Sunday, 24 August 2014

FrightFest 2014 Review: EXISTS

Two important things you should never – under any damn circumstance – do in an American horror film. Do not accept an invitation to a cabin in the woods and always stick to the path! Please, none of that 'I know a quicker route' nonsense. Short cuts lead to knife cuts … or much, much worse.

Eduardo Sánchez, one half of the duo that launched the found-footage craze with The Blair Witch Project, heads back into the sub-genre that made his name to serve up a creature feature with a figure way more folkloric than Elly Kedward (the eponymous witch of Blair). Yeah, I’m talking about a hairy cryptid S.O.B. we all like to call ‘Bigfoot’.

While the found-footage aspects are presented as far slicker than in The Blair Witch Project, Sánchez ups the action stakes significantly. There are set-pieces and unrelenting fear! You remember how Blair Witch was really boring, right? A girl covered in snot crying into the camera? Well, that is not what Exists is about at all. Bigfoot, at times, comes on like the T-1000 or Michael Myers in a gorilla suit. Imagine that! 

The pace never lets up and there’s no slow build, either. The characters and their relationship dynamics are established in a Walter Hill-esque style - a few short scenes and then it's tension-tension-tension! The real crux of the story is why the heck Bigfoot is so insistent on grinding their bones to make his bread. Yes, there is an element of fairytale in the narrative, but mostly it’s as if Sánchez wanted to remake The Blair Witch Project as an action thriller. It works. Really well, in fact.

Exists won't make a bazillion dollars at the global box office. It'll probably go straight to DVD and VOD. What was once a revolutionary film format is tired and old-hat. The addition of characters wearing GoPro cameras mounted to bike helmets is about as updated as things get. The film is no Willow Creek, for sure, but it does serve to highlight - very well - that Sánchez, once forgotten after that incredibly successful debut, is back on the film-making map and doing gnarly genre pieces. 

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