Written & Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Willow Creek is a found-footage horror film that premiered last year at the 2013 Independent Film Festival of Boston. Since that time, the film has garnered favorable reviews from critics and has now officially been released On Demand. I had been looking forward to seeing this film simply because it was written and directed by the one and only Bobcat Goldthwait. The same man who was responsible for the dark comedies God Bless America and World’s Greatest Dad is now attempting horror.
The horror genre has been suffering as of late so I personally was hoping that Bobcat could breathe new life into the genre with his new flick. It is an ambitious endeavor for Goldthwait as the film is of the dreaded found-footage sub-genre and focuses on the legend of Bigfoot. There hasn’t been a decent Bigfoot film in quite some and Bobcat decides to take a different approach, calling his film “The Blair-Squatch Project”. That’s right, this entire film unfolds through a video camera in the same style of The Blair Witch Project, so be prepared for some jumpy shots that can be a bit annoying. However, Bobcat does do a better job than most of his predecessors in this genre. For example, the camera doesn’t jump around to the point of making you squeamish and there are also no quick cuts. He also does a great job building tension and showcasing horror from two different points of view. That comes in the form of young filmmaker Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his reluctant girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore). The two have set out to find the mysterious Bigfoot in Willow Creek, the Bigfoot capital of the world, and take us along for the ride.
As the movie unfolds, many references are made to a 1967 Patterson–Gimlin film. Roger Patterson and Robert “Bob” Gimlin shot this film that would become famous because it featured an unidentified creature hailed by many as Bigfoot. Jim has been obsessed with not just this film but all Bigfoot lore, which is the reason why he is going back to that original site with his girlfriend in tow, filming everything along the way for our viewing pleasure. From attending Bigfoot festivals to happening upon simple tourist traps, locals from Willow Creek don’t shy away from talking to Jim about the legend no matter the setting, although not everyone welcomes Jim with open arms. Eventually, as they head deeper into the woods to the exact spot of the original siting, they are warned and grow gradually more uncomfortable. Kelly is a fun character to watch as she insists that Bigfoot doesn’t exist and makes it apparent that she just wants to go home. She’s only doing this to support her boyfriend who believes his wet dreams have come true with all this Bigfoot fanfare. Jim insists they go forth and what unfolds, well, I don’t want to spoil that just yet.
Is the 80 minutes of constant Bigfoot folklore enough to make Willow Creek a worthy entry in the horror genre? You’re about to find out.
- Bobcat – The statement “Written and Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait” automatically meant that I’d be giving this movie a shot. He had already directed two movies that I liked and with that crazy mind of his at the helm, who knew what he could possibly drum up in the horror genre. After viewing the film, it was clear that Bobcat Goldthwait delivered a slow-burning horror film that, while it may disappoint some horror hounds, definitely kept me interested.
- The Legend of Bigfoot – If you are a Bigfoot enthusiast then there is no question that this film is for you. The entire history and mythos surrounding Bigfoot is on display, starting with the mysterious 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film. The film even features murals, stories and songs dedicated to the giant Sasquatch who has kept aficionados interested for more than 50 years.
- Jim and Kelly – Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore do a great job as the film’s main protagonists. The horror unfolds from their specific points of view and it’s really a great contrast, Jim thinking he’s in heaven visiting Willow Creek while Kelly ultimately feels sick to her stomach being there.
- Where’s the Horror? – Although the film is fun to watch, I wouldn’t classify it as a horror film. It actually sort of plays out as a character study of a geek who’s obsessed with Bigfoot and his girlfriend who seems bored to tears with the whole experience. There is even a scene where Jim proposes marriage to Kelly, and at that point Willow Creek doesn’t even feel like a horror flick anymore.
- “The Blair-Squatch Project” – Goldthwait dubbed the film this himself and it honestly couldn’t be more true. I wasn’t a fan of Blair Witch and this film definitely reminds you of that film, only it’s less scary. The best part of Willow Creek occurs during the film’s conclusion, a terrifying extended sequence that should make anyone who didn’t give up watching jump. At this point however, it does feel a little ridiculous that you have sat through 80 minutes of Bigfoot folklore for just one giant scare. What the ending does have going for it however, it is sheds light on the term “Forest Bride”. If you want to know what that means, take the ride into Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek, and of course, enjoy.