WILLOW CREEK (2013)

A Movie Review by LL Soares

I’d been wanting to see this movie for awhile now, mostly because I’m a big fan of director Bobcat Goldthwait. Yes, that Bobcat Goldthwait. The comedian who became famous for playing the character Zed in the POLICE ACADEMY films of the 1980s, along with roles in movies like ONE CRAZY SUMMER (1986), SCROOGED (1988), and providing the voice of Mr. Floppy on the sitcom UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER (1995 – 1997). Before that, he was a seasoned stand-up comic. And eventually he went from acting to directing, notably with his first feature film, SHAKES THE CLOWN (1991).

SHAKES was uneven, but had some great moments. But his films as a director since then have taken a darker and (at times) more profound turn. They include SLEEPING DOGS LIE (2006, where a guy finds out some troubling news about his finacee), WORLD’S GREATEST DAD (2009, with Robin Williams as the father of a kid who dies in an embarrassing way,  and who writes a profound suicide note to cover it up, resulting in huge community and media attention), and GOD BLESS AMERICA (2011, with Joel Murray as a terminally-ill vigilante and Tara Lynne Bar as his 16-year-old sidekick), and are all worth seeking out.

WILLOW CREEK (2013) is something else entirely, as Goldthwait creates a fairly conventional found-footage monster movie. It’s all about Bigfoot and the original 1967 “Patterson Gimlin” film footage, as eager Bigfoot fanatic Jim (Bryce Johnson, also in some of Goldthwait’s previous films, as well as the TV series PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, 2010 – 2016) and his actress girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore, also in the films DEFINITELY, MAYBE, 2008, and LABOR DAY, 2013) make a documentary as they follow the trail of the original filmmakers, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, leading them to Willow Creek in Northern California. Along the way, they interview locals, some of whom believe the sasquatch myth is real, and others who think it’s all just a hoax to bring tourist dollars to the town.

Everything seems to be going well until the two of them actually go deep into the woods to find the original location of this most famous Bigfoot siting, and then the whole thing turns into a BLAIR WITCH-like horror story.

Considering that it was shot in just five days, WILLOW CREEK does a great job ratcheting up the suspense and anxiety, as Jim and Kelly cower in their tent when they hear bizarre noises and movements late at night (supposedly Bobcat himself provided all the Bigfoot noises). All found-footage horror films are going to get compared to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), and, like BLAIR WITCH, our heroes find themselves in a nightmarish situation, get lost when trying to get out of the woods (finding they’re walking circles), all leading up to a scary ending.

While WILLOW CREEK doesn’t really offer anything daringly new to the found-footage genre, it’s an excellent example of the genre, with likeable leads and legitimate tension. The slow build adds up to an effective finale, that will have you glued to your seat. It’s simple and straightforward, and surprisingly effective.

I really liked this one.

© Copyright 2018 by LL Soares

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