The Bigfoot myth is a distinctly baffling and irrational part of our pop culture. While myths about this great cryptid stalking the forests of the Pacific have existed in one form or another for centuries, it’s really during the middle of the last century – where portable film cameras allowed us to document our world – that the big guy’s mystery seemed to deepen. That’s more or less where Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek comes in, offering the latest found footage take on Bigfoot as yet more doomed “truth seekers” find out what’s really lurking in the woods.
Well, one truth seeker: the amiable but kind of intense Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his beyond skeptical girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore). The duo have decided to trek to the titular Bigfoot hotspot, with Jim hoping for a glimpse of Bigfoot (or at least some clue to validate his lifelong obsession with the legend). Of course, this being a found footage film, incredulous and occasionally hostile locals aren’t enough to keep him away.
Jim is a true believer and that’s where Willow Creek offers some kind of commentary when stacked against the increasingly crowded genre of Bigfoot found footage movies. Kelly – a struggling actress and loyal girlfriend – gets to play the voice of reason and the audience’s doubts as Jim becomes increasingly convinced that something hairy is out there and is determined to catch it on camera. He’s just the acceptable side of obsessed, taking every “clue” and bit of testimony from the bemused locals as proof of Bigfoot’s existence while ignoring anything that doesn’t feed his fantasy.
Still, at a compact 80 minutes, Goldwaith’s first horror film doesn’t have the time to wear out its welcome or allow us to get tired of its two leads (see: nearly every other found footage movie made to date), but Goldthwait keeps the scares confined to the last 15 minutes in a couple of sustained nighttime shots inside of Jim and Kelly’s tent, and later, a frantic trek through the woods. This last section feels like Blair Witch compressed, and like that film’s notorious final minutes, Willow Creek throws in a couple of images to cast doubt on what we’re hearing and seeing, deepening the mystery of the rest of the film.
Goldthwait – whose World’s Greatest Dad and Sleeping Dogs Lie – have proven him an astute observer of the human condition, makes these scenes between Jim and Kelly really work. While the final “reveal” feels at once expected but out of nowhere, Willow Creek is a solid look inside the mind of someone obsessed with one of our weird national myths.
Willow Creek is available now via iTunes and VOD.