M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on October 4, 2014. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!

EXISTS (2014)

Directed by Eduardo Sánchez
Written by Jamie Nash
Starring Samuel Davis, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards, Samuel Davis, Chris Osborn & Brian Steele as the Sasquatch!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

As most of you know, I have a soft spot in my cold black heart for Bigfoot films. It is a genre built with very bad films, though sometimes a gem appears in the rough and surprises you. I’ve said before that a good Bigfoot film is about as tough to find as Bigfoot himself, but recently, two films of the Squatchy kind have stood out as worth seeing. The first is Bobcat Goldthwait’s WILLOW CREEK and the second being the subject of this review, EXISTS.

Eduardo Sanchez is no stranger to urban myth as he rose to stardom having directed the found footage sensation BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Sanchez impressed me more last year with LOVELY MOLLY which shed the found footage trappings and knocked me on my ass with some stunning visuals, bone-quaking moments, and an engrossing story. Sanchez returns to found footage with EXISTS. I like the hook of this film, that being written out for us at the beginning; “There have been many Bigfoot sightings through the years, and experts agree that they have not been violent unless provoked.” Whether or not you believe in Bigfoot or the word of Bigfoot experts will depend on the viewer. The plot, though, plays with a simple revenge story that is instantly engaging; following a group of campers who accidentally hit a Sasquatch in the opening moments, only to find themselves the target of another Sasquatch’s vengeance. For me, making an engaging plot is important in a film about a creature whose existence is debatable as it gives Bigfoot’s involvement an understandably vengeful slant.

The cast is likable as well, though there’s not a lot of time for us to get to know them as they almost instantly hit the Bigfoot (they don’t find a body, but capture a glimpse of it on tape) and then they’re running for their lives from it for the rest of the film. Still, the acting feels pretty natural; an essential element of a found footage film.

My biggest problem, and it’s one I admit to be a personal issue in terms of found footage films, is that the film takes the easy route too many times. In my years as a reviewer in this particular period of horror history, I’ve seen more found footagers than I can count. For me, the ones that hold up are the ones that obey a certain set of guidelines. For it to be found footage there should be no music. Unless there is a cello section hiding behind a bush in frame, there shouldn’t be cellos or synthesizer or Don Music piano headbutts or whatever in the film. I find it to be a huge cheat if you can’t convey a mood by using the actors’ reactions, the natural sounds that are going on in the scene, and some crafty scene setups and builds. Sure in a regular film, a score is common, but for a film that is supposed to be the closest thing to real life as it can be, nothing takes me out of a found footager faster than hearing music where music shouldn’t be happening.

Secondly, the film is made through multiple cams, often time switching POV’s and camera types mid-scene. And while, yes it is possible the survivors of this film would be able to collect all of the cameras and splice them together in order to make a sensible movie, the likelihood of this happening is small. On top of that, there is no indication that this film was spliced together from the different cameras. It worked in BLAIR WITCH because there were only two cameras filming, so cutting between the two wasn’t as big a deal, but in this film we cut from a dashboard cam, to a phone cam, to a helmet go-pro, to a hand held cam all in one scene. Again, if we are supposed to be believing this film is happening in real time, the presence of an omniscient editor or an omniscient orchestra only works against all of that.

A simple blurb at the beginning of EXISTS stating, “The following is comprised of footage found and put together by a forensics team in order to make sense of the events that occurred leading to the deaths of five young campers in the forests of Northwest blah—blah—blah…” In taking that extra simple step, it makes things much more believable and for me. If you want to justify that your film is meant to be found footage and not some way to cheaply make a film, then simple steps like this should be considered and made to make it more believable. Knowing that this is the same director who made a country believe three hikers were missing after looking for a witch in the woods, one would think that this is something within Sanchez’s wheelhouse.

My personal POV perspective peeves aside, I challenge anyone to find a better looking Bigfoot than the one that shows up here. Not only the way it looks, but the action involving Bigfoot in pursuit and its strength in action are all top notch here. There are some genuinely frightening moments despite the fact that it breaks some rules of the found footage rulebook. And though it’s not a perfect found footage film, EXISTS is a really well done Bigfoot movie worth seeking out for believers and non believers alike.

Click here for the trailer!

THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!

#30 – EXISTS

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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