For director Eduardo Sánchez – creator of found-footage hit The Blair Witch Project (1999) – his latest DTV contribution to the canon, Exists (2014), should have been something of a stroll in the park. Yet there’s little to recommend in this apparent parody (presumably not its intention) of the genre to which it situates itself. It’s a thoroughly ham-fisted affair, from the camerawork to the reveal of the big bad monster. Exists is essentially a found-footage fumbler from a hall-of-famer. The premise is horrendously clichéd: two brothers, Matt (Samuel Davis) and Brian (Chris Osborn), bring three friends out to their uncle’s remote cabin in the wilds of Texas.
The group plan to spend the weekend doing all manner of rabble-rousing activities while in the privacy of their woodland surroundings. En route they have a minor car accident with an unknown creature. Brian videos the whole event and captures a mere blur on the edge of the frame. Not long after they arrive, the monster fodder encounter some odd occurrences: rumbling and growling in the dark of night and waking up to a severely mangled car seem to really hamper the experience. Inevitably, they find themselves terrorised by a very cunning rendition of Bigfoot and are forced to find a way out of their dire circumstances. If the set-up isn’t yawn-inducing enough then the standard issue signposts of the found footage genre that get put into use here is; shaky cameras, bumps in the night etc.
It’s baffling as to why Sanchez allows such poorly-rendered characters into his space. There’s the over-sexed alpha couple Todd (Roger Edwards) and Elizabeth (Denise Williamson), Matt’s dewy, dutiful girlfriend Dora (Dora Madison Burge), nerdy, camera-prone Brian and tentative leader Matt. They barely fill their roles with the minimum of chemistry and effort (this might be caused by a very wooden script). By the final half-hour their demises seem to be well-earned. If Exists is a parody of horror and found footage, then one could say that The Cabin in the Woods (2012) beat it to the punch; if it’s a serious effort, then where did all go wrong? Helmed by Sánchez, one of the progenitors of the found-footage genre, this should have been arable land from which an interesting story could have been cultivated. Sadly, there’s precious little about Exists that doesn’t feel horribly predictable.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem