Starring Chris Osborn, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards, Denise Williamson, Samuel Davis, Brian Steele, JP Schwan, George Gakoumis, Stefanie Sanchez and Doug Fields.
Screenplay by Jamie Nash.
Directed by Eduardo Sanchez.
Distributed by Lionsgate Films. 86 minutes. Rated R.
Fifteen years ago, Eduardo Sanchez remade independent filmmaking through creating a sensation by co-directing a tiny DIY horror film called The Blair Witch Project.
Now, he has simply pretty much remade The Blair Witch Project.
Okay, Exists is about a miffed sasquatch, not a mysterious witch. But otherwise, pretty much the same thing – a bunch of stoned, stupid and horny millennials lost in the deep woods and being stalked by a mysterious supernatural figure while filming it all with bouncy hand-held cameras.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Blair Witch was a fantastic low-budget fright film. And while the market has been flooded with “found footage” horror films ever since, surprisingly few have lived up to the original.
So why not have one of the pioneers of the genre return and show what he can do with a higher (though far from high) budget and years of experience behind him?
The problem is – and it is a problem that is endemic of the genre, not specifically this film – found footage films have an extra level of character difficulty. Not only are these really actors, but they are actors trying to pretend like they know they are on camera on a constant basis. (Unlike Blair Witch and some of the following films, Exists fesses up that these really are actors right up front by showing opening credits and actually giving them different character names.)
Therefore, they are supposed to be real characters, acting naturally. At the same time they are supposed to be performing for the camera, causing them to instinctively be unnatural. Talk about meta.
Because of this dichotomy, they come off as a bit shallow, superficial, drug-addled, sex mad and kind of stupid. You never feel that you know or understand them at all well (for example, what kind of horrible people would set a friend’s beard on fire while he sleeps, as a gag?), so they always feel somewhat one-dimensional.
They seem like people on a reality show more than real people. So it’s a little hard to build up too much sympathy for them when they find themselves targets of a furious Sasquatch on a vendetta after they accidentally sideswipe its child on a dark backwoods road.
It doesn’t help that they are all horror film types: the smart alpha male (Samuel Davis), his stoner twin brother (Chris Osborn), his pure beautiful girlfriend (Dora Madison Burge), the athletic token black (Roger Edwards) and the hot, sexually adventurous girl (Denise Williamson). They have snuck out to the brothers’ uncle’s rustic cabin to film some extreme biking stunts in hopes of becoming YouTube stars.
That said, the predicament that they find themselves in turns out to be surprisingly tense. An angry monster, which they only barely glimpse throughout most of the film, is hunting them in the woods, destroying their SUV, trashing the uncle’s cabin and running them down in the woods.
The Sasquatch, mostly done as an old-fashioned man in a suit, not through CGI, is an arresting monster. While it occasionally feels like the film gives it too much super-strength (a scene where the monster rolls an old house trailer down a ravine comes to mind), Bigfoot turns out to be a rather scary and strangely sympathetic presence. In fact, honestly, he eventually comes across as more sympathetic than most of his human victims.
Exists ends up to be an imperfect but surprisingly watchable horror film.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 24, 2014.