Dir: Eduardo Sanchez
Written By: Jamie Nash
Starring: Dora Madison Burge, Brian Steele, Denise Williamson, Samuel Davis
UK release: Frightfest 2014
A group of friends looking to spend a quiet weekend in a remote cabin in the woods find themselves at the mercy of none other than Bigfoot himself. And he is pissed.
The name Eduardo Sanchez has gained prominence over the past ten years thanks to his inclusion in a little-known found footage flick called The Blair Witch Project. Following his rather good contribution to last year’s V/H/S 2, entitled A Ride In The Park, Sanchez returns to the format he helped make infamous once again with Exists, which utilises as its villain not a ghost, or a phantom, or an unseen entity of any kind but the most famous monster of all, Bigfoot.
Reuniting with writer Jamie Nash, with whom he worked on Lovely Molly, along with the V/H/S/2 segment, Sanchez returns to his roots, so to speak, with a bare bones story concerning a group of young people on a weekend away in a cabin in the woods. There’s no build-up, no lead-in whatsoever, the action kicks off in the car en route and the scares come hard and fast from there. It sounds ridiculous, even after Bobcat Goldthwaite’s tense, creepy Willow Creek, but Bigfoot is really quite terrifying here.
Sanchez demanded that everything be done practically for Exists, and it’s to his credit that the creature itself doesn’t look like a man in a suit – but if it did, we’d probably still be shitting it. His intent was to humanise Bigfoot, and the denouement does exactly that, even if it is a bit of a letdown after what’s come before. The jump scares are slightly predictable, but still effective, thanks to some wonderful sound work on the horrifying noises the beast makes, in particular.
One sequence, which is slightly reminiscent of A Ride In The Park, sees Bigfoot chasing a guy through the woods while he tries desperately to cycle away from him. Captured entirely in daylight, the tension is built excruciatingly well through cleverly-timed GoPro shots, as the camera flits back and forth between the bike and the monster. Although there is little gore to speak of, the grisly stuff we do get it great and Sanchez’s reliance on practical effects aids him well in this respect, also.
The found footage format is still headache-inducing at times, and considering this is a Bigfoot tale, more scope could’ve been given to the gigantic, mythical creature if the reliance wasn’t on shaky-cam footage. However, there are certain moments, such as when a character is dragged back to Bigfoot’s lair, that lend themselves well to found footage and, considering this is what Sanchez does best, he can be forgiven for utilising the format.
Funnily enough, though it’s a very different film to Goldthwaite’s Willow Creek, which pitched the action as a mockumentary of sorts, Exists would work well as the second part in a Bigfoot, found footage double feature of sorts. Goldthwaite builds the tension throughout, only to let loose in the final act. Sanchez kicks everything off from the first few minutes and never lets up. Together, the two complement each other quite well and it’s testament to the skills of both directors that a similar story can be told, using the same format, and similar scare tactics, but in very different ways and still be effective.
Exists is not reinventing the wheel, but it is incredibly tense, very scary and often quite unpredictable. Bigfoot might still have a little fight in him yet.