Do I believe there’s something in reality that we call Bigfoot? Well, let me answer by saying I don’t disbelieve. I’m of the variety – much like WILLOW CREEK’s protagonist – who find it difficult to deny that which we cannot directly prove or disprove … so maybe it’s best to call me ‘susceptible.’ What I do know for certain about me is that I am a fan of the found-footage genre, of which this feature is one. So if that’s in your sphere of interest, you’d do well by following along … stay on the path … and – hey – keep that camera goin’, will ya? You don’t want to miss that thing over there in the bushes …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Looking to make a splash with his research videos into the existence of Bigfoot, Jim and his girlfriend Kelly take a camping trip to the mountains surrounding Willow Creek, California, a small town where infamous footage of the supposed Sasquatch was filmed. Before long the headstrong couple are lost in the woods and discover that someone – or something – is stalking them. With each passing night bringing unknowable danger, the two must use all of their cunning to try to make it out of the forest alive.”
About the best that can be said assuredly for WILLOW CREEK is that the film effectively demonstrates the limitless strengths of the found-footage format film. In other words, it rather efficiently goes about the business of being a story: it sets up the premise, it introduces its few players, and it begins to capture in an almost ‘Christopher Guest’ way what homespun wisdom it’ll offer those who take the journey.
Contrariwise, about the worst that can be said assuredly for the same is that it equally well demonstrates the weaknesses of the found-footage format film. Once it’s established the parameters, there’s really nowhere else to go. Like a schooled poker player, it’s played its cards early, and no amount of bluff can effectively counter when, where, and how the scares will be delivered. You can see them as they emerge from the woods a mile away; all you’re left to do is sit and wait for them to reach where you’re waiting.
So strengths and weaknesses aside, WILLOW CREEK surprisingly stays in the middle of the road. Under Bobcat Goldthwait’s capable leadership (he wrote and directed it), it goes about its business all on its own. It never strives to be more than what it is, though Bobcat does give his two main players an appreciable level of characterization, though in the end it never really amount to much more than “they’re young, and they’re in love.” For those of us who love found-footage flicks, it’s certainly enough to keep us watching … but there’s hardly enough here I suspect to bring others into the fold.
WILLOW CREEK (2013) is produced by Jerkschool Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group. As for the technical specifications? Because Bobcat Goldthwait is an established name, you can bet that few expenses were spared; as a connoisseur of found-footage films, I assure you that this one looks and sounds vastly more impressive than most that come out of studios big and small. In fact, methinks it spoiled me! Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then there’s a commentary track with Bobcat and his stars along with some deleted scenes, a ‘making of’ short, and the theatrical trailer. It’s definitely a nice assortment for those of us who enjoy this genre of filmmaking.
RECOMMENDED only for fans of found-footage features, though I wonder if those who enjoy mockumentaries might find some charm in the small-town moments (exploring the various community members who live and work on the fringes of Bigfootamania. As I said, there’s enough in here to keep one interested for its run-time (a lean 80 minutes), but WILLOW CREEK offers absolutely nothing new to the genre, despite the reputation of its auteur. Good, but not great.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of WILLOW CREEK by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape or form influenced my opinion of it.