"YAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRPPPPPPP" said the Sasquatch; or something to that effect. Comedian turned filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait's latest effort Willow Creek is the sphincter clenching, found footage take on Bigfoot.
When the Bigfoot obsessed Jim (Bryce Johnson) drags his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) into the Six Rivers national forest to trek to the site of the famed 1967 Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage, they get more than they bargained for.
Real life Bigfoot aficionado Goldthwait takes a sharp left from the dark satirical comedies of his previous oeuvre to indulge in his obsession, and man does he do a fantastic job of lulling the audience into a menacing situation. Firstly Kelly (Gilmore) and Jim (Johnson) are on their road trip filming this 'passion-project' documentary, just as Goldthwait is, and we go through the town of Willow Creek to familiarise the characters with the unapologetic weirdos drawn to the Bigfoot lore. There's certainly a balance between colourful folk believing or casually dismissing the myth. Goldthwait completely puts Jim and Kelly in the cinematographic driver's seat and when they’re in control the camera's bobbling, vibrating and ungracefully panning in all its amateurish glory.
Goldthwait's films are usually defined by an erudite melancholia that just explodes through gallows humour. In Willow Creek his screenwriting is disguised by the authentic feeling interactions with the town's folk, Jim's best impression of a documentary host and Kelly being aware of the camera. There are the briefest comedic flurries that he wants to rush past but you'll find yourself howling to acknowledge his timing.
Alexie Gilmore is fantastic as Kelly, she's got such a wonderfully expressive face for this kind of horror. She exudes a cool, then annoyance and shifts into hysterical fear and terror and you are right there with her. I get the feeling that Goldthwait may have subtly pitted the audience against the Bryce Johnson's vexingly smug Jim. When he's not overacting for his DIY documentary, or wearing a bandana around his wrist, his facial expression feels more like someone desperately holding in a fart; especially in the moments he should be frightened for his life. There's almost a desire to see him eaten by the end, if you didn't fear for Kelly's life.
The entire film works up to their final scene in their tent. Goldthwait just sets the camera in a static position and lets the audience's imagination go as wild as the wall of activity surrounding their nylon cocoon. Incredible wails, the crush of undergrowth beneath immense feet - it's a spine-tingling crescendo.
Willow Creek is Goldthwait flexing a whole new set of film-making muscles and he proves that there's some life left in the found footage genre.
[rating=3] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Written by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.