Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait has become quite the daring and provocative filmmaker in his post-acting years. His God Bless America and World’s Greatest Dad are both biting satires and pitch black social commentaries on contemporary America. With Willow Creek, Goldthwait switches gears completely and explores the found footage horror sub-genre. It’s one that feels completely played out, but the film is an unexpectedly restrained and atmospherically effective slow burn.
Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore play Jim and Kelly, a young couple entering northern California to retrace the steps of the infamous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage that purportedly shows a Bigfoot in the wild. Jim is creating a documentary of his own using footage from their journey. They explore the town of Willow Creek, whose entire economy is hitched to the Bigfoot legend, and eventually make their way into the woods in an effort to find the exact location of Patterson and Gimlin’s film. Visitors await.
Goldthwait is very deliberate in his pacing. The whole first hour is mostly lighthearted and only occasionally ominous, but it’s all a set-up for a tense final twenty minutes and an ending that offers up numerous disturbing possibilities. All of this would be for naught if we didn’t care about the central couple. Johnson and Gilmore make for a convincing, everyday team that doesn’t make stupid decisions. Goldthwait could have easily gone for cheap jump scares and recycled monster tropes, but instead lets his sound team do the heavy lifting with a genuinely creepy mix. Willow Creek is a no-frills offering that probably won’t appeal much to horror fans looking for an in-your-face experience. For those who appreciate the finer elements of atmospheric suspense, it’s well worth a watch.
Studio: Dark Sky Films
Length: 80 Minutes
Theatrical Release: June 6, 2014 (NY)
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Written by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson, Peter Jason, Tom Yamarone