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Entries in Exists [2014] (1)

Friday
Oct242014

Exists (2014)

Naught Vision

Eduardo Sanchez, co-writer/director of The Blair Witch Project, returns to the genre he helped create with Exists. What does the grand-daddy of found-footage horror think about fifteen years of low-rent, shaky-cam knock-offs? If his latest foray is any indication, it's: "Hey, guys, I can be bland and contrived, too!" Exists deflated me in the same way that George Romero's much-vaunted resurgence did ten years ago--when Land of the Dead proved that branding is branding, and that even moviegoers are susceptible to being suckered into heartbreak.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: five friends venture into a run-down cabin in the woods. Cellphone reception is scarce; ominous, snapping twigs are not. They smoke weed, fool around in the bushes, and, of course--because we're at the dawn of a creatively doomed millennium--they film absolutely everything. Sanchez and writer Jamie Nash constructed the picture, I imagine, to be as cinéma-vérité as possible--meaning the characters' high-def cameras render beautiful detail in daylight hours, but capture a whole lot of abstract, blurry nothingness whenever Bigfoot attacks at night.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that this is a Sasquatch movie--the second found-footage Sasquatch movie, that I know of, this year. Whereas Bobcat Goldtwhait used Willow Creek to comment on the slickly produced, teen-glam garbage that has floated to our cinematic shores since The Blair Witch Project, Sanchez merely uses Bigfoot as a stand-in for Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, or Michael Myers. Everything about Exists (from the stupid college kids, to the score,* to the underground tunnels our furry attacker uses to pop up and regroup) makes that awful Friday the 13th remake feel influential and oddly underrated by comparison.

The biggest factor working against Exists is familiarity, and not just with the genre. In last year's horror anthology, V/H/S/2, Sanchez and Nash teamed up for a segment called "A Ride in the Park". That short featured people out in a wooded park, showing off mad bicycling skillz via helmet-mounted cameras. Disaster strikes when a zombie outbreak ruins the characters' fun, but effectively the whole affair turns out to be a dry-run for the team's full-length Bigfoot flick. I had multiple levels of déjà vu while watching this thing, which made concentrating on the movie at hand as disorienting as John Rutland's camerawork.

Had Exists come out a decade ago, it might have been a calling card for the filmmakers. As it stands, Bigfoot stories and found-footage flicks find themselves stumbling around in the same creative purgatory as superhero comics did immediately after Watchmen shook up comics. Bobcat Goldthwait, of all people, showed us earlier this year that the current state of backyard horror is useless as entertainment, and gave us a realistically frustrating and intense demonstration of how thoroughly our collective time has been wasted over the years. Sadly, Sanchez shows up fashionably late to his own party, only to discover that it ended early. 

*Yes, the score. More than any film of its kind in recent memory, Exists brings up several questions; not only about why people who can ostensibly dress, feed, and drive themselves would also be so incompetent as to not set down their cameras during a monster attack--but also about who found this footage, edited it together, and added horror-movie music to it. Granted, Nima Fakhara's score is the best thing about the movie, aside from the design and behavior of the Bigfoot, but it's conspicuously good, and undercuts what's on screen at every turn.