Willow Creek, Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest found-footage Bigfoot movie, is a far cry away from the Harry and the Hendersons remake we’ve all been clamouring for so much. Instead, Willow Creek follows young couple, Jim and Kelly, played by Bryce Johnson (A slightly less likeable John Krasinski) and Alexie Gilmore (Both are Bobcat regulars), as they venture into the heart of Willow Creek, the location of the infamous Bigfoot footage, and ultimately hope to catch a sasquatch on camera. This goes about as well as you’d expect for someone caught in a found-footage film though.
Whilst people tend to give found-footage a hard time, I’ve always enjoyed the genre for the most part, be it Cloverfield, V/H/S, or the Paranormal Activity films, I’ve had a blast. Willow Creek attempts to take found-footage back to its roots, seemingly taking a lot of it’s cues from The Blair Witch Project, a film that changed both horror and how a film can be marketed. Since Blair Witch’s release though, audiences have become much more familiar with found-footage, and the premise that you are watching real footage, is unlikely to fool anyone these days. That being said, Willow Creek feels very realistic. Goldthwait opting to have the stars film a lot of the footage themselves to add to the sense of handheld amateur realism, and it really works to build a belief in the movies world, especially during the visit to the town during the first act. Johnson and Gilmore’s chemistry also helps to serve the realism of the film, you not only believe they are a couple, but it is entirely plausible that these two people have set out on this mission. Jim, the believer, seeking out the truth, and Kelly, the sceptic in love, who would follow Jim to her death.
We are used to seeing the believer and the sceptic against each other in films like this, but Willow Creek weaves their debate in to the film perfectly. As they drive along some very shining-esque roads, they discuss the possibility of bigfoot, addressing arguments from both sides of the table. Like a lot of the dialogue, this scene is very funny, but also feels like a real argument from a real couple. I find it very enjoyable to hear people who will believe in Sasquatchs to lay down their reasoning. There was a scene in The Newsroom where Dev Patel explained his, and here Jim’s follows a reasonably similar path, both raise fair points, both are dismissed at every turn.
The film builds its tension as Jim and Kelly head into the woods in the hopes of finding the original tracks that Bigfoot was spotted all those years ago. As with any horror film involving travelling to your almost certain death, the couples car is stopped by an aggressive forest man (no further explanation is given for him other than he is a man who is in the forest) who warns them to leave immediately. Jim, finds another passage, and continues on, incredibly pleased with himself.
This is where the film takes a turn, with only 40 mins left (the film is short clocking in at just 80 mins, so half the film is spent on the build up) as Jim and Kelly set up camp for the night. What follows is a 20 minute shot of the couple, terrified in their tent, listening to the sounds of the forest outside. It sounds painful and over the top, but if you’ve allowed yourself to be drawn in, the scene is terrifying. The tent, an incredibly scary setting that is never used effectively enough, hidden from view of the outside, but still so vulnerable, protected only by a sheet of fabric.
The films final 20 minutes never quite reach the level I was expecting after the tension from the tent scene, but nonetheless are entertaining. The final few shots will leave you scratching your head in much the same way The Blair Witch Project had everyone confused, but I can’t help feeling disappointed for the lack of actually seeing Bigfoot. Bobcat Goldthwait’s last two films World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America were both masterful black comedies, and as a result, it’s a little sad that Willow Creek will get so little attention. It is a film that brings the found-footage genre back to its roots, and doesn’t pander to the expectations of audiences. At times though, it feels like half a horror film, with an extremely top heavy first half, the pay-off comes as a bit of a let down, and may feel a waste of time. Plus this is the first bigfoot movie I’ve seen in years, and you don’t even see bigfoot!