E: Exists (2014)

Letterboxd ♠ Master List

I’ve become a fan of Eduardo Sanchez, one of the directors of the original Blair Witch Project, and whose subsequent work I’ve largely watched within the constraints of the alphabetic format of Hubrisween. E is one of the more problematic letters for horror movie titles, so I was delighted to find that Sanchez had made this Bigfoot movie.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but five young people are headed out to a remote cabin in the Texas Big Thicket for a weekend of (supposedly) doing wacky stunts involving GoPro cameras, a mountain bike, and a ramp into a lake, all for YouTube fame. The two brothers, Matt (Samuel Davis) and Brian (Chris Osborn) lifted the key to the cabin from their uncle, who hasn’t been out to the thicket in years. Along are Dora (Dora Madison), Elizabeth (Denise Williamson) and Todd (Roger Edwards). During the late night drive to the cabin, Matt gets distracted and hits something on the road. That something leaves a lot of blood and some coarse hair on the truck’s bumper.

Though our five friends are somewhat discomfited by strange howling noises from the woods, they settle in and begin filming – particularly Brian, our dedicated video fiend for this outing, who finds really big footprints in the woods and tries to get some footage of what he believes to be a Sasquatch. That turns out to be not such an outlandish theory as something completely trashes their truck and they find themselves besieged in a not-terribly secure cabin by a very pissed-off creature. Apparently there was a reason Uncle Bob didn’t let anybody use his cabin.

Once upon a time, I reviewed Sanchez’s fellow Blair Witch director, Daniel Myrick’s The Objective, calling it “a better Blair Witch sequel than Blair Witch II.” I’m going to plagiarize myself and use that same descriptor for Exists, as it covers so very much of the same territory, right down to questionable (in fact downright idiotic) decisions made by the characters, and the eternal question of why the hell Brian keeps filming (and who manufactures his batteries). If only someone would codify the odd conventions of the found footage movie! (They did, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow) They even go the route of a missing party member screaming in the darkness again. They find him this time, though.

Exists, I have to say, is a much better movie than Blair Witch. Sanchez is more in control, the dialogue doesn’t seem to be totally improvised (every other word is not “fuck”), the storyline is fairly logical, and best of all, they had enough budget to hire WETA Workshop to make the creature. For most of the movie, it keeps with the tradition of only fleeting glimpses of cryptids in footage, but when we finally do get a good look at it, the suit is well up to the attention.

If you hate found footage movies, Exists isn’t going to change your mind, but it’s a good, solid flick; it’s like Sanchez and co-writer Jamie Nash looked at the last segment of the original Legend of Boggy Creek and said, “Let’s do that, and crank it up to 11.”