Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Bobcat Goldthwait's Unexpectedly Scary Found-Footage Horror 'Willow Creek'

The Playlist By Mark Zhuravsky | The Playlist June 6, 2014 at 3:15PM

Deviating from caustic comedies, Bobcat Goldthwait reaches into his toolbox and delivers a surprising foray into found-footage horror. "Willow Creek" embraces the limitations of this now-tired genre and breathes new life into it—it's not a true original but certainly a memorable rumination. Effectively a two-hander with our leads Jim (Bryce Johnson) and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) dominating the frame for the majority of the running time, "Willow Creek" does a commendable job in fleshing out the ill-fated couple. Presented as a malformed Bigfoot documentary, Jim, steeped in cryptid mythology, strikes out to retrace the steps once taken by Roger Patterson and Bob Gilmin, whose footage, though largely dismissed as a probable hoax, remains hotly debated and cited.
1
Willow Creek

Deviating from caustic comedies, Bobcat Goldthwait reaches into his toolbox and delivers a surprising foray into found-footage horror. "Willow Creek" embraces the limitations of this now-tired genre and breathes new life into it—it's not a true original but certainly a memorable rumination. Effectively a two-hander with our leads Jim (Bryce Johnson) and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) dominating the frame for the majority of the running time, "Willow Creek" does a commendable job in fleshing out the ill-fated couple. Presented as a malformed Bigfoot documentary, Jim, steeped in cryptid mythology, strikes out to retrace the steps once taken by Roger Patterson and Bob Gilmin, whose footage, though largely dismissed as a probable hoax, remains hotly debated and cited. Along for the ride is his skeptical partner, Kelly, who embarks on the venture to support the idealistic Jim, enveloped by the Bigfoot legend and reveling at the townsfolk who've made a living out of marketing it. As they delve deeper into the forest, leaving their car behind and setting up camp, strange occurrences accumulate and begin to take a toll on the couple and their relationship.

Willow Creek

For the majority of its wisely-brief eighty-minute running time, Goldthwait pulls no punches, offering up tidbits that hint at the evolving relationship between Jim and Kelly, their personalities primed for subdued, gentle clashes. The actors bring a refreshing lack of foreshadowing, though the film can't help but trot out several locals to make enigmatic comments or suggest that the city slickers hightail it back to where they came from. Johnson and Gilmore perform well and there is a sense of getting to know them as more than fool-hardy victims, but rather people making bad decisions that land them in an environment out of their control.

Don't be surprised when much of the press concerning the film zeroes in on a single unbroken take toward the end of the film. The couple has encamped near the Patterson-Gimlin site, and Jim is awoken by noises outside of the tent. He rouses Kelly and switches on the camera and what follows is an fiendishly clever set-up and a challenging single take, our leads listening for any noise, whispering to each other as the sounds escalate and grow ever closer. It may not translate well to a YouTube clip but the dread stirred up by Goldthwait and co. is startling and uncomfortable to boot.

Willow Creek

Found-footage films embrace the distinctive structure that sees a first act introducing the locales and locals, the second slowly tipping over into danger as the leads begin to explore the homestead's underbelly and a final denouement with the tourists out of their depth and fallen victims to bloodletting. "Willow Creek" fits that mold and yet remains distinctive in how it draws out the violence we expect, maybe even need. We won't risk spoiling the finale, which does feel underwhelming after the centerpiece long take, but it does more than tip its hat to "The Blair Witch Project" and will certainly satisfy the viewers pondering whether it is the mythical creature visiting havoc on our unprepared protags or backwaters meth dealers punishing them for encroaching on the turf.

The restraint shown here, the patient partitioning of things that go bump in the night, is what sets "Willow Creek" apart, if only for the moment. It's a canny horror film and a derivative one, but as a reminder of the power of suggestion, the unseen dwarfing even the grandest budgets, prodding our imagination into provocatively chilling us to the bones, the film deserves an easy recommendation. [B-]

This article is related to: Bobcat Goldthwait, Willow Creek, Review, Reviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates