What director Bobcat Goldthwait sets out to do with “Willow Creek” is deliver a found footage movie that gives the viewers every answer nagging at them. Except, he provides the answers through foreshadowing, subtlety, and a lot of ambiguity paired with clarification in the final moments of his film. Truthfully, “Willow Creek” is the anti-“Blair Witch,” in that it leaves so much to the imagination, but garners a very slick tongue in cheek toward its subject matter. There’s no prologue about sheriff’s finding this footage, there’s no epilogue about what happened when the camera shut off. Goldthwait doesn’t want us to believe that this might have happened. It merely begins on a mysterious shot, and Goldthwait takes us on his own version of a found footage horror film.
The whole point of the film is that ignorance is bliss. Who knows if there’s an actual sasquatch, but sometimes it’s best not to go poking your nose where it doesn’t belong, and that’s what “Willow Creek” aims to convey. Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore play young couple Jim and Kelly. Jim is a big foot enthusiast and aspiring filmmaker who travel to Trinity County, California along with Kelly to visit the iconic filming sight where the Patterson-Gimlin footage from 1967 was shot. That’s the silent footage of the female big foot stomping through the woods in the middle of the day that cryptozoologists still debate about. When they enter in to what is a veritable Bigfoot Mecca filled with souvenir shops, cafes, and a giant bigfoot statue, they begin interviewing the locals about big foot sightings.
What they find is a mixed variety of denizens that believe the myth is laughable, while occasional passersby interrupt filming to warn them that bigfoot is nothing to laugh at. On the way to the film sight, Jim and Kelly are confronted by an aggressive local who threatens them and warns them to turn around and go back home. Despite his inherent threats and physical insistence, Jim and Kelly find a new path in to the forest, where they’re hike out to find famous Patterson-Gimlin sight. As they tread on, not only do they begin experiencing weird occurrences, but they’re subjected to horrors they’re unprepared for. What I love most about “Willow Creek” is that Bobcat Goldthwait makes a film about a classic legend, and only expands on it. What we do find lurking in the forest isn’t just what we might expect, but Goldthwait delights in also offering us a twist that we not only never expected, but is incredibly disturbing when you ponder the weight behind it.
Goldthwait is perfectly capable of deriving tension and horror from the limited scenery, often using the wooded area as a very menacing stomping ground from what’s lurking beyond our sight. He also implements the use of the unknown to provide much of the terror, depending on sound and suggestion to scare us in to submission. He even includes a scene very similar to “The Haunting” where we’re certain what’s outside is big and powerful based on a simple action. “Willow Creek” is a wonderful turn of the found footage sub-genre that watches like a part found footage movie, and part documentary shoot that took a turn in to hell. Director Goldthwait runs the risk of turning his movie in to another run of the mill found footage endurance test, but with slick writing and strong performances, he manages to keep us invested until the very end.
Featured on the DVD and Blu-Ray, there’s a commentary with Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait and Stars Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson, all of whom record in Goldthwait’s living room, discussing at great length the physical demands of filming at Willow Creek, and the actual wilderness, and how Goldthwait struggled to keep from turning his film in to another stock found footage title. There’s a deleted scene featuring Cliff Barackman a big foot expert, as well as the eleven minute Bryce Johnson’s “The Making of Willow Creek.” Finally, there’s the “Willow Creek” trailer, and other trailers for MPI productions.