Between Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek and Eduardo Sánchez’s Exists, Bigfoot is having quite a horrifying year. In Willow Creek, the legendary monster goes the “mumblecore” route for some simmering, slow-burn chills, while Exists goes full creature-feature by bringing an animalistic primitiveness to the hairy best. Defying most horror rules, Sánchez wastes no time introducing in Sass to horror audiences that are yearning for some backwoods survival horror. As far as found footage scares go, Sánchez gains major points for bringing intensity in a fast and furious manner, never bullshitting his fans with cheap decoys or distorted jump-scares. Exists delivers EXACTLY as prompted, being a polar opposite to Goldthwait’s subtle tension. If Bigfoot is your jam yet twenty-minute-long-tent-rustlings aren’t your thing, go with Exists on this one – you’ll thank me while you’re washing your blood-soaked clothes.
The plot of Exists isn’t very complicated, nor is it the film’s moneymaker. A group of friends head deep into the woods of Texas for an uninterrupted vacation, using a dilapidated cabin for shelter. Partaking in the usual lakeshore fun, it’s not long before roars are heard in the distance that elude to threatening wildlife. Brian (Chris Osborn) believes in something more sinister though, as the amateur documentarian has his hopes set on capturing evidence of Bigfoot and becoming a pop-culture sensation. Unfortunately for Brian and his friends, Bigfoot may not be a friendly creature looking for company, and their vacation soon turns into a fight for survival against one of nature’s most mysterious legends.
Leave it to found footage icon Eduardo Sánchez to bring true horror into a ridiculous premise that’s been previously squandered by numerous low-budget efforts such as Happy Camp. Exists is a no-bullshit creature-feature that refuses to shy away from capturing Bigfoot on camera, never falling victim to sneaky camera shortages that typically hide a film’s monster until the final few minutes. Sánchez brings us face-to-face with Sasquatch not even half-an-hour into this extreme vacation gone wrong, going right with a crystal-clear facial profile. Some monster movies NEVER show their creation’s face, yet Sánchez makes Bigfoot a legitimate on-screen star, capturing the creature sprinting in broad daylight while showing off a fully workable costume that never feels the slightest bit like a zipped-up rubber suit. Exists is balls-out confident and ferociously paced, making for one hella-fun Bigfoot murder mystery.
The unfortunate state of Jamie Nash’s generic screenplay is saved by Bigfoot’s performance, but that doesn’t mean Sánchez avoids all those silly camera tricks and night vision sequences strung together by every paint-by-numbers found footage thriller. The main handheld camera cuts around when focusing, going into time-lapsed segments that do provide a choppy feed at times, but luckily these instances happen during mostly low-key moments. Horror audiences are never cheated out of gleefully energized Sasquatch-bashin’ action, but there’s still the obvious aura of “Why the hell are cameras still rolling?” This isn’t a Jack Link’s beef jerky commercial where Sass just wants to bro down. Sass has no problem snapping limbs and crackin’ skulls like the feral creature he is, yet Brian never leaves his “record everything” mentality, even when staring Sass down.
Surprisingly, for how formulaic Exists becomes, the whole ride is unabashedly invigorating. You’ve got the heavily influenced stoner, the overly-confident jock, the smokin’ sexpot, the loving brother – every character shamelessly fits a crude genre stereotype. Even Bigfoot’s motives are plainly telegraphed, revealing an overused creature-feature catalyst come the film’s predictable ending, but the unrelenting woodland assault saves face by embracing a normalcy that favors energetic highs and non-stop danger. Bigfoot has no problem killing you on a sunny day, mocking sillier movies that only allow creatures to be cloaked in darkness. Characters attempt to hide, flee, and then talk shit to Bigfoot, yet even through such overtly hilarious character arcs, Sánchez embraces a well-known horror mantra that couldn’t care less about redundant characters and foolish plotting. When you can string along audiences with such a fun-loving intensity, do we really care about the faceless teens currently trying to escape the clutches of Sasquatch?
If you want well-informed, character-driven horror from the mind of a true “Squatcher,” Willow Creek is the monster movie you’ll want to search out. If high-octane Bigfoot attacks are your thing, where the creature is more a slasher villain than threatening giant, then Exists is the found-footage Sasquatch film you’ll want to catch. Each film has their strengths and weaknesses, but Sánchez’s monster movie undoubtedly wins any category that has to do with action, intensity, and actual monster effects. There’s something gleefully rewarding about seeing characters sprinting with Bigfoot in hot pursuit, capturing the lumbering giant on camera in ways that’ll have conspiracy theorists lost in their own indulgent fantasy world.