Fantasia 2013 Review: WILLOW CREEK Makes Found Footage Scary Again
Jim and his girlfriend Kelly are on a road-trip to the Bigfoot capital of the world, Willow Creek, California. Specifically, they are headed to Bluff Creek where the infamous Bigfoot footage in the Patterson-Gimlin film was taken. Jim is a believer; has been since he was eight. And Kelly loves her boyfriend, so she has joined him on this dream come true road trip. However, as they get closer to their destination, they face progressively more hostile resistance, first from the locals, then by something, or someone, in the woods. Jim's dream trip is about to become a nightmare.
Adding suspense/horror to his canon of films, director Bobcat Goldthwait diversifies with the found footage film Willow Creek. Having evaluated the sub-genre and addressed his own concerns -- Who is the creep who edits these things after they're found? -- he brings it to probably its most minimalist form. There are only 67 cuts in the entire film; he makes a point of having the couple turn on and off the camera at each cut.
But, there is a single-take shot in the latter half of the film, as the horrific events begin to unfold, that is 19 minutes long. And it is not until you're well into this shot when you say to yourself, 'Holy crap. This is a long, long single take. Bravo'. But it is the addition of sound and the less-is-more approach to Goldthwait's direction that makes this piece more harrowing.
Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore are convincing as our doomed couple. Under Goldthwait's direction and script/story, we are allowed to attach ourselves to them and sympathize with them. (When they were in Willow Creek, they really did interview residents of the small town adding authenticity and charm to the film.)
By addressing his own concerns about found footage films, an awareness of the audience's preconceptions about the genre, and deft use of sound and not sight to scare the bejesus out them, Goldthwait brings freshness to found footage. His film has likable characters and humor that allow us to ease into the film. Then, as his couple go further into the forest and events unfold, the tension builds to an explosion of sound and violence. Willow Creek is an unnerving and tense addition to the genre.