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Willow Creek – 7

Director – Bobcat Goldthwait

Cast – Bryce Johnson, Alexie Gilmore

Release  Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I have a sound belief that for the rest of my life I will continually search for good Bigfoot films, and because of that I was beyond excited when I learned of Willow Creek. I don’t care at all if a film is found footage or not, but for many reasons it seems found footage / mockumentary filmmaking and Bigfoot go hand in hand. The Legend of Boggy Creek did this in the late 70s, and Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes did this in 2012. With the latter film being an utter letdown I can say it has been a LONG time since we have been given a solid Bigfoot flick, so I had high hopes for Willow Creek. The first directorial horror film of actor/director Bobcat Goldthwait, I was not sure of how the film would be executed, but my curiosities were settled early on. Willow Creek is not the welcome home party for Bigfoot that I was hoping for, but it is definitely the best film in his sub-genre that I have seen in a long time.

Like millions of other Americans, California native Jim has long been fascinated with the infamous 1967 film segment showing Bigfoot striding along a dry riverbed. Armed with a video camera, his girlfriend Kelly, and a tent, Jim heads deep into Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest to track down the site of the infamous film and see what he can capture on camera. Assuming the feisty local rednecks are the only trouble they will find, Jim and Kelly soon realize the grave mistake they made when night falls and what they are looking for finds them instead.

Bobcat Goldthwait serves as both writer and director, and his story is very simple yet quite effective. The action takes a while to hit, but the development is interesting and focuses on the development of our two protagonists. Both are naïve to what they are getting themselves into, and naturally they fail to heed the warnings of local folk who “don’t take kindly” to them snooping around a public forest. Eventually they make it into the forest and come across the first potential sign of Bigfoot about 38 minutes into the experience. The developments continue when their campsite shows signs of trouble, but still not enough to prove that Bigfoot is amongst them. However, when night falls that will change. Almost an hour has passed before we year the human-esque cries and yells coming from somewhere nearby, and it is then that the action begins to pick up. Nighttime falls and our protagonists take shelter in their tent, and it is here that the horror finally kicks in. Goldthwait expertly writes these scenes to bring out the utmost horror while showing little to nothing at all. With a heavy emphasis on sound we watch as Jim and Kelly helplessly hide within the tent while something very large lurks about them, grunting and snapping tree limbs. This may sound simple and tame, and on the surface it is, but these scenes are drawn out so well that they made for possibly the most horrific scenes in the film. The remainder of the story focuses on Jim and Kelly desperately trying to make it back to their vehicle, which is at a side entrance to the forest. These final scenes were pretty intense and the horror came crashing down when they finally found what they were looking for, which came under the most unfortunate of circumstances.

Goldthwait’s direction is absolutely superb and he plays a heavy role in making this simple story an engaging and highly effective one. From the get-go he sells us with his two protagonists and the joyous relationship they have. They support one another, respect each other, and are both going head first into what will eventually become the worst weekend of their lives. The settings were also fantastic and had me engulfed into thinking what I would be doing in their situation – from their arrival to the forest up to the final scenes trying to make their way out. As I also mentioned earlier, the scare scenes were heavily drawn out and the execution of these scenes could not have been better. With only sound to scare us I found these scenes to be some of the creepiest I have seen all year, and that is a result of damn good execution. Sound and horror go hand in hand, more than sound and any other genre of film, and you will realize that when you give this a watch. There is virtually nothing to enjoy when it comes to gore or kills, and frankly you don’t need them. Had we seen more carnage this would have surely secured a higher rating, but in the end Goldthwait shows that good direction can make even the simplest film a winner.

Overall, Willow Creek is a good found-footage experience that does a lot without having to show much. Personally, I wish the film would have shown more horror as it would have produced more tension and ultimately achieved a higher rating, so keep that in mind going into this experience. If I had to compare this to another found-footage piece it would have to be The Blair Witch Project, mostly because the horror is kept offscreen but also because of the woods setting and shaky running scenes. Because of the offscreen horror I cannot say that I would recommend this to ALL, but I will definitely recommend this to those looking for a positive Bigfoot film, found footage film, or of course…both.

Rating: 7/10

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