Friday, October 2, 2015
Willow Creek is written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, best known for his crackpot acting roles in movies like the Police Academy series and Scrooged. In recent years, he's established himself as a director with God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad starring Robin Williams, and his work has been in the dark comedy vein. When I say Bobcat Goldthwait made a movie about Bigfoot, you can probably envision a silly comedy made at the intersection of Harry and the Hendersons and Heathers.
Yet, Willow Creek is a serious thriller and a plausibly constructed one at that. It follows two people - Jim (Bryce Johnson) and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) - as they journey to the actual Willow Creek, home of the Bigfoot legend, and videotape their experience recreating the famed Patterson-Gimlin film. Jim is a believer, but Kelly, an actress, is really more along to please Jim. As they make their way, they encounter some of the people and businesses that have sprung around the legend, interview some locals, have an encounter with a burly woodsman who tells them to leave, and get lost before having their own encounter with what may or may not a Sasquatch.
Goldthwait gives the movie authenticity by filming at the actual Willow Creek, which in real life is the Bigfoot Capital of the World and home to an annual festival dedicated to the legend, and the people Jim and Kelly encounter are real people playing themselves (with the exception of a ranger played by Peter Jason who lost his dog to Bigfoot). These folks are bit kooky, but the movie doesn't come off as exploitive in regards to them and doesn't turn into a freak show. It's all fairly charming, although it does go on for a while, and some viewers might lose patience watching an ostensible home movie. Dramatically speaking, not much happens.
It's tempting to call Willow Creek a clone of The Blair Witch Project. The scenarios are similar: people go looking in the woods for a local legend and become lost. Like in Blair Witch, we never actually see Bigfoot, which again, is something that will probably disappoint people. Unlike Blair Witch, there is a grounded sense of a humor at play, at least in the first half as Jim and Kelly meet the odd people and encounter the sites of Willow Creek, and at the end, we get definitive proof that something is indeed stalking them in the wilderness.
This isn't a movie for everyone. Some will dismiss it as a Blair Witch rip-off with long, tedious passages before it gets to the horror material that really doesn't show much. Others will embrace it for its authenticity and the genuine sense of terror its generates.