Bobcat Goldthwait has done something truly remarkable with his latest directorial effort. He has made a found footage horror film that could not have been made better if it were told as a conventional narrative feature. Most found footage films pull me out because I can't quite give in to the fact that the characters on screen would still be filming while all hell is breaking loose around them.
Willow Creek centers on Jim and Kelly, a couple who are traveling to northern California making a documentary about Bigfoot. The first half of the film shows our characters interviewing the residents of Willow Creek. The interviews focus on Bigfoot sightings and the Patterson-Gimlin film that captured the only known footage of the fabled creature. The only actors in the first half the film are our two leads, the rest of the cast is made up by real people who are telling their first hand accounts of living in the Area 51 of the Bigfoot universe.
Alexie Gilmore (Kelly) and Bryce Johnson (Jim) both give noteworthy performances that ground this (found footage/ Bigfoot/ horror) film firmly in reality. It doesn't matter if you are believer or skeptic, the performances should be enough for you to push aside your disbelief and give in to the film. That's the tiny miracle of this film, Bobcat gives us characters that we genuinely care about and puts them in a fucking Bigfoot movie. Clearly I went into this movie expecting to dislike it. I'm pretty tired of the found footage concept and Bigfoot just isn't scary to me. How could I possibly like this movie. It's almost like Bobcat intentionally stacked the deck against himself to see if could write and direct his way out of it. I say almost like it because it is clear that we are in the hands of a filmmaker who is passionate about his subject. Most filmmakers would have played the first half of the film for laughs but instead we are given time to know our characters while we catch up on some Bigfoot lore. The citizens of Willow Creek are treated with respect and it never felt like they were being exploited.
The suspense in the film starts when our couple begin the 29 mile dirt road trek to the site where the Patterson-Gimlin footage was shot. I could explain every shot of the third act and I'm not sure that it would take anything away. When you have static shots that are close to 20 minutes long andtake place inside a tent you would be hard pressed to really give anything away. The suspense and horror are built with the sound design and the terror on Alexie Gilmores face. Willow Creek is available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and still playing in some theaters
I love this movie. Bobcat Godthwait made me love a Bigfoot movie? Wow. Well done sir. I want to take a moment to thank him for reminding me that is impossible to judge any film by it's tag line or IMDB description. I have seen all of Bobcats films and I trust him completely now. Whatever subject he chooses to capture next, I'm in.