Directed and Written by Bobcat Goldthwait
Bobcat Goldthwait may one day become the punchline of a Geico commercial:
Man: “Huh. 15 Minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.”
Woman: “Uh-huh. Everybody knows that.”
Man: “Well, did you know that Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed the best’ found footage’ movie of all time?”
There’s only one problem with that: it’s not a joke. Bobcat Goldthwait has officially written and directed the best found footage film of all time, or at least I think so. Goldthwait explores Bigfoot territory in Willow Creek-a film that is as tongue-in-cheek as it is absolutely terrifying. Willow Creek takes a slow ride to scaring the shit out of us and when it finally gets us to our destination Goldthwait pulls no punches in making our hearts crawl into our throats and out of our mouths to say ‘it’s been fun but fuck you very much.’ Do you want to know how much I enjoyed Willow Creek? I just watched it ten minutes ago as of my writing this post and already I’m psyched to watch it again. The old cliché about a film being a roller coaster ride of excitement has become new again with Willow Creek; only this ride has two settings: the slow ascent and the hellish ride down.
Jim and Kelly are re-tracing the steps made by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin when they filmed their historic footage of a Bigfoot as it strolled across their view and into infamy on October 20, 1967. Willow Creek divides Jim and Kelly in half-Jim has believed since he was eight years old; Kelly, not so much. There are the usual arguments: how come no one has ever found a body? How has a creature that big managed to avoid detection for all those years? As the couple move deeper into Bigfoot territory their search for Sasquatch takes a turn as they meet the ‘Bob Dylan of Bigfoot, Tommy Yamarone, who serenades the couple with ‘Roger and Bob (Rode Out That Day); and Tommy Red and his poignant ’952 Frames of Truth’, a reference to the amount of film shot by Patterson and Gimlin on that day in ‘67. Deeper into Bigfoot territory and Jim and Kelly encounter a man who pointedly tells them to turn their car around and go back the way they came. Undaunted, our couple presses on by taking an alternate route into the terrain and setting up their campsite only to have it torn down by an unseen individual.
Nighttime is the wrong time for Jim and Kelly. For ten minutes Goldthwait, using the grainiest film he can find, puts us through sheer terror as the couple hear the sounds of wood being knocked together, an ungodly howl, the sound of a woman crying and as the sounds grow closer a sort of threatening, menacing scratch from deep in the throat and finally the rustling of the tent as whoever-whatever-presses against it and toys with their-and our-sanity. The scene outdoes every frame of The Blair Witch Project and never looks back as it drives a spike of terror into our chests and out the other side. However, the scariest part of the scene is not the noises and commotion outside the tent but the rationalization on the inside as Jim explains each sound or movement to a frightened Kelly. Afterward, the couple makes a decision that will impact them for the rest of the film.
Bobcat Goldthwait is known as that ‘comedian with the high-pitched voice that was in those Police Academy movies.’ He is also a director known for Shakes the Clown and satirical comedies such as World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America. Willow Creek is a departure for Goldthwait to a certain degree. You can’t help but laugh when Jim and Kelly eat a Bigfoot burger or visit the Bigfoot bookstore and bed down at the Bigfoot Motel. Goldthwait lures us in with the subtle laughs before wrenching the terror to 10 in the final act; which despite being reminiscent of the finale of literally every ‘found footage’ film ever made Goldthwait still manages to make scary as hell. The only complaint I have about the film is a minor one: Goldthwait, although smart in casting relative unknowns Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson as Jim and Kelly, casts Peter Jason as a park ranger who recounts a story to Jim about a possible encounter with Bigfoot that left his dog bifurcated. Genre fans will recognize Jason from John Carpenter’s They Live and may be taken out of the world of Willow Creek for the brief time that he’s onscreen-but then again maybe I’m making something out of nothing. I do know that I wasn’t kidding about Willow Creek being the best ‘found footage’ film ever made. I’m even thinking about making a trophy and mailing it to the Bobcat. How does a gold representation of a dilapidated shack with a stash of film canisters underneath with the words “Best ‘Found Footage’ Movie. Ever” engraved on it grab ya?