June 15, 2014

Willow Creek

Bobcat Goldthwait, 2014
Curious couple Jim (Bryce Johnson) and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) venture to the Pacific Northwest to the small town of Willow Creek with their portable video camera, where inexperienced but outdoorsy Jim is casually working on an amateur documentary that consists of him looking for Sasquatch around the location of the famous 1967 Bigfoot footage and interviewing the local townspeople before embarking there.

Bobcat Goldthwait's found footage thriller is a clear nod to The Blair Witch Project in that he places a couple of oblivious people in the middle of the woods and scares the hell out of them. Remove menacing unwelcoming witch lady and install equally unwelcoming giant ape-like monster, hit play. Like a lot of found-footage films the shaky cam takes a bit of getting used to, but after a while your vision settles in. There are believers and nonbelievers in the town of Willow Creek. After a few sloppy attempts at collecting some local anecdotes Jim and Kelly are ready to hit the road. Jim is the clear believer (who makes it clear that this is a childhood dream of his to take the trip) while Kelly is skeptical to say the least. One thing that is for certain is that when they arrive in the small town is the mythos of Bigfoot itself is a living, breathing thing. There are people whose full-time jobs (albeit low-paying and not so eventful) are based on the mythology. Seeing the hand-carved wooden statues and elaborate murals throughout the town is almost enough to make a believer out of anyone. The energy around the town provides a more silly, tongue-in-cheek image of the whole thing despite the few kooks who seem to take it a bit TOO seriously.  

So the couple ventures into the thick lush forest outside of the town. Cue the giggling and the not-so-serious attitude and then the sun sets. Night falls and the fun begins. The tension builds. No punches pulled. Goldthwait employs the device of letting your imagination do the work instead of immediately throwing you a shot of some CGI'd monstrosity. He even gives you something that is basically the equivalent to the terrifying baby crying in Blair Witch. When the camera sits with two people alone in a small tent in a dim light, your other senses are augmented. At the end of the day, The Blair Witch Project's approach worked on some people but didn't work on others. It was a very divisive film. People who happened to live in the woods tended to be more affected than the city-dwellers who brushed it all off as a failed attempt to scare them. But if that movie got in your head, Willow Creek certainly will. Willow Creek is not trying to reinvent the wheel, and by not doing that it hits the mark. 

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