Written by: Tom Baio
In 1999, director & co-writer Eduardo Sanchez struck independent film gold with the release of The Blair Witch Project. The movie redefined how frightening being lost in the woods can be & launched the now common “found footage” genre (consisting of the entire story being shot on hand-held camera). This past year, Sanchez returned to his roots with the hand-held shot, terror in the woods feature, Exists.
The story revolves around 5 friends who travel to a cabin within a wooded locale for a weekend getaway. When they inadvertently draw the attention of the supposedly mythical Bigfoot/Sasquatch, tragedy strikes. The fun goers are forced to run & fight in order to survive the repeated attacks from a monster intent on slaughtering them all.
Introduction to the characters is exactly what is expected of a handful of twenty-somethings armed with multiple cameras & isolation: shenanigans, alcohol, smoking & overall mindless fun to be uploaded on Youtube for all to see. Once this sequence is done, the audience is given another side to the cast. They do dumb things, but thankfully screenwriter Jamie Nash’s script doesn’t make them dumb. They all become aware of the dread tightening its grip upon them. Once trapped, they plan as a unit; no doubts or disagreement among them. Sanchez does his part moving the story quickly without sacrificing the pivotal tension (the attack scene on board a trailer edging a cliff is a highlight). His lens which at first captured the vast beauty of the lake & woods, convincingly converts it into the perfect backdrop to the horrors of being hunted, whether during the day or night. In short, once Exists kicks into gear, there is no slowing down.
Matching the film’s atmosphere & pace are the efforts that were put into bringing the monster to life. Once the creature is revealed, simply put…..it looks amazing. The make-up detailing the hair, protruded face, nails & bodily injuries are convincing. The casting of Brian Steele (a veteran at playing costumed monsters) was also a good move. Just as impactful was the bold choice to give the creature a rarely seen humanity to its character. This combined with Steele’s performance, allowed the audience to see the creature’s pain, despair & contempt (in one scene, the monster grabs & drags one of the victims forcing him to look at the cause of its anger. Although no language is spoken, the creature’s body movements & sounds scream out the equivalent of, “Look what you’ve done!”). The Bigfoot is more than a rampaging monster; it is a creature that is experiencing hate for the 1st time. Its emotions continue to evolve as the chase goes on. Once the monster is able to recognize both a victim’s surrender & that what it is doing to the people is in vain, it stops its onslaught. This detail & depth to the creature make the film stand out much more than what was expected.
Another noteworthy detail by the film’s creators was taking the time to put to the screen many of the documented “factual” behaviors of the Bigfoot. Such actions as: wood knocking (the act of banging on trees to communicate), howling, rock throwing & moving with great speed are
brought to the front line. Real life articles which argued that if such a creature is that closely related to humans, it is entitled to the same rights, are given nods within the film. These aspects were clearly taken seriously & are again a welcome touch to the film’s viewing. Exists however, is a fun ride regardless of how much or little one is familiar with the Bigfoot mythology.
2014 saw the release of another Bigfoot/Sasquatch thriller entitled, Willow Creek. Although this film does not have the impressive creature design or constant action of Exists, it is clearly the scarier of the two films & comes just as recommended.
We hope you’re able to seek either of these films out & hope you find them as entertaining as we did.
Thank you for reading this to completion.