Movies In Focus usually comes out all guns blazing when a new ‘found footage’ horror movie arrives. That particular visual aesthetic has been done to death since The Blair Witch Project arrived back in 1999 and there’s little left to say about it at this stage. However, you have to re-evaluate things when a new film using that style hits – and it’s directed by Eduardo Sánchez – co-creator writer/director of The Blair Witch Project.
Exists ticks the standard horror boxes by following a group of friends into the woods for a weekend of fun and relaxation. However, things turn nasty when they seriously piss-off one of the locals. That would be bad enough, but it’s even worse when that local inhabitant is Bigfoot.
Sánchez’s film works for the most part, even if its biggest downfall is the ‘found-footage’ style that he himself helped popularise. It’s an unnecessary gimmick that often takes away from the on-screen action. There’s a lot of fun to be had here but you can’t help but compare it to Bobcat Goldthwait’s superior found-footage Bigfoot movie, Willow Creek (read the Movies In Focus review). However, Sánchez knows how to build horror movie and Exists has some well crafted moments throughout its running time.
Everyone hits their mark on a performance level, but nobody goes to see this type of film for the acting. The Bigfoot effects impress but Sánchez knows that it’s best to keep the monster in the shadows, that way the audience can build on their own fears and let their imagination run wild. Handing them too much ruins the surprise and softens the psychological horror.
The Blair Witch Project was a cultural phenomenon that gave horror cinema (and cinema in general) a monumental sucker punch. It showed how the digital revolution could change how films were made and marketed, democratising the medium and illustrating that you didn’t need millions of dollars to deliver a film that satisfies audiences which also clears up at the box office. I think that deep down, Eduardo Sánchez knows he’ll never top Blair Witch and he’s crafting the type of horror film that he wants. There are similarities to his 1999 film but Exists is its own beast and it succeeds on its own merits. It won’t change the face of cinema but it will give you a few scares – and that’s really all you want from a horror movie.