'Willow Creek': Film Review

Willow Creek Still - H 2014
Courtesy of PR

Willow Creek Still - H 2014

This disappointingly conventional effort pales in comparison to the filmmaker's wildly audacious comedies.

Bobcat Goldthwaits' found-footage horror film depicts a young couple's search for Bigfoot.

Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait has carved out a fascinating cinematic career in recent years with such anarchic satirical comedies as World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America. So it comes as a particular disappointment that he’s retreated to the tired found-footage horror genre in his latest effort. Depicting the adventures of a young couple investigating the Bigfoot phenomenon in the same Northern California stomping grounds where the infamous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film footage of the purported monster was shot, Willow Creek is a distressingly conventional effort only sporadically enlivened by doses of subtle humor and one audaciously long single-take sequence.

Set in Humboldt County, Calif., it follows Bigfoot aficionado Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his skeptical girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) during the former’s idea of a romantic getaway. Documenting all their activities on home video for an intended documentary, they first land in Willow Creek, the “Bigfoot capital of the world” dominated by kitschy tourist attractions devoted to the famous creature whose residents are alternately welcoming and hostile to the irreverent interlopers.

Goldthwait has some fun in these scenes, contrasting the eccentric locals -- one straps on a guitar and sings an ode to the area’s most famous resident -- with the city slickers who are also dealing with relationship issues in the midst of their journey. Eventually the couple makes their way to the remote area where Bigfoot was supposedly photographed, where they set up camp and things literally begin to go bump in the night.

The film’s most heralded element is indeed impressive, at least on a formalistic level. Huddled closely together in a small tent during a long night, they find themselves terrified by an array of horrifying noises that may or not be emanating from the mythical creature they’re hunting. Filmed in one uninterrupted, nearly 20-minute-long take by a static camera, it’s a genuinely spooky sequence that nonetheless smacks of gimmickry.

Despite the impressively committed performances by the two leads and the screenplay’s touches of sly humor, the proceedings are mostly all too redolent of the endless found-footage horror films that have followed in the wake of The Blair Witch Project. Running a scant 80 minutes, Willow Creek doesn’t exactly wear out its welcome. But it does make one hope that now that Goldthwait, an acknowledged Bigfoot buff, has gotten this one out of his system, he’ll go back to making more of his wildly adventurous comedies.

Production: Jerkschool Productions

Cast: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson

Director/screenwriter: Bobcat Goldthwait

Producer: Aimee Pierson

Director of photography: Evan Phelan

Editor: Jason Stewart

Composer: Matt Kollar

No rating, 80 minutes