For all of the success Hollywood has had creating hits out of fictional monsters, studios and filmmakers have struggled to bring urban legends to the screen. Has anyone made a good Loch Ness Monster movie? We all saw how the Slender Man turned out. Even the Urban Legend movie itself isn’t quite as good as nostalgia may suggest. And for all the Bigfoot movies that have been produced, how many count as good adaptations of the legend? Yes, there’s he 1972 Legend of Boggy Creek. There’s also Andre the Giant’s turn as Sasquatch in that Six Million Dollar Man episode. Year later we got the found-footage hidden gem, Willow Creek. And that’s really it. There just aren’t many good representations of Bigfoot in film. In spite of his track-record with found footage, Eduardo Sanchez didn’t fare all that well with Exists.
Five friends head into the Texas wilderness for a weekend getaway at a rustic cabin. When they hit something on the car ride, they chalk it up to a stray animal. But strange guttural cries in the middle of the night sound anything like the local wildlife. Soon a looming figure in the woods gets closer and closer to the cabin and the friend are forced to confront a legend that may be all too real.
Exists Finds Eduardo Sanchez a Long Ways From The Blair Witch Project
One of the first things that will strike horror fans about Exists is just how much it slides in and out of the found-footage format. Technically, it’s only not really a found-footage as the movie never claims someone found the footage – and it intermittently cuts from standard filmmaking to shaky, handheld-cam. In between The Blair Witch Project and Exists, writer and director Eduardo Sanchez got a bit lazy with the format he helped popularize. Nevertheless, this isn’t the first found-footage horror movie to play fast and loose with the format. Not surprisingly, however, Exists is at its best when it fully taps into the handheld camera aesthetics. No, this doesn’t include the long bits of set-up and ‘start-and-stop’ approach to the action. Unlike The Blair Witch Project, Exists is less slow-burn and just plain uneven in its pacing.
…writer and director Eduardo Sanchez got a bit lazy with the format he helped popularize.
As a result, this Bigfoot thriller never achieves much in the way of suspense. Maybe there’s the occasional scare here and there over its 86 minutes. But it’s a largely benign affair that dutifully follows the found-footage blueprint with little new to offer. Every once in a while, Sanchez scores some points with the odd neat use of the format. Regardless of how often it’s used, the night vision surprise will never not work for a good jolt. And a scene with a Bigfoot chasing down a GoPro-wearing victim racing away on a bike is one the thrillers best moment. Unfortunately, these scenes are few and far between. Simply put, Exists finds Sanchez looking like an imitator instead of the innovator he was in 1999.
Exists Substitutes Boring Characters For An Interesting Bigfoot
In part, Exists suffers from putting its Bigfoot way too far into the background. No, this doesn’t mean that Sanchez needed to more heavily feature the urban legend on camera. Yet Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash don’t build enough mythology to suck audiences into the narrative. And we know Sanchez understands the importance of mythology – he did such a good job with Blair Witch. Moreover, Bobcat Goldthwait showed how to build a slow-burn narrative around the Bigfoot with his hidden gem, Willow Creek. With so little focus on the urban legend in its own movie, Exists never sticks the finale that should feel like a gut punch.
Yet Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash don’t build enough mythology to suck audiences into the narrative.
Instead of an intriguing monster, Exists sticks us with a dull, uninspired collection of characters. To be fair, none of the performances are bad. In fact, the cast is uniformly decent for this sort of movie with Chris Osborn and Dora Madison (Friday Night Lights) standing out as much as the screenplay allows. Herein lies the problem with Exists. Sanchez and Nash ask us to spend a lot of time with characters who aren’t much more than cardboard cutouts standing in for real people. In other words, Exists never gives us a reason to care about anyone on screen, which further undercuts an ending that should have so much more of an emotional impact.
Exists an Adequate Time-Waster, But Not Much More
Apparently, it’s really hard making a good Bigfoot movie. To be fair, Exists is certainly not a bad movie. in fact, it’s a perfectly watchable little horror movie that boasts a handful of decent scenes. Yet it’s never particularly interesting or scary. Regardless of how badly Sanchez wants his ending to feel profound, it’s merely an elevating moment in what’s basically a middle-of-the-road found-footage thriller. While Exists won’t bore audiences, it’s not going to stand out either. Though it may make for a decent rainy Sunday afternoon watch, this one doesn’t come close to making the same kind of impression as the monster behind the urban legend.