For audiences that didn’t appreciate the year’s more subtle anti-found footage film “Willow Creek,” director Eduardo Sanchez offers a more action packed and frightening alternative involving the mythical monster. “Exists” is a creepy and vicious found footage horror film with a surprising amount of heart and depth to it, to boot. Surprisingly, director Sanchez works around the found footage gimmick, supplying a score and editing that make the film neater and less like actually found footage. This may irk hardcore enthusiasts of the sub-genre, but it’s a welcome change of pace from the typical format. Especially since Sanchez runs the risks of repeating the same beats from “Blair Witch.”
“Exists” follows brothers Brian (Chris Osborn) and Matt (Samuel Davis) as they set out to vacation with their friends in a secluded cabin in the woods in the Texas Big Thicket. Despite their uncle forbidding them ever visiting the cabin, they sneak in to the wilderness for their getaway. While driving through a barren road, they accidentally hit what they’re convinced is a stray animal. Investigating they dismiss the accident and go about their getaway, while aspiring filmmaker Brian is convinced whatever they hit has followed them in to the woods and is watching them. What begins as a series of sightings transforms in to a literal fight for survival as whatever they struck is back to inflict horrific revenge on the group, trapping them in their cabin.
Despite the inherent irresponsibility of the group in the beginning, Sanchez and writer Jamie Nash manage to evolve them in to pretty sensible individuals that strive to outwit the monster with their unique tactics for survival. The characters here take to the warning signs of danger immediately, and seek every chance to defend themselves against the beast, especially when it makes it apparent to them that it’s out for their lives. Sanchez delivers on the promise of the big foot throughout “Exists” beginning with the typical black blobs hiding behind the trees. He then completely explodes his horrific sasquatch on to the screen with a slew of incredible sequences involving the monster stalking our characters, and hunting them down left and right.
Folks fearing we’ll only see a leg or shadow here and there will not be disappointed by what Sanchez throws at our characters. Not only is this beast out for revenge, but it spares absolutely no one in its quest for justice. Brian Steele’s performance matched with the excellent beast effects and costume stunt work make the monster an unpredictable and powerful being, and one whose own motives for murder and mutilation don’t set it too far apart from our human characters. “Exists” really delivers on gut wrenching scenes of horror and surprises, and I was sucked in from minute one. Sanchez doesn’t just offer up a Sasquatch horror film, he uses the format to explore the ultimate price of irresponsibility and selfishness.