Exists (2014) – movie review

Exists Movie pic 5

Exists (2014)

directed by Eduardo Sánchez

Five youths head up to their uncle’s abandoned cabin for a weekend of fishing, food and frolicking. Driving late at night, they bicker over where the turn off is and whether they are lost or not. The driver, not giving full attention to the road, hits something. He jams on the brakes and a few of the group get out to check the car. The front headlight is destroyed and part of the bumper is mangled. They look back into the darkness and conclude it was a deer. A few moments later they hear a strange Exists_Movie_Posterhowl and rush back to the car. Once at the cabin they experience strange events. Sightings of a dark animal in the woods, missing items and strange howls in the night.

I’d like to compare this briefly with Willows Creek which came out the year before this film. In Willows Creek we hear about Bigfoot being described in several ways, he’s this big, and he’s this strong, he don’t like anyone in these parts of the woods, and so many people have gone missing. Something about that foreshadowing amounts to great suspense and is effective in a found footage movie. In this film, the characters aren’t expecting Bigfoot so it’s a complete shocker to them that they are being stalked. But, what Exists lacks in early suspense-building, it sure makes up for it in climbing action that makes each new scene more tense than the last. Willows Creek had a soft ending which nearly ruined that film for me. Exists has a solid ending and a rather cool one at that.

For me, the film went from slightly creepy, to being nervous for the characters, to sh*tin’ bricks. Exists Movie pic 2This is one of the most effective horror films I’ve seen in a long time. We don’t get a good look at the Bigfoot until the end, but when we finally do, it is one nasty looking creature and it’s full of rage. The characters in the cabin act as I think any normal people would in that situation, there’s no ‘hero’ just reluctant volunteers to do what they think would be best. Nothing magically turns out to their spectacular advantage like some other hokey Hollywood films with youths stuck in cabins.

Bigfoot films lend themselves quite well to the found footage style. I find the only drawback to this film is one often sighted for FF films; the camera man just holds onto the camera too long without dropping it and hauling ass out of the situation. In this film it seems to bother me more than others. If you don’t care for found footage films, you probably won’t like this film all that much. It has the usual FF film set-up and informal banter. Aside from that, the film feels realistic enough with believable characters and circumstances. To me this is the best horror film about Bigfoot ever made.

Despite being a found footage film I found it to be a highly effective horror flick.
I’m giving it the rare 5.0 stars for making me yell at the TV screen in the middle of the night.

Willow Creek (2013) – movie review

Willow Creek pic 7

Willow Creek (2013)

Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite
Produced by Aimee Pierson

Alexie Gilmore
Bryce Johnson

What can I say about Willow Creek? I didn’t dislike it. I like the idea of Bigfoot, in both aspects, as a modern legend or the possibility of a real species. Either way it is an interesting subject. I do have an acceptance of found footage films and own quite a few. And I like indie horror, monster, and sci-fi films; I prefer them to Hollywood blockbusters.

There are many things I liked about the film. A young couple, Jim and Kelly, head deep into the Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, making a documentary film on Big Foot. Jim is obsessed with Bigfoot and the 1967 archival footage willowcreekknown as the Patterson-Gimlin film. His intention is to reach the site where this footage was taken for comparison and investigation. He is really hoping to get his own footage of the elusive creature.

On their journey they interview shop owners from both ends of the spectrum, enthusiastic book store proprietors, to apathetic motel owners, on the subject of the enigmatic Bigfoot. The film-making couple is charming and their plight interesting. It appeals to the documentary film watcher in me. By the end I get the feeling that I would’ve preferred to watch the finished documentary over this film. The parts in the tent at night were similar to Blair Witch, only filmed with a better camera with better sound. It made this film somewhat more tolerable but wholly derivative.

(spoilers and angst)
In the end, I like a pay-off. It doesn’t have to be a big budget finale. Something as simple as a half dozen Bigfoot standing in shadow would have been quite enough. I’d like to see some Bigfoot in my Bigfoot movie. It’s like going to the zoo, and the curators talk about animals, but the end of the day comes and you haven’t seen any animals. Its like ordering a bacon and egg sandwich, you bite into it, and there’s no egg! This is not a freakin’ radio show! Film is a visual medium. The Forest Bride aspect seems like a side note and doesn’t really do it for me. Perhaps if the movie had changed course earlier and focused on women being kidnapped as the main plot driver it would have worked much better. The camera being dragged quickly along the ground was a cop out to me, a poor excuse for not having a real ending to the film. That ending has been seen a dozen times already in FF films and I feel it’s almost as bad as the It was all a dream ending of 1980’s horror flicks. At the very least it’s a cliché aspect to FF films and it actually ruined my enjoyment of Willow Creek to that point.

Willow Creek pic 6

An entertaining found footage film about Bigfoot that is only outdone by it’s own cliché ending and its lack of Bigfoot.

I give it 2.2 hooting hairy men out of 5 on the wood knocking scale of rock throwing forest dwellers.

A simple shot of a damn Bigfoot would have made me enjoy the film so much more…

The 1967 Patterson-Gimlin  footage

The 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage

Half Human (1958) – movie review

Half_Human_US poster b

Half Human (1958)

Toho films

Directed by Ishirō Honda
Special FX by Eiji Tsuburaya

and Tomoyuki Tanaka

This is the second Kaiju monster film by this famous team following their iconic achievement in Godzilla. This film never reached the success of many of their other films for good reason which I will explain later.  An expedition to the Hida Mountains in Japan (which includes Mount Fuji), is hindered by a blizzard. When the group is separated, Gen and Kaji find shelter in a remote cabin. When the group reaches the cabin the next day, Gen is found dead and Kaji is missing. There are very large footprints found near the cabin and a few tufts of hair that the group is not familiar with. They eventually discover a tribe of people living in the mountains that speak of a deity which they praise, a 10 foot tall, Monster Snowman. While searching for their missing comrades they run across a zoologist with a team intent on capturing the beast. When the hunters track it to its cave, they discover a half human pic 3young Snowman. The zoologist captures the juvenile in order to lure the adult into his traps. The adult snowman is caught then escapes, killing all of the men on the team. The zoologist shoots the young snowman and the adult beast goes on a rampage, first killing the zoologist, then heading to the native village and destroying it. He captures a woman, Machiko, and drags her back to his cave.  Does the snowman have intentions to replace his lost child by keeping the woman as a mate? It is not said, but it is suggestive in the context of other scenes in the film. The original expedition members are in pursuit. They chase the snowman further into the cave where he meets his inevitable demise.

The 1958 version that I have is the American version, which has John Carradine and Morris Ankrum as scientists. John Carradine completely narrates the entire film while sitting in a lab, which not only gets annoying, but is extremely inane and off message from what the film is really about. I was able to decipher more about the film half-human pic 5by not listening to him and just watching the Japanese footage. The Japanese story of Half Human portrays the Snow Beast as an empathetic creature and shows the humans to be the real ’monsters’ in the world. This fact is driven home with the tragic scene of the young creature being killed and the emotional reaction of the adult. The narration washes right over this scene and immediately pounces on the beast for killing humans and its ‘monstrous’ behavior. In fact, I had to look up the names of the film’s characters because the American narration only refers to the actors as ‘the girl’ or ‘the boy.’ This is extremely lame and perhaps the worst translation/American-izing of a Toho film I have ever seen.

Unfortunately, the original 1955 Japanese version has been removed from circulation because of its depictions of the native people as deformed and violent due to inbreeding. Toho decided it was an injustice to portray the people of the mountains like that and to insinuate the real tribes that live there are anything like that.

It is hard enough to find this 1958 American version which is out of print, never mind the original Japanese version. I was lucky to track this down after some searching. It is not a great film because the American footage had cut the original into pieces and tried to tell a different story. However, if you can read between the lines, you can feel a good movie was in there, once. For a Toho fan like myself, it was a must have.

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