Willow Creek (2014)

Directed By: Bobcat Goldthwait
Written By: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Alexie Gilmore
  Bryce Johnson
Willow Creek

Willow Creek is a found footage film…

Wait! Come back! Don’t leave just yet! Willow Creek is an EXCELLENT found footage film and definitely worth your attention. This isn’t the Paranormal Blair Witch Activity Rip-Off #5 – this is genuinely very good.

Jim (Bryce Johnson) is making a documentary about the mythical Bigfoot and has dragged his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) along as his only camera operator. He’s no professional and his documentary feels akin to a staged home video, and it’s oddly charming because of it.

They head to the town of Willow Creek, California, which is officially the ‘Bigfoot capital of the world’. Here they chat to the locals, listen to some excellent live music and chat about the famous Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin footage (affectionately known as the Patterson-Gimlin film).

In 1967 the Patterson-Gimlin film captured ‘Bigfoot’ on camera – featuring that famous shot of the big hairy beast walking by a streambed – and Jim’s decided to travel into the Six Rivers National Forest and camp in the same place, hoping to get documentary proof of Bigfoot’s existence.

Kelly isn’t convinced and some townsfolk really don’t want them to go, but against their wishes Jim travels into the dense forest with Kelly for the camping trip of a lifetime…which turns into a dark and terrifying nightmare.

Willow Creek is the first foray into the Horror world for comedian and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait, and it’s superb. This is short, shrift, bold filmmaking that treads old ground but feels tremendously fresh, thanks to some clever direction and some excellent character work.

Huge credit goes to Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore, who portray the genuinely loveable couple of Jim & Kelly and share one long, incredibly-tense scene inside a tent – both actors excel and are utterly believable, which is a tough thing to pull off in a found footage film.

Willow Creek reminded me of Pursuit of a Legend, reviewed back in 2010, which was another subtle and scary found-footage Sasquatch hunt. This also opted for subtlety over brash scares and it’s better off for it.

The above, however, does betray the only real issue with Willow Creek, and that’s the lack of originality. The found-footage Bigfoot film has been done multiple times in recent years with massively varying results. If you’ve seen Pursuit of a Legend, The Lost Coast Tapes, Exists, Bigfoot County or The Woodsman (to name a few) then you might find yourself a little frustrated by the concept. Thankfully Willow Creek is certainly one of – if not THE – best of the bunch.

Both beautifully done and genuinely unnerving, Willow Creek is what all found footage films should aim to be; short, punchy, with long scenes and likeable characters. Even if you’re utterly bored by found footage, I recommend watching Willow Creek and getting some faith back on this much-maligned subgenre. I can’t wait to see what Bobcat Goldthwait comes up with next.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

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