January 29, 2015

Exists (2014) - How Bad Can A Movie Be And Still Score A Recommendation?

Exists (2014)      One of the leads in the new found footage movie Exists (2014) believes he's going to make himself famous by filming a really bad ass video of Bigfoot for YouTube.  Not surprisingly, he's the guy who never puts the camera down.  What is a little surprising is that he's also the most developed character in the movie.  His name escapes me at the moment, but I'm sure that's not important.  I couldn't tell you any of the other characters' names, either.  I spent nearly ninety minutes watching these five people and formed no more of an emotional attachment to them than I would to a mouth breather taking a shot to the nuts in a YouTube video.  That's okay, because Exists pretty much is the bad ass YouTube video old whats-his-name wanted to make, and Bigfoot is the shot to the nuts that we're all here for anyway.  Whose nuts is incidental.

     I'd generally have little positive to say about a movie that skimps on character development, but I just didn't care here.  Sure, Exists would be more effective if I felt empathy for its cast, but I'm just here for some good old fashioned Bigfoot action.  I suspect many who seek out Exists will feel the same way.  My profound lack of identification with any of the monster bait on display actually put me in mind of an old slasher flick.  These five cyphers only exist to be meat for the hairy grinder.  So does Exists at least deliver when we see the big guy in action?

     Even though it's essentially a found footage movie, director Eduardo Sanchez - one half of the directorial team behind The Blair Witch Project - doesn't use the conceit as an excuse to hold back on the money shots.  You see enough of the convincingly low key Mike Elizalde Bigfoot design to get the job done, but not so much that Bigfoot ceases to be the mysterious backwoods threat he's supposed to be.  There are plenty of moments when Sanchez uses the found footage conceit to good effect by providing us with fleeting glimpses of the beast reminiscent of the old 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film.  The Bigfoot in Exists, however, is not just taking a brisk stroll by the river bed.  He's pissed.

Bigfoot peers through a crack in Exists (2014)
Oh shit!  He knows we're down here!
     Sanchez makes effective use of sound design to sell the monster, as well.  It's amazing just how effective it is to only hear Bigfoot's rampage as he ransacks a cabin while the leads cower in the cellar.  The same goes for peering deeply into the darkened woods through the eye of the camera as the eerie wailing of the beast surrounds you.

     Perhaps you've noticed that I've yet to say anything about the narrative, though.  Well, that's because there really isn't one.  I suppose the lack of a compelling narrative goes a long way toward explaining the lack of characterization, but the script by Jaime Nash  (who also scripted Sanchez's superior 2006 alien abduction flick Altered) is really nothing more than a basic framework to get the viewer from one Bigfoot encounter to the next.  Once again, everything else takes a backseat to the monster action.

     Ultimately then, all Exists really has to offer is a rampaging monster and a hollow core.  Thing is, it's an unusually well rendered monster.  Sanchez uses every trick in the book to make each scene involving Bigfoot truly thrilling.  There's a bit with Bigfoot pursuing a victim fleeing on a mountain bike that recalls Sanchez's solid V/H/S/2 segment A Ride In The Park.  The conclusion of Exists, in which Bigfoot tosses an entire camper trailer off the side of a mountain, is similarly bracing.  There are just too many crackerjack scenes like these to dismiss the movie out of hand.

Bigfoot jumping from above in Exists (2014)
It's raining Sasquatch!  Seriously, how can anyone not want to see this? 

     So how bad can a movie be and still score a recommendation from the Dog Farm?  Exists is lacking almost every key component one would expect to find in a traditionally good monster movie save one.  It's got a really good monster.  Nimble editing, clever cinematography, superior sound, and a convincing costume design come together to make this the Bigfoot I always wanted to see in a movie.  It's just a shame that Exists otherwise settles for mediocrity or it could have been something really special.

     Dim the lights, crank up the surround sound, and adjust your expectations accordingly.  Exists still scores that recommendation, because sometimes a little technically proficient brain dead squatchploitation is enough.


  1. "squatchploitation"

    I am now sending my medical bill from the physical pain I endured while laughing so hard at that.

    With the woods being the last equivalent of the haunted house (the only place viably dark and isolated), the use of Bigfoot as boogeyman was inevitable. However, films like the Boggy Creek series have long since been focusing the the enigmatic creature.

    One issue with the creature is that it really is one dimensional. Not more can be done with the Bigfoot other than to supply the customary jump scare.

    Besides, didn't Harry and the Hendersons screw the whole possibility of a scary Bigfoot?

    1. I'd love to say I coined the term squatchploitation, but alas...I did not. A Google search pulls up plenty of hits that make use of the term. It's so fun to say, though.

      Bigfoot is definitely a one dimensional boogeyman in Exists, which I'm sure is at least part of the reason I reacted to the movie in much the same way I would react to an old slasher movie. Fortunately, Sanchez does a fine job constructing those customary jump scares. Although I think I recall one character making a Harry And The Hendersons reference, I can assure you the angry and vengeful Bigfoot on display here won't remind you of that docile and sweet permutation in the least.

      Oddly, given how pervasive Bigfoot his been since the Boggy Creek era, I've never really seen any single Bigfoot movie that totally wowed me. I previously had the most fun with Abominable (2006), which was sort of a monster movie / Rear Window mash-up. Now that I think of it, that would actually be a blast to watch at a Dog Farm event out in the middle of the woods...

  2. ...And I thought found footage movies were extinct. Although you obviously had many reservations about Exists, it sounds as if it could be a lot of dumb fun, if taken in the right light. After several decades of half-assed sasquatch movies, I wonder if it's even possible to make a good production? Maybe it's that whole million monkeys on a million typewriters thing, which will eventually prove me wrong.

    1. Found footage is still everywhere, and I always have to work hard to not dismiss them out of hand. The lure of the Squatch got me here. It seems like it should be easy to create the ultimate Bigfoot movie, but no one ever really has. I'd still like to see the Bigfoot movie Rob Zombie was touting for a while. I think his brutality and affinity for white trash characters could actually serve the subject matter well.


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