2014, R, 86 min. Directed by Eduardo Sánchez. Starring Dora Madison Burge, Samuel Davis, Roger Edwards, Chris Osborn, Brian Steele, Denise Williamson.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 24, 2014

It must be rough to be Eduardo Sánchez. The co-director (with Daniel Myrick) of watershed terrorizer The Blair Witch Project hasn’t had a hit of that tectonic magnitude ever since, even as the found-footage genre that he practically created from scratch has proved to be as resilient, cheap to produce, and popular as ramen noodles. There were, of course, precursors to Blair Witch: Ruggero Deodato’s oft-cited goregasm Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Patrick Duncan’s excellent though little-seen Vietnam war flick 84 Charlie MoPic (1989) are two of the best, but Sánchez and Myrick’s savvy, slow-burn Witch – which grossed upward of $248 million worldwide and cost an estimated $20-$25,000 to shoot – is a genuine landmark in film history.

With Exists, Sánchez finally returns to the found-footage genre, and the forest, and the shaky-cam, but focuses (albeit rarely with the camera) on East Texas’ many rumored sightings of the cryptozoological anomaly colloquially known as Bigfoot. East Texas being, well, East Texas, there’s been little if any durable proof of such a creature, but oodles of yarning and hearsay stretching more than a century back. There’s something in the woods all right, but it’s more likely hallucinogenic fumes from a meth lab than the missing link. Still, as a starting point for a GoPro-crazed horror movie, it’s as good as any place to start, and actually gets the fear across in its final half-hour.

Shot in and around Bastrop State Park and at Spiderwood Studios, Exists corrals the usual assortment of hard-partying, mixed-gender victims-to-be in a deserted cabin out in the Big Thicket and lets nature have its skull-thumping way. Extreme sports enthusiasts all, the quintet, led by Chris Osborn’s Brian and shot on GoPro microcams by multiple characters (the product placement and shout-outs alone may well be the real horror on display here), the only surprising thing about Exists is that while it takes its own sweet time getting to the good (i.e., monster-involved) parts, once it does it’s a perfectly serviceable Friday-night, teen-date movie.

The creature’s big reveal is masterfully handled and a final revelation is exceptionally memorable, but the characters, unsurprisingly, remain interchangeable with those of any number of other teens-in-peril pics. Any sense of eerie atmosphere is obviously negated by the anti-quality of the “found footage” and suspense is sporadic and ultimately negligible, given the nature of the production. I suppose the genuinely good news is that it’s not another Paranormal Activity outing, but there should be more of a reason for Exists to exist than that. On the other hand, when the film had its world premiere at SXSW Film, it was voted the Audience Award winner in the Midnighter section.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Exists
Bigfoot <i>Exists</i> in Texas
Bigfoot Exists in Texas
Eduardo Sánchez makes a monster movie against the Bastrop fire

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 25, 2014

'From Dusk Till Dawn' Bites into a Big Kahuna
'From Dusk Till Dawn' Bites into a Big Kahuna
Director Eduardo Sanchez on El Rey, Rodriguez, and that tasty burger

Richard Whittaker, March 25, 2014

More Eduardo Sánchez Films
Satanic Hispanics
Latino horror anthology hangs wild and loose in its pan-American chills

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 15, 2023

SF anthology brings in genre heavy hitters but still whiffs

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 25, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


Exists, Eduardo Sánchez, Dora Madison Burge, Samuel Davis, Roger Edwards, Chris Osborn, Brian Steele, Denise Williamson

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle