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Willow Creek

tn_willowcreekWILLOW CREEK is the latest Bobcat Goldthwait directorial work, but mostly it’s just the latest found footage movie. This one is about a couple visiting the area in Northern California where the famous (admitted hoax I thought, but I guess not) Sasquatch footage was filmed in 1967, retracing the journey of the filmers and making their own video about it. Boyfriend Jim (Bryce Johnson, also star of Goldthwait’s SLEEPING DOGS LIE) is a believer, but has enough of a sense of humor about it that a stranger angrily tells him “It’s not a joke!” after seeing him film in front of a wooden Bigfoot statue. Girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore, SURFER, DUDE) has to confess complete Bigfoot atheism, which leads to some tension and arguments. She’s just going along to have fun with her boyfriend, but it upsets him that they’re not on the same page.

The beginning part is kind of a celebration of kitschy touristy Bigfoot shit in the town of Willow Creek, self-declared as “Bigfoot Capital of the World.” They eat foot-shaped Bigfoot Burgers, stay in the Bigfoot Hotel, check out various murals and statues. They also interview a bunch of locals, most of them real people who might think it’s for a real documentary, and those are the best parts. There’s a nice old lady at the visitor center who doesn’t believe in Bigfoot at all and seems to sort of pity Jim for being so gullible. There’s a normal-seeming lady who tells a detailed story about an alleged encounter when she was a kid. There’s a guy who runs Bigfoot Books who tells them in detail about the history of what it turns out is called “the Patterson-Gimli film,” how to get to the isolated location where it was filmed, and different insider tips and jokes from the “Bigfooter” community. They hear locals sing songs about Sasquatch. Squatch Rock. Well, Squatch Folk, more like.

mp_willowcreekThen it gets into the isolation of the woods, being out in the middle of nowhere, the fear of the unseen, most of the usual scare techniques used in most of the usual found footage movies. Very much like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT it gets all its scares from weird sounds at night, not showing things but making you imagine them. At one point something (spoiler) pushes against the tent they’re in – it is literally a thing that goes bump in the night. And to be fair that’s a bigger event than the climactic “oh shit a door closed” scene in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.

There’s a long section that’s just a shot of the two in a tent listening to odd noises – wood banging against wood, walking, breathing, “vocalizing” as Jim keeps calling it. This section is maybe 15 minutes, maybe longer, alot of it one unbroken take. It’s very effective but also very much what everybody else does with found footage.

That’s the problem. If this is just seen as another new found footage horror movie then it’s fine. It’s the one that’s bigfoot instead of a ghost or witch. But most people will see it for the same reason I did: it’s the new Bobcat Goldthwait movie. And it’s a little disappointing in that context. Every other movie he’s directed is very unusual in some way and difficult to categorize. I don’t love all of them, but they’re all unusual and uniquely Bobcat. When I heard he was doing this I had no problem breaking my found footage boycott for it because I assumed that meant he would do his own crazy take on the format, some clever new approach to it. Nope.

Wikipedia lists 81 found footage movies that have come out just since the subgenre was re-popularized in 2007. That’s not including the one that I wrote years ago for one of the commenters to make after saying I thought some of you guys could do one just as good as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. (I believe it was filmed but it was never sent to me, so maybe I was wrong.) There are definitely some fun variations that have come out but overall this is not a formula that is very rehashable, in my opinion. At one time the cheapness and minimalism was a novelty, now it’s a detriment and a sign of laziness. It’s more possible than ever to do alot with nothing, and Goldthwait has already done it before. But at least he’s just messing around with this one, it’s not his first and only movie. I forgive him.

But it’s not hugely different from what the kids do. He does all the familiar tropes: starting out light hearted, eventually everyone is stressed and snipping at each other, there’s a guy who threatens them and says they have to leave (THE LAST EXORCISM), they get lost in the woods and realize they’ve been somehow going in circles for hours (BLAIR WITCH), there’s the part where somebody tells them to turn the camera off, where somebody pretends to turn the camera off but doesn’t (in this case as a joke), where they find their stuff has been messed with by an unseen party, where one character gets annoyed that another still cares about filming. On the commentary track Goldthwait confesses that they even had a scene where Kelly leaves a tearful video message for her mother, but then they realized that was exactly what happened in the most famous scene of BLAIR WITCH. And of course I don’t even have to tell you there’s the ambiguous, abrupt ending where they finally come face to face with the threat but (SPOILER? UNSPOILER?) you don’t see it on camera. No Sasquatch suit required. Go home, Rick Baker.

I wonder if he tried calling Rob Zombie? I bet he’d have an extra Sasquatch suit laying around somewhere.

Goldthwait apparently does believe in Sasquatch and decided to do this over an initial idea of a mockumentary about Bigfoot enthusiasts when he realized they weren’t in any desperate need of being taken down a notch. I respect that, but I kinda wish he’d decided to make a real documentary then. That’s the most interesting stuff in this movie and the Sasquatch documentary is a genre that could benefit more from his touch, I bet.

The actors are good, it’s all well executed, it’s only 79 minutes including credits, not bad. I guess it just comes down to me believing that it’s a worn out subgenre not worthy of his time if he’s not gonna try to reinvent it. But if your expectations aren’t as high you’ll be fine.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 9:33 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “Willow Creek”

  1. Neat poster, though. Someone should make THAT movie.

  2. I find Bigfoot cool and I wish he was real, but let’s face it, he’s probably not, I think I read somewhere that for him to be a real, actual animal there would have to be a fossil record of any kind of ape or primate species living in north America, of which there is not of course

    however, the Yeti could very well be real, if ever there would be an animal that could evade capture it would be in the Himalayas

  3. I caught a sneak preview of the other Bigfoot found footage movie, EXISTS, and I was pleasantly surprised to find shit actually happens in it. I does do the traditional slow build up, going from “Did you hear that? Could be Bigfoot,” to “I saw something moving fast, I’m not sure if it was Bigfoot,” but then it goes all the way with “Yep, that is motherfucking Bigfoot, and its just about to bash my skull in.” The climax is pretty intense.

  4. I find these legends like Bigfoot, Lochness, UFO’s kinda fascinating. They were scary when I was a kid, and I filled my young shorts on several occasions when I saw a Bigfoot movie, or watched The Martian Chronicles with the gold skinned weird aliens.

    Of course, you grow up and work out that they’re probably bullshit…..however, and I’m not kidding, when I was 15 me and two mates saw what we thought was a fucking UFO. It was the mid 80’s, we were riding our bikes around the neighbourhood one Friday night, when this round silver object with rotating lights around the centre stopped mid-air in the sky above us, hovered for about 10 seconds, then shot off diagonally through the clouds. We went to the cops to report it and they said it was probly an army satellite or something and we should maybe not smoke so much pot. But we weren’t stoned on this particular night.

    The cop was probly right, but still, the very idea that we had seen something together was pretty mind-blowing.

  5. I heard Bobcat talk about another horror idea of his, about a religious zealot who raises aborted foetuses from their graves. An aborted foetus zombie movie. He says they kill people by crawling up their arse pipes. That’s one of those “how has nobody done that yet” early Cronenberg/Cohen concepts.

  6. Man, that’s pretty disappointing because I was seriously looking forward to this.

    I got into this long running US tv series Finding Bigfoot. It’s fucking hilarious and brilliant. Main dude is named Moneymaker without any irony. But the dude to watch is Bobo. He’s so fucking enthusiastically into bigfoot being real that it’s really contagious. I watched what must be 5 or 6 seasons of this and haven’t been convinced even a smidge, but fucked if I don’t wish I could just for Bobo alone. They have their skeptic in the team Renae and Bobo’s always like Only a stupid person or Renae would think this isn’t proof that bigfoot is real. The team even zoom about the world where they end up in these rural regions of China etc. and have all the locals going nuts. It’s fucking awesome. I hoped this movie would capture some of that believer passion and take it to another level, but dun sound like it. Bummer, but still lookin forward to giving it a watch, hoping to get into it more than you did.

  7. While I understand your subdued reaction to the film, what made it one of the best found footage-films since “Blair Witch Project” for me is that they’re not cheating. This could actually, possibly be some footage that someone found in the woods. There’s no score, it’s not edited in any way… Goldthwait – unlike many other filmmakers – doesn’t simply earn the advantages of this subgenre (like the smaller budget), but also subjects himself to its RESTRICTIONS (See “The Sacrament” for one of the prime examples of NOT doing that. Allegedly shot with one camera, but you’ve got cuts all the friggin time). Which after a lot of movies that cheated all the time, I found very refreshing. Also, that tent-scene was REALLY intense, and one of the scariest scenes that I’ve seen in a while.

  8. I seem to remember there being some in-camera edits that didn’t really make that much sense. You could definitely say there are cheats in the places they turn the camera on and off to create drama. But your point is taken, it probly stays purer than most of the other ones.

  9. Hmm… ok, I definitely wouldn’t rule out the possibility that they cheated here or there, but overall it seemed to stay pretty true to its supposed found footage-origins. However, it’s not almost a year since I saw it (at a film festival), so I can’t really argue the point. ;-)

  10. Not to sound like a wimp but I almost turned this off during the big tent setpiece – not because it was bad, but because it was just too intense. I’m sure this isn’t the first time a scene like this has been done, but there was something so unsettling about it, it’s like the movie almost made me physically ill. And I mean that in a good way!

    As for the rest of the movie, it was ok but as Vern mentions, the traditions/limitations of found footage and the sense of samey-ness really hurts the movie. *SPOILER* Of course we don’t get a good look at the monster. Of course there’s an abrupt, ambiguous ending where everyone dies (well, maybe). If this was the first big found footage movie instead of Blair Witch, this would be an all-time classic, but coming out now it just feels kind of pedestrian. I’m not even going to say I’m disappointed at the ending because I pretty much EXPECT found footage movies to have shitty endings like this. I think the entire genre has beat us into submission so much that the only shocking ending you could have now would be a good one!

    Also, I wonder why established directors like Goldthwait, Renny Harlin, and Barry Levinson (still can’t wrap my head around that one) have dabbled in found footage. Maybe they want a change of pace or they want to challenge themselves with the genre’s limitations and work with unknown actors/small crew, or maybe it’s the studios who encourage it because of the obvious cost-cutting. Who knows, but it’s a fascinating trend and I kinda want more big directors to try their hand at it.

  11. I still hope for a Steven Spielberg found footage movie.

  12. CJ, that would be awesome if Spielberg or Nolan or one of the heavy hitters gave a shot at it. Sure, they’d be slumming it, but who knows, they’d probably find it to be a fun Van Sant-Psycho-style experiment.

    Found footage may be the genre everyone loves to hate, but it lives and dies by the same basic building blocks every other movie does – a strong script, good performances, character development, a sense of escalation, etc.. Spielberg obviously shows mastery of all of this plus he has a nice habit of working with unknowns/up and comers that would be perfect for found footage.

  13. I don’t know about those other guys, but I’m pretty sure Harlin is what Vern would refer to as a PayPal director these days. You drop money into his account and he’s obligated to come shoot whatever stupid international coproduction you’re funding, regardless of what a waste of his talents it is.

  14. I didn’t dislike this movie at all. In fact, I thought it was pretty good for yet another fuckin found footage movie. The two leads were likable (Alexie Gilmore was also in Bobcats WORLDS GREATEST DAD with Robin Williams RIP). It had a good setup, some nice scenery of a place I’d never seen in a movie before. It wasn’t gloomy like BLAIR WITCH but still delivered on the tension.

    But what was with the topless fat woman at the end, right before **SPOILER** Bigfoot eats everybody? Where did she come from? Why was she just standing there with her tits hanging out, watching Bigfoot attack? Kind of bizarre, but a nice touch. Was she Bigfoots backwater owner/lover/big-titted hairless sister? Fucked if I know. Maybe it was a hat tip to Rob Zombie putting Sasquatch in his witch movie – Bobcat puts a weird woman in his Bigfoot movie.

    I’m neither here nor there on found footage films. I’ve liked some (BLAIR WITCH, Bernard Candyman Roses’ SX TAPE was creepy and had lots of T&A to keep it interesting), and hated others (all the PARANORMAL ACTIVITIES, THE BAY). It needs to have an interesting premise and be well shot without an overuse of vomit-cam. I liked this one, it’s well worth a watch.

  15. Poeface – I’m pretty sure the lady at the end was the same one from the “Missing” poster in town earlier in the movie (it’s a very fast scene, but it unfortunately foreshadowed the ending since I knew she was going to show up sooner or later). I guess the implication is Bigfoot kidnapped her as a sex slave and the same will happen to the main character now.

    And damnit, Bernard Rose directed SX Tape? I’m going to have to watch it now. Can’t be worse than Sex Tape.

  16. Yeah that makes sense, thanks neal2zod.

    If you watch SX TAPE, don’t expect a classic or anything, if there is such a thing in the found footage genre. It’s got the usual constraints of that style – mostly shot in one location(in this case an abandoned abortion hospital, which in itself screams evil lives here and which I found to be creepy), four protagonists with varying degrees of annoying personalities who make dumb choices a lot of the time, and the occasional segment with too much shakycam. But, the location had atmosphere, recalling the dilapidated tenements in Roses’ CANDYMAN, and umm, the nudity was not unwelcome. It kinda got under my skin the way SESSION 9 did. Not sure if there was any intentional subtext about young people fucking frivolously in an abortion hospital, it wasn’t really underlined. Like you said in an earlier post, maybe just a case of a good director wanting to give the genre a shot. It worked on me.

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