Willow Creek.jpg

Studio:       Dark Sky Films
Director:    Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer:       Bobcat Goldthwait
Producer:  Sarah de Sa Rego, Aimee Pierson
Stars:     Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson, Laura Montagna, Bucky Sinister, Timmy Red, Steven Streufert, Shaun L. White Guy, Sr., Nita Rowley, Tom Yamarone

Review Score:



A couple camping in the remote woods of Bluff Creek, California discovers that the legend of Bigfoot may be real.



The work of filmmaker/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait has been and can be classified many different ways, but “cutting edge” does not fit a descriptor.  While “God Bless America” was bitingly funny as subversive comedy, a satire lampooning obsessions with reality television stardom can hardly be considered timely when released in 2012.  “American Idol,” that film’s chief target, hit its ratings peak six years earlier in 2006, after all.  Even dated material can still pack a punch, although it has a challenge connecting to the jaw if too much time has passed in the meanwhile.

With “Willow Creek,” Goldthwait continues a pattern of being behind the observational curve on current trends.  Not only is “Willow Creek” not even close to the first “found footage” Bigfoot horror movie, it is not even the only one to be released in 2014.  (Eduardo Sanchez’s “Exists” is another.)

Yet coupled with an appreciation for Goldthwait’s continued development as a competent director, excited chatter buzzing about the festival circuit gave reason to be optimistic that “Willow Creek” had something inventive, frightening, and entertaining in store.  Let me declare in very simple terms, “Willow Creek” is none of these things.

I am legitimately stunned that so many positive reviews exist for “Willow Creek.”  Not because it is impossible for someone to enjoy the movie, or because the film does not deserve published praise it may have earned from those who did enjoy it.  It is just that nigh daily, I read scathing criticisms bemoaning “found footage” films simply for being “another formulaic found footage film,” which is precisely what “Willow Creek” is.  For the life of me, I cannot think of anything that justifies categorizing it as an exception to that generalized disdain for the much-maligned format.

Assuming everyone else did in fact see the same sleeping pill supplement I witnessed, the best conclusion I can draw as to why my negative reaction is vastly different than the seemingly popular opinion of positivity is that I saw the film alone at home.  Others have spoken of tension-filled theaters and an electrified atmosphere heightened by those sitting around them.  Perhaps seeing the movie with an audience gives “Willow Creek” a different impact.

I suppose if you have that option, then take it.  Because brushing my teeth afterward provided more excitement than the personal home video screening of “Willow Creek” did.

Jim is a Bigfoot enthusiast who sets out for Bluff Creek, the California site where Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin filmed their own infamous “found footage” back in 1967.  With one side of her mouth smirking, and the other side sighing, Jim’s girlfriend Kelly joins him for the outdoor adventure partly to be supportive and partly as a “why not?” lark.

Armed with a camera and a microphone, Jim bounds about neighboring points of interest interviewing folksy locals about the elusive cryptid for an amateur documentary intended to play who knows where.  If that sounds like act one of virtually every “found footage” movie you’ve ever seen, that’s because it is.  But “Willow Creek” seems to forget that a slow burn introduction should ultimately lead to something, and so it ends up with a second and a third act that are just as dull as the first.  In other words, “Willow Creek” takes the most despised element of any “found footage” movie and makes an entire feature film out of pointless non-events.

“Willow Creek” is just shy of 78 minutes long.  Here is how it approximately breaks down:

0:00:00-0:30:00 – Interviews with area residents and trips to nearby cafes, motels, and assorted Bigfoot statues for local color.  Yes, that is an entire half hour of average persons recalling Sasquatch sightings, musicians singing homemade songs about Patterson and Gimlin, and Jim and Kelly eating Bigfoot Burgers at a greasy spoon.

0:30:00-0:40:00 – Jim and Kelly finish their drive and hike the rest of the way to their campsite.  Aside from a brief encounter with an angry mountain man issuing a trespassing threat, this is ten minutes of dirt paths, tree branches, and aimless travel.

0:40:00-0:47:00 – The tent is pitched, skinny-dipping ensues, and the first real hint of trouble comes when Jim and Kelly return to an upturned campsite.  An awkward relationship moment between Jim and Kelly provides the film’s best scene, which is ironically unrelated to any physical horror at hand.  At this point, it should be mentioned that the best thing about “Willow Creek” is actress Alexie Gilmore.  Her character is a skeptic with rational cynicism about Bigfoot’s existence who argues with her boyfriend using logic and facts.  Kelly comes across as a naturally “real” woman and Gilmore does not have to force an inherently likeable personality to take shape.

0:47:00-1:05:00 – Next, “Willow Creek” arrives at its much talked-about single take that is nearly twenty minutes of Jim and Kelly cowering in their tent.  While not an entirely novel idea, it is a bold choice that makes for an interesting scene, although not the tensely terrifying one that others describe.  Even if it made sense that a Sasquatch might randomly punch a tent wall from outside, run away, and then come back to do it again, this hasn’t been a fresh concept since “The Blair Witch Project” did it in 1999.

1:05:00-1:13:00 – Jim and Kelly become lost in the woods, just like everyone else who has ever been between trees in a “found footage” movie.  When something visual finally does take place, the first thing the camera does is to go out of focus while pointing at the ground.

1:13:00-1:18:00 – For the first three of the final five minutes, the camera faces Jim and Kelly as they stare into the darkness waiting for the inevitable attack everyone knows is coming.  The attack takes place, and the last two minutes center full frame on trampled grass as the couple is mauled offscreen.

Honestly, awarding one out of four stars to a movie this dull and unsatisfying is generous, and the bulk of that lone star is earned almost solely because Alexie Gilmore is so enjoyable.  Of “Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes” (review here), “Bigfoot County” (review here), and “Exists” (review here), “Willow Creek” ranks dead last among “found footage” Sasquatch-themed thrillers.

“Willow Creek” is not poorly made, it is merely boring.  The film feels more authentic than most “found footage,” but it is not scary and it is barely interesting as entertainment.  The best thing that can be said about “Willow Creek” is that it accurately captures what a real-life Bigfoot hunt would probably be like: completely uneventful and ultimately a letdown.

Review Score:  25