Movie Review: ‘Willow Creek’
Starring: Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore
Plot: With help from his girlfriend, Kelly, Jim tries to make a documentary about Bigfoot, hoping to find him in the process.
Ever since becoming a filmmaker, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait has played to a particular strength, comedy. His comedies have been much darker and more dramatic then his usual stand up or acting work, but this movie is completely different. It is a found footage horror movie. Found footage is a pretty limited style of doing horror movie. It became popular for its inherently low budgets, as well as the illusion first founded by Blair Witch Project, that what we are seeing are actual events rather than some obvious piece of fiction. From there, the style has digressed to cheap attempts at recapturing the magic of Blair Witch, which to be honest I didn’t find that memorable to begin with. Willow Creek definitely comes the closest.
It begins with amateur documentarian Jim (Bryce Johnson) fiddling with his camera equipment while his girlfriend and assistant-by-default, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), drives into a Sasquatch obsessed town. I don’t think I have ever seen Johnson before, but Gilmore has worked with Goldthwait in the past. The two of them have really great chemistry. I think their small talk comes off as really natural which helps capturing our interest in their well-being. This is one of the biggest problems with the subgenre: found footage movies are constantly recruiting bad actors.
It really knows how to use the found footage style to its fullest potential. It uses interviews with locals and shots of tourist traps to help to deceptively introduce exposition to the audience. Goldthwait also realizes what makes found footage movies scary, not knowing what is happening in the peripheral. In one of the more tense moments in the movie, a play on the famous runny nose scene from Blair Witch Project, the happy couple listen as tell-tale Sasquatch noises (wood-knocking and whooping vocalizations) get closer and closer. It is one of those really simple feats where having good actors comes in handy. Sometimes situations aren’t scary, but if the actors within it are scared, you can fake out the audience.
Unfortunately, it is still a found footage horror movie. It is the best found footage horror movie I have ever seen, but I still find the style too limiting. The movie doesn’t really have the best ending, and the editing is still pretty sloppy. These are all direct consequences from being found footage. Because the camera must serve a function within the scene either in someone’s hand or just simply powered on for a particular reason, the narrative definitely suffers because of it.