The newest found footage fright flick to hit the screen, Exists (review) gathers together a couple of boneheads, some brainless babes, a remote cabin, a camera… and… Bigfoot. This is not your average bear of a horror movie, though. It’s directed by Eduardo Sanchez, the legend behind one of the most famous – if not infamous – scary films ever to grace the silver screen, The Blair Witch Project. We were lucky enough to catch up with the filmmaker (sans video camera), and here’s what he had to say about tackling a legend.
Dread Central: You are the found footage pioneer with The Blair Witch Project. That movie starting this whole movement (so to speak), but it was a long time ago — so what is it that keeps you coming back to this subgenre of horror? Do you still find it exhilarating?
Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I mean, look, it’s definitely a challenge. And I’ve done three conventional, normally shot films since Blair Witch. This is actually the first time I’m going back to found footage because we actually shot this before our segment for the V/H/S [franchise] too. So it was kind of going back to familiar territory, but at the same time everything’s changed.
You know, it’s 15 years later, so you definitely have to step it up. And it’s also a different kind of atmosphere. With Blair Witch, there was no… found footage… or at least POV or mockumentaries or whatever you want to call it before Blair Witch. But Dan and I came up with the technique of shooting this way because the story of Blair Witch lends itself to that. You know, these things made sense. This time around, we started to film as a normal kind of conventionally shot movie, and then… as you got further and further down the script, through the planning phase, we realized that found footage, or POV, was kind of a way to go with it. It just felt more natural to do the Bigfoot movie. Basically everything you’ve ever seen of Bigfoot is in the POV video.
DC: Good point.
ES: So, yeah, we thought it was a real natural way to go back to, to figure out how to make a found footage movie. I’ll tell you… I mean, look… with Blair Witch there was a certain ah-ha thing, like, okay, it happened; look, it’s completely real. Not that you wanted to hoax the audience or whatever, but… that completed the whole movie, you know what I mean? That this isn’t real footage, but we want it to look like real footage, which wouldn’t exist and probably wouldn’t be found… it’s just a way to tell a story. So it’s not like… we’re not expecting people to believe that this was real, you know? So the subgenre, the technique has definitely evolved… I put some music in, and I definitely jacked up the sound effects. It definitely has a full 5.1 mix. And it sounds like a real movie. And so we were careful. That’s kind of the difference between now and then when we did Blair Witch. So it’s not like trying to be something that’s going to fool people.
ES: But at the same it’s difficult to take a script and make it feel like, make the actors feel like, there’s a natural flow to the dialogue and a natural flow to the scene because it looks fairly realistic and not super-staged like a movie does.
DC: Do actors that have to sort of put themselves into a real world scenario… are they a different breed than your typical cinematic actor who always knows where the camera is?
ES: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s a different kind of acting. And you definitely are looking, I mean, look, all the actors have also done other types of movie. So there’s definitely not just a ‘found footage’ type of actors, but when you’re auditioning, the big thing for me is what do they act like when they’re scared? And also what do they act like when you kind of throw new ideas to them, and how do they improvise? Even though this movie wasn’t totally improvised like Blair Witch was, I definitely let them… They knew the lines in the script, but I never forced them to kind of stick to the language of the script because I knew that not keeping the language, not keeping word for word the script, it would come out a little more natural. So we definitely are looking for a certain kind of actor when you’re doing these kinds of movies. And you know, it’s not easy. It’s not an easy thing to act like you’re not acting, you know what I mean? It’s just a completely different kind of acting I think. Some people can do it really well and some people can’t do it at all. And they might be great in other forms of acting, you know? So it’s definitely a skill set, a special skill set.
DC: Well. the same is true of creature actors. Who did you have playing your Bigfoot, and how did you cast him?
ES: I’ve got two or three movies that had people in suits, or people in complete body makeup. And they’re definitely a different breed of human being.We had kind of a superstar of suit guys, his name is Brain Steele, and he’s about my height, he’s 6’7”, but he’s in really good shape. He’s played Bigfoot before; he was the Bigfoot in the ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ TV show. And he’s been dying to do a scary, serious Bigfoot. He was dying to play like a serious kind of creature. And he would send me videos of him running like Bigfoot… he was practicing how to walk and how to run, just different kinds of mannerisms and all that stuff. Then when I saw him for the first time in the suit, in the parking lot of the company that built the suit, which is Spectral Motion in L.A., we were all just amazed by it. Not only by the suit, but also just by Brian’s ability to kind of become a creature. And there’s some shots with him that I got of him just foraging off the ground, like picking up little things and pretending to eat them. And not only did the hands look really good, but just him putting things in his mouth. It was just amazing… I always wanted the creature to be in a suit. I didn’t want it to be CG; I wanted it to be there for the actors.
Exists will be arriving on various VOD platforms and in limited theaters on October 24th.
In Bigfoot’s bold return to the big screen, five friends on a camping weekend in the remote woods of East Texas struggle to survive against a legendary predator that is stronger, smarter, and more terrifying than anything they would have ever believed exists.
The film stars Chris Osborn, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards, Samuel Davis, Denise Williamson, and Brian Steele and is produced by Jane Fleming, Mark Ordesky, Robin Cowie, and J. Andrew Jenkins. Exists, written by Jamie Nash, is executive produced by George Waud, D. Todd Shepherd, Gregg Hale, and Reed Frerichs, and the Sasquatch creature was designed by Spectral Motion.
For five friends, it was a chance for a summer getaway— a weekend of camping in the Texas Big Thicket. But visions of a carefree vacation are shattered with an accident on a dark and desolate country road. In the wake of the accident, a bloodcurdling force of nature is unleashed—something not exactly human, but not completely animal— an urban legend come to terrifying life…and seeking murderous revenge.