Saturday, 14 June 2014

Review: WILLOW CREEK (Bobcat Goldthwait Bigfoot flick)

Having firmly established himself as a director with great vision, Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America) tries his hand at the 'found footage' genre. And while it does follow much the same format as those which have gone before (most notably The Blair Witch Project), Willow Creek manages to amp the tension and instil something missing from many FF films, scares!

Jim (Bryce Johnson) is an aspiring filmmaker, and manages to coerce his girlfriend, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) to accompany him on a project which involves seeking the location of the famous Bigfoot footage shot in 1967 by Patterson/Gimlin. After exploring Bluff Creek, and all its Sasquatch-related tourist traps, they head on to Willow Creek, Jim hoping all the time that they will find the mythical beast too. Kelly is much more skeptical, and is really just along for the ride, getting wearier as they trek through the woods.
Despite the locals all being willing to talk, most claim nothing is there. There are some oddball characters as you'd expect (including one who sings a song about the original filmmaking pair) and those who claim to have experience Bigfoot in the flesh. And despite one man threateningly them not to go, they keep moving, eventually setting up camp for the night. It's during this night that they experience something which puts the fear of God into both of them.
Willow Creek starts almost painfully slow. Coupled with the 'shaky-cam' style of filming you'd be forgiven for reaching for the remote and flicking through or even turning off. However, I was glad I didn't as it's during these talky sections, and scenes of local interaction that we feel the wonderful chemistry between the two leads. It's this plodding build-up which makes the final act all the more rewarding - and terrifying.
Not to mention a brilliant, if audacious, scene which runs almost twenty minutes and consists of a simple two-shot of the pair talking in their tent while something is outside. By pure suggestion and superb use of sound design, Goldthwait has made this among the most riveting and tense scenes of recent years. It goes on so long that the viewer has a very palpable fear, as we - like the couple - don't know what is out there nor what it intends to do. Whereas the prolonged confined two-shot scene in The Battery worked because of its irreverence, here it's the mounting anxiety and startling sound which makes it a stand-out moment.
While I'm no fan of FF films, I was surprised at how well this drew me in, and am so glad I didn't right it off when it felt like it was going nowhere. Whereas Blair Witch felt a like a damp squib by the end, Willow Creek - largely because we actually end up liking the characters - quite literally explodes by the climax. Recommended.
8 out of 10

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