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From Eduardo Sanchez, the director of The Blair Witch Project, comes a story of five friends: Matt (Samuel Davis), his younger brother Brian (Chris Osborn), Matt's girlfriend Dora (Dora Madison Burge) and their friends Todd (Roger Edwards) and Elizabeth (Denise Williamson). Brian has a thing for cameras and has Go Pro's and other small video cameras either on him or mounted nearby at pretty much all times. He's bound and determined to make the most popular YouTube video ever. When the movie begins they're driving out to a remote stretch of woodlands in rural Texas to hang out for a weekend at an old cabin belonging to Matt's uncle. Along the way, they hit something. They get out to took and find a bit of blood and fur on the grill of the Jeep, but no carcass or anything and so they get back in and finish the drive.
When they find a big old tree blocking the road, they get out and make the rest of the trek on foot, arriving at the cabin in reasonable time. Along the way though, Brian thinks he's hearing and maybe seeing things in the woods. The next day he follows Todd and Elizabeth out into the sticks to get some footage of them going at it when he accidentally gets a shot of ‘something' nearby. Of course, that something is a Sasquatch and it's not friendly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens next…
Exists has some problems, so let's complain about those first, before getting to the good stuff. First up, there's NO character development here. We learn next to nothing about the five friends and despite all that they go through, we don't wind up caring for them at all. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the three guys overuse the word ‘bro' enough to you want to reach into the TV and throttle them. It gets old fast and it actually goes a long way towards making you actively dislike the characters. Most of the dialogue here is pretty basic, relegated to various F-bombs and what not mixed in with alternatively hushed whispering and loud screaming depending on what Bigfoot may or may not be doing nearby. On top of this, the whole ‘found footage' aspect of the movie is far from flawless. There are way too many edits and way too many alternate camera angles used here to show off what the director wants us to see but done with little regard as to the logic we need to buy into to make this work. Why are there cameras just laying around on the ground? Who edited the material to show off an angle captured from Matt's helmet camera mixed in with footage shot from what we assume is a camera mounted to his bike? Did someone edit the footage afterwards and upload it to YouTube like Brian wanted? What's with the opening footage… why would anyone want to record that? There's a lot of inconsistencies here once you start to think about it all.
Having said that, Exists isn't a complete waste of time because it does one very important thing right, and that's the movie's use and portrayal of the Sasquatch, arguably the most important part of the movie. Early in the film we catch only fleeting glimpses, which does a fine job of teasing the audience. We know right away what they're messing with but holding out on a big reveal until later in the movie does successfully build suspense. Once that reveal happens, the makeup/suit effects turn out to be quite decent and the monster is actually frightening enough to create some legitimate tension. The monster is also pretty relentless in its pursuit of the human characters. It doesn't just wait around, it's aggressive enough to both chase and attack, at one point attacking them with a barrage of thrown projectiles. Some of the camera angles used to capture this are questionable but the end result are some pretty intense scenes of a rampaging monster doing what rampaging monsters do best. It's these scenes that give the movie its bite and that make it worth seeing.
Exists arrives on DVD from Lionsgate framed at 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and looking like pretty much every other found footage style monster movie you've seen made over the last decade. The feature is intended to look like it was shot on consumer grade gear like Go Pro cameras and the like, and so that's what it looks like. You can't expect amazing detail out of a movie when the cameras are moving around as constantly as they are here and when they're shot with cameras mounted to helmets and bike handlebars but for what this is, it looks just fine.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is decent enough. An alternate Spanish language track is also included and there are optional subtitles provided in English. The audio is quite clear and typically well balanced but in keeping with the ‘found footage' aspect of the movie there are some spots where certain sound effects are louder in the mix than you might expect or want them to be. That all works in the context of the presentation though. No issues here, the movie sounds as good as it should.
Extras start off with a commentary track courtesy of director Eduardo Sanchez and writer Jamie Nash. The two filmmakers talk about shooting on location in Texas, the editing employed to put all of this together, the use of music in the beginning and end of the movie, and how Texas happens to have one of the most ‘comprehensive bigfoot kind of sites' around. They note an homage to one of the more famous bigfoot films out there, how certain scenes were improvised, and some of the changes that were made to the story along the way. They also discuss using the different cameras to get the footage, which shots they like and feel work the best in the feature, the way in which they tried to depict the creature in the movie and what it was like working with a guy in a bigfoot suit on set. This is a solid commentary, if you enjoyed the feature give this a spin as it's a pretty informative discussion.
From there, check out the deleted scenes, which include a slightly different opening and a slightly different ending. Note the word ‘slightly' there as this doesn't really change a whole lot. There's also an unused post credits sequence included here that they didn't use in the final cut of the movie. Optional commentary from Sanchez is available here detailing why this material was taken out of the final cut of the movie.
Also on the disc is a three-part making of documentary called 21 Days In The Woods: The Making Of Exists. This is a fairly standard behind the scenes segment that shows off the cast and crew hard at work on location in the woods. It follows the shoot in chronological order and basically gives us a ‘fly on the wall' look at the making of the movie. It's pretty great to see the guy in the bigfoot suit talking in a normal voice to the guys off camera.
The disc also includes a featurette called Bringing Bigfoot To Life. This is an interesting piece that lets the effects guy talk about how the creature effects featured in the movie were done. There's some cool conceptual design work shown off here as well as some interesting behind the scenes footage showing Brian Steel getting fitted into the suit.
Rounding out the extras are some trailers for other horror titles available from Lionsgate, menus and chapter selection. Inside the DVD case is an insert slip with a download code for a digital copy of the movie and the DVD case fits inside a cardboard slipcover featuring identical cover art.
Exists has its share of flaws, the logic gaps in the found footage concept and the lack of any actual character development being the big ones, but it handles the bigfoot action reasonably well. If you're not completely burnt out on found footage movies at this point and don't care about character development, then jump right in. Lionsgate have, at the very least, rolled out the red carpet for the DVD releases, offering up a disc that presents the movie in very nice shape with solid audio and a ton of extras. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.