Those of you wonderful folks who actually read this stuff I post on here with any regularity already know that I’m a fan of bigfoot films. You also know that I’m one o’ those folks willing to give “found footage” a fair shake; besides The Lost Coast Tapes (which was kinda marginal), I’ve only seen one other flick that combined POV perspective and ol’ Sasquatch, Hunting The Legend (see my review for that one here), but although that one was a good effort on the part of a young filmmaker, it still left me….unsatisfied. I’m very anxious to see a well-done, genuinely scary bigfoot flick…
…which brings us to writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait’s foray into the horror genre, Willow Creek; a found-footage bigfoot flick, directed by a comedic legend that’s turned his hand into being a pretty eclectic, innovative, and fearless indie director…could this be the one?
Jim has been fascinated by the legendary “Sasquatch” since he was a kid; as an adult, he has a dream of visiting Willow Creek, the site of the famous Patterson-Gimlin bigfoot film, and trying to find evidence of the creature of his own. For his birthday, his girlfriend Kelly agrees to accompany him on this quest, and the pair saddle up with some audio and video equipment and hit the road.
Finding the small town after a long drive through breathtaking Pacific-Northwest wildlands, they are enamoured with the village’s touristy treatment of the legend, with colorful murals, giant woodcarvings, and even a signature burger named for the creature; the only ominous signs they find are a poster of a missing woman who disappeared near the woods, and a couple of locals that are not amused by their lighthearted treatment of the tales. Conversely, they interview a varied cast of colorful residents, hearing tales of both belief and disbelief in bigfoot, and assemble some good background for Jim’s intended documentary; this done, they follow the directions of one of these folks and head to the site where the infamous footage was filmed. With only one belligerent redneck woodsman giving them a hard time on the way, the couple reach their destination; having hiked in the last mile or so of the trip, they pitch camp near where they believe the spot to be. That evening, after shooting some video of the beautiful location, they return to find their camp demolished, but nothing missing; assuming it was the work of a bear, they set everything back up, intent to keep a more watchful eye out for the remainder of the trip…
…but that night, they’re awakened by strange, baleful cries in the darkness, and huddle tightly as something moves ever closer to their camp…will Jim’s quest net the couple more evidence than he bargained for?
Whereas “we’re filming a documentary” is a tired trope for the first biggest failing of found footage (why the fuck are you filming this?), in this case, Goldthwait seemed aware of this and made the aspect a bit easier to swallow, including cuts and bloopers that any budding filmmaker would have on their equipment to add to the realism. The second biggest failing of found footage movies is typically the unnatural stilting of the dialog; when we’re watching these, we’re thinking “real people just don’t talk like that!” This film does not suffer from this; the performances of Bryce Johnson as Jim and Alexie Gilmore as Kelly are outstanding. The actors had a loose script and did a lot of improvisation, and as a result the banter between them is natural, spontaneous, and realistic; they seem very genuine as a couple, and you can sense a great deal of emotion between them with just their expressions and nuances.
Goldthwait’s direction is witty and delivers a sense of whimsy during the first half of the film, and when the tension finally comes, he brings out a very intense and chilling scene with the two huddled in their tent as something bellows and crashes ever closer in the unseen darkness. However, this strong, climactic moment is marred, in my opinion, by it’s very length; although it turns out to be the suspenseful payoff of the film (everything afterward, unfortunately, is somewhat cliched and anticlimactic), this one-take scene runs for almost twenty minutes…a full quarter of the movie’s runtime. Although this showcased the improv skills and endurance of the actors, it just drug on a little too much for my tastes. The creature itself is never seen (which depending on your point of view can either be a good thing or a bad thing), and the ambiguous ending is somewhat confusing and leaves you with nothing but questions. That’s a trait I greatly admire in short films, and even in a feature it can be compelling, but in this case there’s just too little information given for there to be anything but wild speculation as to what is actually going on in the ending…instead of feeling hyped or inspired, I just felt let down.
So there it is, peeps; although this flick was very well acted and competently (even cleverly, to some extent) directed, it fell kinda flat for me in the overall summation. It sucks to write that about a film where I saw a lot of good things in terms of filmmaking in general, but for a horror film, it just didn’t deliver the goods; it started out with interesting character development, built up some good, spooky tension…then dropped the ball on the one-yard-line.
If you’re a found-footage enthusiast or bigfoot lover, then you might find some joy here; if you want to see an example of good filmmaking and some great improvisation by actors, this would be a good one as well…however, if you’re like me, and looking for a scary bigfoot flick…
…well folks, for my two cents, this isn’t it.
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