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Willow Creek (2013)

Dark Sky Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2014

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/3/2014

Quick, name the best Bigfoot movie that you've ever seen. Exactly. While Bigfoot stories have abounded in North America for generations, the big guy just can't seem to catch a break when it comes to movies. We've gotten the backwoods goofiness of The Legend of Boggy Creek or the bizarre gorefest Night of the Demon, but not a truly satisfying movie which follows out favorite example of domestic cryptozoology. Now, Bobcat Goldthwait (of all people) has stepped forward to make a "Skunk Ape" movie. Will it be able to Sasquatch our expectations?

Jim (Bryce Johnson) has traveled to Willow Creek, California to make a documentary about Bigfoot. With girlfriend, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), in tow, Jim is determined to reach the location where the famous Patterson-Gimlin Film was shot. (It's that infamous shot of a Bigfoot walking away from the camera which has been shown in conjunction with any Bigfoot story.) They arrive in town to take in the sites and interview a few locals about their experiences with Bigfoot. They then head into the remote forest, first by car and then by foot. While Kelly is skeptical, Jim is very excited about finding some kind of evidence. As night falls, the strange noises and tension begin.

First of all, you’ve got to hand it to Bob Goldthwait for begin eclectic. Gaining fame as a stand-up comic who yelled a lot, Goldthwait transitioned into acting (sort of) in the Police Academy movies. (Although, I love him in One Crazy Summer.) After transitioning to mainly doing voice acting, Goldthwait turned his attention to directing. (Although he actually made his feature-film directorial debut in 1991 with Shakes the Clown.) Over the past 15 years, Goldthwait has directed numerous television shows and a handful of feature films. These films have shown a true diversity in topics, with the only thing which they have in common being a real edge and an apparent disdain for playing by the rules. Given this, one would expect Goldthwait’s Bigfoot movie to be a tour de force of craziness.

Well, it’s not. Any inkling of Goldthwait’s originality has completely gone out the window, as he’s made a film which is a carbon-copy The Blair Witch Project. Not because it is also a “found footage” movie, but because it follows the narrative structure of Blair Witch almost to the letter -- Documentarians arrive in a small town, ask some questions, go into the woods, get lost, argue, and then the movie ends. Comedy is all about the build up and the surprise, so Goldthwait should know something about that. Unfortunately, Willow Creek is all build up and no (real) pay off. Instead, what we get is scene after scene of Jim and Kelly talking, whether it be about their relationship, the project, or her career. These conversations are dull, as are the interviews with the locals.

After over 30 minutes of this, the couple finally enter the woods, but things don’t pick up. The film’s center-piece is a 21-minute scene (Yes, you read that correctly) in which Jim and Kelly sit in their tent and list to mysterious noises from outside. This scene, which goes from the 44:03 mark to the 1:05:30 point, should be fraught with tension, but it isn’t because the noises aren’t all that scary to us. If I were in that tent, I would probably be terrified, but the fear doesn’t make its way to the audience. Now, this scene does contain one noise which is chilling, but it’s glossed over. As with Blair Witch, Willow Creek concludes with a split-second shot which harkens back to something which was briefly mentioned earlier in the film. This is somewhat intriguing, but it doesn’t explain much and it certainly doesn’t justify the 75-minutes of tedium which came before.

While watching Willow Creek, I couldn’t help but thing of Brian Griffin’s summation of The Blair Witch Project from Family Guy:

“Okay, they're-they're in the woods...the camera keeps on moving...Uh, I think they're, they're looking for some witch or something, I-I don't know, I wasn't listening...nothing's happening, nothing's happening, something about a map, nothing's happening, it's over, a lot of people in the audience look pissed.”

This perfectly describes Willow Creek as well. I’m not against a “slow burn”, but Bigfoot should be a terrifying violent creature which actually appears in the aforementioned Bigfoot movie and does something. As it stands, Willow Creek plays more like a travelogue which just happens to have a horrific ending. A moment in “The Making of Willow Creek” shows that Bobcat is still funny. Perhaps he should stick to comedy.

Willow Creek did make me crave a big burger on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The daytime shots look fantastic. The image is very sharp and clear, showing in grain and no defects from the source materials. These scenes offer great colors and have notable depth. The nighttime shots, most notably the long take, does show some slight grain and video noise. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects really come to life during the long take, as the sounds of the forest alternate through the front and rear channels, truly placing us in the middle of the scene. These effects offer distinct sounds and nice speaker placement. The few moments with bass effects sound fine as well.

The Willow Creek Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait and Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson. The Disc contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about 5 minutes. It's simply another one of Jim's interview scenes. "Bryce Johnson's 'The Making of Willow Creek'" (11 minutes) is on-set video shot by the actor which illustrates the challenge of making Bigfoot footprints. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long