From director Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America), comes this found-footage horror film about a couple, who are searching for proof of Bigfoot in the woods, where the famous Patterson-Gimlin film was shot. To celebrate his birthday, Jim (Bryce Johnson) travels to Willow Creek, California, the Bigfoot capital of the world, to film a documentary of his search for the mythical creature. Accompanying Jim is his skeptical girlfriend Kim (Alexie Gilmore), who does not believe at all in Bigfoot, but is going on the trip anyway to spend time with Jim. The two of them interview people around the town before travelling to the nearby Bluff Creek, where the famous Bigfoot footage was shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in 1967. When they set up camp in the woods, the two of them quickly find out that the legend of Bigfoot might not be a myth after all.
Before I begin talking about my thoughts on Willow Creek, I do have to note that it is quite a coincidence that this film is screening at Toronto After Dark a few months after the documentary Shooting Bigfoot screened at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival (and was co-presented by Toronto After Dark). It definitely seems like it is “the year of the Sasquatch.”
Anyways, I’ll start by saying that it is probably excusable if people thought that Willow Creek was merely a rehash of The Blair Witch Project. Since both films feature people searching for a legend in the woods, the comparisons between the two films are quite unavoidable. Indeed, I thought that Willow Creek followed quite a few of the same beats of The Blair Witch Project, which included interviewing people around the town, getting lost in the woods, strange sounds at night, and even the endings are somewhat similar. In addition, just like The Blair Witch Project (and most other found-footage films), there are many instances of shaky camerawork, which might result in some motion sickness.
However, despite the similarities with The Blair Witch Project, I thought that Willow Creek was quite a tense found footage film in its own right. Bobcat Goldthwait tried to stay as pure to the found footage premise as possible, which includes the fact that the film only has a total of 67 edits, with many scenes running continuously for up to 20 minutes (more on that in a minute). I also noticed that the film seemed to have a single-channel sound mix, with all the sound coming from a single side of the theatre, which is what would happen if sound from a microphone was not given a mono mix. Even though was a bit disorienting at times, this sound mix is an interesting way to help with the illusion that this is truly “found” footage, which is being shown practically unedited.
When Bobcat Goldthwait set out to make Willow Creek, his original intension was to make the film more of a comedic mockumentary. Indeed, I would argue about roughly three quarters of the film is more a comedy than a horror film, particularly the early half, which takes place in the town. I was actually quite surprised how long it takes for the scares to start in Willow Creek, however once they do, it gets real tense, real fast. This brings me back to the topic of long continuous takes, since the film’s signature moment is a nearly 20 minute long take instead a tent. I don’t think something like this has been done before in a found footage horror film and I have to say the end result is quite effective. I don’t want to spoil what exactly happens during these 20 minutes, but I will say that it involves a lot of sounds coming from the woods, which slowly get louder and more intense. I will also add that the film has a money-shot towards the end, which will definitely get people talking after the film.
Overall, while found footage horror films have long since run their course, I have to say that I thought that Willow Creek was one of the better ones, which featured some great tension and scares.8 | LIKED IT