootage” horror films by now. I’d see ‘em all.

Also interesting? If you combined Willow Creek and Exists into one “found footage Bigfoot” movie and then did some serious editing, you might have an indie horror classic. As it stands, they still work as complementary films: Willow Creek has a strong set-up and a somewhat conventional finale, whereas Exists struggles in the early-going before delivering a legitimately ass-kicking third act.

Both films have their merits, but it’s in the actual horror department that Exists shines. Directed by one of the found footage granddaddies (The Blair Witch Project‘s Eduardo Sanchez), Exists follows the format’s blueprint to a T: a lot of set-up, a ton of chit-chat, a few laughs and decent character beats – and then carnage and mayhem aplenty. For those who don’t love Blair Witch, Exists has a considerably more kinetic ending than that film does. Tough to pull off subtlety in a movie about rampaging Sasquatch.

Those who have little patience for the found footage style may note that Exists is inordinately well-edited (and scored), but as a horror geek who actually digs the “handheld horror” material, I didn’t mind. The biggest problem with Exists is simply this: there’s virtually nothing in the first half of the film you haven’t seen before. This time around the characters are cool enough and the forest setting is suitably ominous, but the actual plot is slim, simplistic, and predictable. “Found footage” is fine, formula is not.

But, and this is an important but, once Exists lays down its Bigfoot cards and starts delivering chases and kills and shrieking noises from deep in the woods, it’s a fun, fast-paced, and admirably creepy affair. The fact that the movie takes some warming up to, and feels a lot like other horror flicks you’ve seen, feel considerably less important once the Sasquatch gets involved. Let’s just say Exists will almost certainly warrant an R rating from the MPAA. It’s pretty gory.

Exists has enough assets in its corner to make one wish the screenplay was a bit more novel than just another “people trekking through the forest” set-up, but while it certainly won’t win many points for originality, it does manage to dole out some very effective horror sequences in the end. Needless to say, Exists and Willow Creekcould make for a pretty amusing “lights out” double feature from your couch one night. (And toss the half-decent obscurity called Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes onto the pile as well.)


Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg)