review by DARRELL MASH
Directed and written by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson
I like to fashion myself a pretty tough cookie when it comes to horror films, but I'll admit to being on the edge of my seat (and almost jumping off) at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival's premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait's Bigfoot horror film Willow Creek. But with that being said, the bottom line is that Willow Creek is just another found footage horror movie at its core. It is actually quite good, for a found footage film, but that's not saying very much.
Usually when someone asks me what my favourite kind of films are, I say horror and Bobcat Goldthwait films. So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard the news about Willow Creek, Bobcat's first foray into the horror genre. You can also imagine my disappointment when I heard that it was going to be a found footage film. I, like many of you, have had more than my fill of these found footage horror movies. More often than not, they are pedestrian at best and fail to break any new ground. Unfortunately, Willow Creek is no exception. That's not to say there is nothing to enjoy here, however.
Willow Creek follows a couple Kelly and Jim (played by Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson), who hope to retrace the footsteps of Patterson and Gimlin (the real-life duo that shot arguably the most iconic footage of the legendary Bigfoot) and hopefully catch up with the elusive Bigfoot of Willow Creek. The original footage, shot in 1967, clearly shows what looks to be a cross between a gorilla and a human. In the film, real Willow Creek residents are used in place of actors, which lends credibility to the realism. Some of these residents are quite memorable. One woman, who works the welcoming centre and vehemently denies that Bigfoot exists, was a highlight of the film.
Bobcat's unique sense of humour that makes his previous efforts so great, such as last year's excellent God Bless America permeates Willow Creek. To be quite honest, it's the humour that saves Willow Creek from being nothing more than another easily forgotten found footage horror. It's the humour that keeps you interested while waiting for the horror to show it's ugly head. The dynamic between Kelly and Jim as they hunt for the Sasquatch also keeps the viewer interested until the action starts. Jim, who is a Bigfoot believer, spends a lot of time and energy trying to convince his girlfriend Kelly, who doesn't believe, that Bigfoot is a reality.
Once the couple goes off the beaten path and head into the woods where Bigfoot allegedly lives, the horror begins. Most of the scares come from the implication of danger, not unlike the king of found footage films, The Blair Witch Project. One scene in particular that lasts more than 15 minutes, in which the couple are in their tent while something (maybe Bigfoot) stalks their campsite, is a very tense, claustrophobic, and dare I say scary piece of filmmaking. In the Q&A after the screening, Goldthwait said that people have told him that his films are examples of man's biggest fears. There are plenty of fears at work in Willow Creek, but I don't want to give too much away.
Unfortunately, since Willow Creek is a found footage movie, it's not likely that many horror fans will be raving about it any time soon. Yet, as I said at the top of this review, that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out.