THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Thirty-Four: Exists

Exists is the purest Bigfoot film I’ve ever watched. By purest, I mean if you looked up “Bigfoot movie” in the dictionary, a picture of this film’s poster should be there. Released in 2014, Exists is directed by Eduardo Sánchez, one-half of the duo who directed and wrote the groundbreaking 1999 found-footage horror film The Blair Witch Project.

Available free with ads on tubitv.com, Exists is basically a more action-packed Blair Witch-style creature feature as the plot follows five friends into the remote East Texas woods for a weekend camping getaway at a neglected hunting cabin. One of the campers, Brian, is the fifth wheel of the group, but he brings along a lot of video equipment to document the adventure.

The film opens with these foreboding words: “Since 1967, there have been over 3,000 Bigfoot encounters in the U.S. alone. Experts agree the creatures are only violent if provoked.”

Exists effectively uses almost all the Bigfoot clichés, including discovery of the hair and the footprint, the eerie vocalizations, and rock-throwing. The Sasquatch itself is one of the best to grace the big screen thanks to the costume design of Charlotte Harrigan and the creature acting of Brian Steele.

The movie starts fast when the group of friends hits something in the road with their SUV. Brian’s video camera catches a mysterious image of “something” walking in front of their vehicle. However, they never find whatever it is they hit.

Once at the cabin, the group spends the first day at a nearby watering hole. While Brian surreptitiously videos one of the couples making out, he hears a noise and sees something moving in the woods. During his search for the creature, Brian reveals that years ago his uncle (who owns the cabin) “saw something out here that freaked him out. Bad enough that he never came back to his beloved hunting cabin.”

What follows that night is a close encounter of the Bigfoot kind as the group is terrorized and left stranded in the woods by a raging Sasquatch. The next morning, Brian’s brother Matt hops on his mountain bike and heads for the highway to look for help and hopefully find cellphone reception.

The second attack on the cabin spooks the remaining four in the group enough to take a shortcut through the woods to try and reach the safety of the highway. The final half-hour is an intensely desperate trek through Bigfoot territory with an emotionally satisfying climax.

For the most part, movie critics and audiences did not like Exists when released in 2014. According to movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, only 33 percent of critics offered positive reviews of the film, but what surprised me was the audience score of 29 percent.

Yes, the human characters are paper-thin, and the plot is bare-bones basic, but the Bigfoot attacks are exceptionally staged and realistic. I think 15 years after The Blair Witch Project’s release that maybe audiences were tired of shaky-camera, found-footage films, especially in the era of slick comic-book, super-hero movies.

Whatever the case, I’m glad the movie “exists” for Bigfoot enthusiasts like me.

NEXT UP: Chapter Thirty-Five: The Darkness in the Pines. I review the 2021 novella by Harlan Graves.

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