Fifteen years on from when trendsetting, nausea-inducing flick The Blair Witch Project hit the silver screen, co-director Eduardo Sanchez has made another foray into found-footage horror with Exists. This time the enemy is the famed Sasquatch (more commonly known in New Zealand as Bigfoot) a hirsute hominid-like creature rumoured to be living in the Pacific Northwest forests of North America.
The good news is that Sasquatch doesn’t attack unless he’s provoked. Unfortunately for the characters – a group of twenty-somethings that fit a little too neatly into categories (jock, virgin, nerd …) and who would probably not be friends in real life – they piss him off bigtime when they hit his kid with their car en route to a weekend getaway at protagonist Brian’s uncle’s dilapidated cabin. Assuming they hit an animal, the group merrily continue on their way.
Brian is the resident tech nerd, recording every minute of their adventure on a series of DSLRs and GoPros. It’s all fun and games on day one – sneaky alfresco make out sessions, rope swings, beer and skinny dipping. Things get a bit bleaker as Brian notices a hairy beast darting around in the corner of his screen as he reviews his footage, but his reputation as the Shaggy of the group renders his friends quite disbelieving.
The pace picks up in the second act, when Sasquatch starts playing with his food. He breaks into the cabin, smashes up their car, chases them through the woods and generally just goes all cat on their mouse. While the hand-held sequences and night vision are appropriately creepy and ramp up the suspense well, the film’s strongest point is Brian Steele’s Sasquatch. Jaws-style, the beast is initially heard more than seen, with a mix of growls, moans, groans and heavy footsteps emanating from in between the pitch-black trees. When he reveals himself, it’s pretty convincing – he looks like a monster (in close-up, a monster grieving and angry in equal parts) and not a man in a gorilla suit or some CGI hack.
While the co-ed college characters and cabin setting are a little too familiar, Exists boasts some interesting camera work and sustains an unsettling atmosphere throughout. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re into the found-footage sub genre.