20 April 2014 | Coventry
Allow Bigfoot to grow on you
I promised myself several times already I would stop watching so-called "found-footage" horror movies. No matter how interesting and tense they initially appear to be judging by their synopsis or uncanny poster art, you always end up scammed! For "Willow Creek" I made another exception, for two reasons. First and foremost I have an inexplicable weakness for Bigfoot movies, even though experience already taught me there are very few good ones, and secondly because I was curious to watch a film from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait. Like most people, I only know him from his comical roles during the 1980's – most notably the "Police Academy" sequels – and wasn't even aware that he became a versatile director nowadays. Moreover, Goldthwait came to the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Films to introduce his project and tell a bit more about what he wanted to achieve. Apart from still being a funny guy (everyone ought to hear his Bono impersonation), he definitely also know a thing or two about horror cinema and gave a pretty accurate analysis of the genre. Of course, all this happened before the film begun
At first, I must admit that I was very disappointed – infuriated, even – with "Willow Creek" because it was just as dull, clichéd and uneventful as every other dreadful found-footage movie ever made. However, a couple of days later now, it's strangely growing on me. This is definitely a back-to-basics example of the sub genre, very similar to "Blair Witch Project" in fact, but with a much cooler monster. Jim Kessel absolutely wants to prove once and for all that the notorious Bigfoot really exists and heads out to Willow Creek – Bigfoot capital of the world – with a handy-cam and his non-believing girlfriend Kelly. They have a lot of fun at first, munching Sasquatch burgers and mocking the local yokels, but late at night in their tent in the middle of isolated nowhere their laughter quickly fades. With "back-to-basics", I refer to the limited number of protagonists (two people instead of a whole amateur film crew), a very patient and extended introduction to the lead characters and the surrounding and an extreme emphasis on slow-brooding tension and suggestive horror. This last aspect is particularly underlined through an eighteen-minute (18!) monotonous shot of Jim & Kelly anxiously embracing each other in their tent while uncanny sounds and presences lurk outside. Together with a full festival theater, I found this scene very unnerving, but I can't deny it's a powerful and intense sequence. The acting performances of Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson are impressive and the authentic (I think) filming locations are sublime. The climax is dumb, but that also appears to be a found-footage tradition. It's definitely my second favorite title in this totally redundant sub genre, after Barry Levinson's underrated "The Bay".