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WILLOW CREEK (review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Produced by Aimee Pierson
Written and Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson

Bobcat Goldthwait continues to impress as a filmmaker after the darkly funny World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America with a straight-faced, found-footage horror flick (albeit one with a great deal of humor).

Jim (Bryce Johnson), a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, has decided to make a pilgrimage to Willow Creek, the location where, in 1967, the infamous footage of the famed beast was captured.

Jim has, of course, decided to document his trip on video, and has coerced his girlfriend (and adamant non-believer) Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) into joining him.

Along the way, the couple stops at the Bigfoot Motel, gnoshes on some Bigfoot Burgers, and interviews a handful of locals who have connections to Sasquatch, both tenuous and strong.

The two bicker playfully and debate the big guy’s existence on their travels.

This is all slow-burn preamble to their trek to the wilderness location where the footage was filmed, where they intend to camp out and seek evidence of the creature’s existence.

It’s then that the scary sounds – rustling, yowling, wood claps – kick in, most effectively in an unbroken, 19 minute shot of the couple’s faces as they sit, terrified, in their tent, listening to the mysterious noises.

Johnson and Gilmore should be commended for their utterly natural, very appealing performances; while there are some motivation issues here and there, for the most part, they come across as intelligent, likable, funny people, and it’s a pleasure spending time with them as we await the scary stuff.

When said long take arrives, it doesn’t disappoint, and it approaches the same atmosphere of horror and dread that The Blair Witch Project seemed to effortlessly conjure fifteen years earlier.

I hesitate to expand further on the last few minutes of the film; if you intend to watch the film – and I do recommend it overall – stop reading and give it a look.

I won’t give anything away regardless, but suffice it to say that while the ending is very cool in and of itself, and is certainly in keeping with the tone of the build-up, I did feel a creeping letdown when the end credits rolled.

This is due as much to the ending not having nearly the same satisfying nightmare quality of Blair Witch or REC, as it is to some unfortunate character motivation moments that I didn’t quite buy, as well as a half-baked steal from Blair Witch that felt completely organic and terrifying in the earlier film, but here feels tossed-in and borderline nonsensical here.

That said, Willow Creek is still an enjoyable, creepy ride, and a somewhat unexpected treat from the former standup. If you’re a found-footage junkie, or at the very least, you’re not entirely sick of the subgenre, Willow Creek is definitely worth 79 minutes of your time.

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