Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Joaquin Phoenix Gets His Stoner Detective Groove On In Trailer For Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ Watch: Joaquin Phoenix Gets His Stoner Detective Groove On In Trailer For Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ David Fincher Will Direct The Entire First Season Of HBO's 'Utopia' In 2015 David Fincher Will Direct The Entire First Season Of HBO's 'Utopia' In 2015 Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Co-Star Shia LaBeouf Is "One Of The Best Actors I've Ever Seen" Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Co-Star Shia LaBeouf Is "One Of The Best Actors I've Ever Seen" First Look: Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult In Drake Doremus’ Sci-Fi Film ‘Equals’ First Look: Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult In Drake Doremus’ Sci-Fi Film ‘Equals’ John Cusack Says Hollywood Is A "Whorehouse" That "Eats Young Actors Up And Spits Them Out" John Cusack Says Hollywood Is A "Whorehouse" That "Eats Young Actors Up And Spits Them Out" New Image From 'Inherent Vice,' Paul Thomas Anderson Completely Changed The Ending From Thomas Pynchon's Book New Image From 'Inherent Vice,' Paul Thomas Anderson Completely Changed The Ending From Thomas Pynchon's Book Why 'You're The Worst' Turned Out To Be The Best TV Show Of The Summer Why 'You're The Worst' Turned Out To Be The Best TV Show Of The Summer Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody New Look: Reese Witherspoon And Joaquin Phoenix In Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' New Look: Reese Witherspoon And Joaquin Phoenix In Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Review: David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens & More Review: David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens & More 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" While You're Waiting For 'Interstellar,' Here's Over 100 Behind-The-Scenes Photos From 'The Dark Knight' Trilogy While You're Waiting For 'Interstellar,' Here's Over 100 Behind-The-Scenes Photos From 'The Dark Knight' Trilogy First Look At 'The Dying Of The Light,' Paul Schrader Quits Film Over What Nicolas Winding Refn Calls "Artistic Disrespect" First Look At 'The Dying Of The Light,' Paul Schrader Quits Film Over What Nicolas Winding Refn Calls "Artistic Disrespect" New Images From 'Interstellar' Arrive, Christopher Nolan Says The Film Is A "Mirror" Of 'Inception' New Images From 'Interstellar' Arrive, Christopher Nolan Says The Film Is A "Mirror" Of 'Inception' Watch: Have A Threesome With Very NSFW Clip From 'Maps To The Stars' With Julianne Moore & John Cusack Watch: Have A Threesome With Very NSFW Clip From 'Maps To The Stars' With Julianne Moore & John Cusack The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

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