SXSW Film Review: Exists

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on March 10th, 2014

Bigfoot is real, and he lives in Bastrop, Texas! At least that’s what Exists might make you believe. From writer/director Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) comes a terrifying new look at one of the most mysterious creatures in history.

Don’t forget! Exists screens tonight for the final time at SXSW!

Found footage horror films have long since worn out their welcome as a sub-genre. At least it is that way for some people. The issues that most of these found footage films have is they usually rely too much on the premise that this is somehow real, and these people were really never heard from again. One of the originators of the contemporary found footage sub-genre is Eduardo Sanchez, the writer/director of The Blair Witch Project. Eduardo has actually ventured out of the found footage sub-genre and two years ago premiered a film at SXSW called Lovely Molly that was intensely creepy and a pleasant surprise at the festival. This year, Eduardo brings a film called Exists to SXSW, and it’s a return to found footage, but without a lot of the problems that sometimes plague these films.

From the get go, Exists doesn’t play with the premise that this footage was found, it’s told from a first person perspective, but that choice is a tool Sanchez chose in lieu of traditional filming techniques. Credits and title cards roll from the start telling you that you’re watching a horror movie that just happens to be from a found-footage perspective.

We begin with a group of friends who are venturing out to a cabin in the woods (because that’s always a good idea). The cabin is owned by the uncle of the two brothers whose idea it was to begin with that they come out here. On a dark and dusty road, miles away from civilization, they hit something in the road. When they check what it is and don’t see anything except a weird figure that ran away screaming, they go about their day. The film takes place in Bastrop, Texas, which some of you may recall was the unfortunate victim of disastrous wildfires that desecrated much of the forest land in the area. This cabin was no exception, the road to the cabin is blocked, and the cabin itself looks like it had been abandoned for years. All seems well until the creature that they might have hit finds them, and begins to terrorize them.

If you can’t tell by now, and if you’ve looked at the marketing materials for the film, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that what you are watching is a Bigfoot film. In fact, the opening title goes out of its way to tell you that there have been no documented accounts of Bigfoot attacks. As silly as that premise is, this film just works on every level. The biggest problem most found footage films is that they suffer from a miserably long first act in which nothing happens, and the action starts pretty quickly in Exists. The cast is a bunch of young actors who don’t have extensive resumes, but they share a chemistry that had to have come from forming a bond in what was surely miserable filming circumstances. The filmmakers shared that among the problems this production shared were snakes, scorpions, and caterpillars. Caterpillars that bite!

So the big question in a found footage film about Bigfoot/Sasquatch has to be, how is the monster? The monster is fantastic. The man in the suit is Brian Steele, and though you’ve never seen his face, you have almost assuredly seen something he’s been a creature in. He has appeared in films like the Hellboy and Underworld films, Predators, and he’s even been in Bigfoot in the Harry and the Henersons television series. He’s got the skill set to be a terrifying monster and terrifying he is.

Luckily, Exists, as of this writing, has been picked up by Lionsgate. That means that you will someday get the chance to see this gem of a horror film. With a nice and quick runtime of around 86 minutes, it’s the kind of quick hitting horror film that is easily rewatchable and enjoyable with some friends. For a nice frame of reference as to where the inspiration of this film came from, you might want to check out The Legend of Boggy Creek.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

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