REVIEW: WILLOW CREEK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT / SCREENPLAY: BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT / STARRING: BRYCE JOHNSON, ALEXIE GILMORE / RELEASE DATE: MAY 2ND (LIMITED CINEMATIC RELEASE), MAY 26TH (DVD)
Bobcat Goldthwait has proved himself to be quite the darkly humorous filmmaker over the years. This time out, the writer/director tackles the subject of Bigfoot. Deciding to go the oft-derided found-footage route, Willow Creek centres on a couple who decide to try and track down the elusive Sasquatch. Hoping to prove the existence of this long-disputed legend is Jim (Johnson), accompanied by his far more sceptical partner, Kelly (Gilmore). Along their journey, the duo take in Bigfoot tourism spots, local believers, and typical “go back to where you came from” types, amongst others. But will Jim and Kelly actually see the legend that they so seek?
Willow Creek is definitely one of the better found-footage features of recent years. The story takes its time to unravel, and the constant focus on the central couple only adds to the attachment that the audience has to said pair. Throughout Willow Creek’s journey, we see Jim and Kelly go through a vast array of emotions: from playful partners, to unwelcome visitors, to a scurrying, scared duo who are completely uncomfortable with the situation that they find themselves in. And all the while, you get to enjoy two wonderfully natural performances from Johnson and Gilmore.
Yes, we don’t blame you for shrugging at the first mention of yet another found footage movie. But trust us, this is one of the better ones. Much like the recent The Borderlands, Willow Creek restores credibility to an ailing subgenre. Goldthwait crafts a warmly charismatic tale that just so happens to feature a presence that is utterly terrifying for the couple who have gone out to find Bigfoot.
Whereas so many found footage movies rely on shock scares and slapping you firmly in the face with their monsters, Willow Creek chooses to take a subtle approach. You have to wait for a good 50 minutes or so for the movie to really step into the “creature” territory, but this opening 50 minutes never feels wasted, flat or stagnant. What we have is a basic story of a caring couple who put themselves out in the elements to see what they find. And then there is the question of just what it is that they do find. As Willow Creek, comes to an end, you’ll find yourself with a few questions that are created by a finale that is definitely open to interpretation.
If you go into this expecting a balls-to-the-wall, in-yer-face found-footage horror, you’ll be disappointed. Whilst not quite hitting the heights of The Borderlands, Willow Creek is a well-crafted, slow-burning horror that uses the found footage approach to deliver a movie that is just as much about what you don’t see as what you do. A found footage movie as it should be done.