What’s it About?
From celebrated Director Bobcat Goldthwait comes this edge of your seat horror that will make you think twice before going into the woods.
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
“Do YOU Believe?”
Roughly 20 miles north west of a place named Orleans, California, there is a narrow tributary of the Klamath river named Bluff Creek. In 1967, October 27th to be exact, two men started on an expedition to catch a sighting of the famed “Sasquatch” of the northwestern part of the state, otherwise (and more popularly) named “Bigfoot.” They were Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. For all intents and purposes, while approaching Bluff Creek and rolling film at variable speeds on a Kodak Cine K-100, the men found what they sought out to encounter. For better and for worse. The rest, obviously, folks, is Bigfoot history.
These days, with the plethora of Found Footage movies out there, many of which are trite and hackneyed, I was surprised to see that director/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (“God Bless America”) decided to take on the subgenre. With Bigfoot, of all things, being the subject. Now, on any given day, if one browses horror films on, say, Netflix, you are very apt to find a gazillion FF movies, some of which, are about the big furry guy. Goldthwait, who is a very unique and competant director, using his unique perceptions is indeed a very curious choice for this kind of endeavor. I was quite interested to see where he would go with it. Especially since he wrote the story as well.
Bryce Johnson plays Jim, a young adventurer and film-maker who along with his hesitant fiance, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), set out to document the location of the re-nowned Patterson-Gimlin footage. If they indeed encounter something while out there then even the better. Goldthwait capably sets up (like with just about every other FF movie) his characters with casual and natural dialog showing us that the couple is indeed like-able, in love, like to joke around (there is a pretty funny sequence where they mock murals of Bigfoots calling them “Day Laborers”) and have a keen sense of humor reflecting their love (and sometimes their dislike) for nature, and respect for the myth.
But Kim is not too sold on Bigfoot just yet much to Jim’s loathing. Kim serves to help Jim with the camera-work, setting up shots, panning, recording and capturing the picturesque Californian northwest. Jim, in turn, does several intros on camera explaining his goal for the Doc and the appeal the legend has had on him since his youth.
“Willow Creek” is a back to basics FF movie that uses simplicity for it’s springboard. The movie follows the tried and trued original template that “The Blair Witch Project,” from Myrick and Sanchez, did. Kim and Jim visit several Bigfoot destinations and even indulge in a Bigfoot Burger (with a bun that is shaped like a, well, big foot). They take in the local scenic color and a few tourist traps as well.
In “Blair Witch” fashion, Goldthwait has his actors interview a motley crew of strange and eccentric locals that provide a unique look into the way that Goldthwait plans to have the movie unfold. Also, the couple run into those who warn the couple about trekking into the notorious wilderness and the dangers involved. The warnings, (of course) go unheeded and it makes all of it appear rather superflous.
As the film progresses and after Jim and Kim take in more of what the town has to offer (like a bar with a dude singing a folk ballad about the P-G footage and even a huge wooden totem of BF and a guy with an unusual story to tell in his establishment) they head out to find Bluff Creek but not before running afoul of some asshole who threatens them to go back, in a bizarre turn of fore-shadowing.
Goldthwait turns up the apprehension and doubt that the couple may be feeling. But, Jim, ever determined to have his way and get to the location finds another way in. Kim, on the other hand grows ever more uncertain and anxious. When they trek, all the while, Kim documenting, more banter ensues and the natural dialog never feels forced or stagey. Goldthwait ratches up the build up and suspense during the couple’s first night in the woods near Bluff Creek.
Goldthwait, here, manages to brilliantly use sound instead of visual bombasity to retain a size-able amount of tension, fear and creepiness. In a very astute sequence that is absolutely chilling and impressive, Goldthwait keeps his actors in a medium close up-two shot inside of the small tent. For a long while. As they sit there, after being awakened by “knocking” (a form of communication said to be used by Bigfoot using branches and pieces of wood), they listen to all sorts of noises and sounds during the entrire sequence.
What is so cool about this part is how Johnson and Gilmore go through a variety of recactions. At one point they whisper to each other trying to rationalize the sounds and then in another instant they are wide eyed with fear and fright as they have rocks thrown at them and hear howls that sound far away at first then get closer and closer.
The movie makes no qualms about being a simple and effective piece of work that follows the tropes and conventions that made “The Blair Witch Project” a huge success. Afterwards, when Jim and Kim continue nervously through the woods the next day, Goldthwait adroitly piles on the isolation, uncertainty and futilty of the trek even involving the couple getting turned around in another “Blair Witch” ode and wink.
One can immediatley tell that Goldthwait respects the sub-genre and even more respects the legend of Bigfoot and the history and pull of the entire Patterson-Gimlin mystique. There is no CGI, no loud blaring music, no slashers but there are very creepy things happening and the finale, while nothing extraordinary, harks back to the conclusion of “The Blair Witch Project” in it’s vague and amorphus reveal. It is a true “What the Hell?” moment that raises just as many more questions and theories than it answers. But that is ok because I would rather take that over some dumb FF movies about ghosts or demons that go absolutely nowhere in story and resolution.
“Willow Creek” is a small but ambitious affair. It is a remote outing that is not going to please all of those who like the sub-genre to re-invent itself everytime (something that will probably never happen) a movie comes out. In recent memory, “The Bay” and even “Afflicted” come close to being real solid stand outs. Goldthwait’s film shows amazing command and restriction and in it’s very brief running time, succeeds in telling a tight folk horror story that really isn’t horror but it is pretty damn creepy and kind of allegorical.
It has an almost fable like essence that is centralized by good photography, dialog, performances from Johnson and Gilmore and grounded by good direction from Goldthwait. It won’t be for everyone but most would be hard pressed to not get creeped out especially by the tent sequence and that ending. Good job, Bob. Happy Squatching!
7 out of 10