MOVIE: Willow Creek (2014)

willowcreekI’ve been incredibly, insanely busy lately, and also haven’t been sleeping well, which, wrapped together, turns me into this big buzzing beehive of unceasing energy. That makes it extremely difficult to sit down and watch a movie, read a book, or do just about anything else that requires focus of a relaxed variety.  I’m not really doing “relaxed” very much these days. Maybe in January. We’ll see.

That said, two weekends ago I had some time to kill by myself at home, and I wanted to use it to watch a movie. A friend on Facebook had recently posted that this flick was fun, so I figured I’d give it a shot and see how long I lasted before I had to get up and clean something I just cleaned two days ago. (Upside to exhaustion-fueled mania: clean house!)

As it turned out, Willow Creek sucked me in right away and kept me thoroughly sucked-in throughout. For a rip-off of The Blair Witch Project about a mythical monster I find not-even-remotely scary, this movie was surprisingly effective for me.

It’s a “found footage”-style horror flick about a young couple, Jim and Kelly, who decide to head off on a road trip in search of Bigfoot for a documentary.  Jim’s been a Bigfoot fanatic since he was a kid and knows everything there is to know about the subject; Kelly’s a skeptic.  He seems to really believe there’s something to find out there in the woods; she loves him enough to be willing to go camping for a few days where there are no bathrooms. (I wonder what it’s like to love someone that much? I’ll probably never know. . .)

Similar to Blair Witch, they start out with an exploration of the small town outside the woods where the most famous Bigfoot sighting of all time took place (I have forgotten the details of that sighting, but apparently it’s legit lore).  There, they interview a few locals, get some advice on where to go, and film a few scenes for color — eating a “Bigfoot burger” at the local diner, smooching a giant wooden S’quatch statue, etc.

The next day, they head out in their car for the spot where they plan to park and hike in, only to be stopped on the access road by a man who threatens them aggressively, forcing them to turn around, and establishing nicely the possibility that what is about to follow is carried out not by Bigfoot but by a crazy local guy with a grudge against tourists (useful tool of reasonable doubt, always necessary in these sorts of things).

They manage to find another way in and start their hike, stopping periodically to film some scenes for their movie.  They don’t find much — some dubious-of-origin scat, a footprint — until night rolls around and they are awakened by a series of strange hoots and cracks from the woods (Blair Witch fans: sound familiar?). Something bashes against their tent.  A bear?  A giant, hairy man-beast? Nobody seems willing to venture out to check, surprise surprise, and not much sleep is had, to say the least.

The next day, exhausted and somewhat alarmed, they decide to hike back out and go home. Only they quickly get turned around, start looping back on themselves, and can’t find their way out (again, Blair Witch fans: sound familiar?).

And then the hoots begin again. This time in broad daylight. Something throws a rock at them.  They run. They’re still lost. They’re forced to camp another night. It does not go well.

Though the plot is obviously ridiculous, and not even remotely original, what makes this movie work as well as it does are the characters themselves and the script, which is very well-written. Jim and Kelly are an authentic, completely believable couple; it only took a few scenes for me to forget I wasn’t watching an actual documentary about two young dumb people on a quest to find Bigfoot.

There’s also a stand-out scene in the tent the first night (I think it was the first night, anyway) in which Jim proposes to Kelly and Kelly doesn’t exactly say yes. This was a surprisingly tender moment, thoughtfully approached. Did I mention the movie was written (and directed) by endearing weirdo comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, by the way?  That’s why I say “surprisingly tender;” who knew that was in there waiting to come out?

I went into this movie thinking Bigfoot was a pretty lame choice of villain, and I still mostly contend that it is. I mean, does anybody really believe in Bigfoot? And even if you do think there’s some giant, hairy man-beast in the woods no one has ever managed to get a good photograph of, why would you automatically assume it was evil?  I mean, a giant, hairy man-beast in the woods that was evil would probably be responsible for a lot more mysterious disappearances and dismembered bodies, right?

However, the last 15 or so minutes of this movie were effectively scary, to say the least.  For no good goddamn reason, I might add, because I DO NOT BELIEVE IN BIGFOOT.  There’s a long shot — maybe 8 minutes — that simply features Jim and Kelly sitting in their tent in the dark, the camera perfectly still, while she clings to him looking down, terrified, and he keeps his face up, listening intently to the sounds coming from outside.  Periodically, they both jump.  And then. . . Well.  Then things get a little nuts.  Something appears that has noooooo right being there.  No right at all, people The camera falls, there is screaming, and then we’re left to guess about what happens next.

All in all, this is a highly entertaining film, and I was really impressed by it.  I wasn’t expecting this to be as good as it was, especially with the aforementioned endearing weirdo comedian’s name attached to it. I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Goldthwait’s directorial work (if anybody has a favorite, let me know in the comments!).

Highly recommended if you like scary movies, good writing, and giant, hairy man-beasts in the woods (well, who doesn’t?)!  Good clean fun.

[Netflix it | Amazon Buy/Rent]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Kristina Klebe, Alexia Rasmussen

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One Response to “MOVIE: Willow Creek (2014)”

  1. Richard Harland Smith Says:

    I agree.

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