Alexie Gilmore as: Kelly
Bryce Johnson as: Jim
Jim (Bryce Johnson) is joined by his long suffering but supportive girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) on a road trip to Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, on his birthday. He is a true believer in the Bigfoot legend and wants to shoot a documentary retracing the steps of the world famous Patterson-Gimlin film. This is, of course, the legendary, short 1967 footage that shows what is supposed to be a Sasquatch walking through the woods. Kelly doesn’t believe in Bigfoot and thinks they are about as likely to exist as leprechauns. Still, she loves him and goes with him.
They reach Willow Creek, a town that is pretty much dedicated to the lore of the hairy beast. People sing songs about him, they have Bigfoot burgers, there are murals and statues dedicated to him, etc. It is here that they shoot some footage and interview people. It all seems fine, but soon things turn darker as a man tells the sad story of how his dog was killed by something. Even scarier is the man who threatens them to not go into the woods. They do, though. At night when they are in their tent; they hear noises and soon things turn truly terrifying. It soon becomes a question of whether they can find their way out of the woods and get out alive before whatever is out there gets them.
Willow Creek is a highly generic, by the numbers, found footage, horror movie. This is yet another tired The Blair Witch Project redux. Nothing new is added to the subgenre, in fact, it follows the formula through all of its’ typical motions. It’s almost as if actor turned writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait ran a checklist of everything that you are supposed to do on a film like this, and then, for whatever godforsaken reason, went with it.
The worst part is that this is all done it in such a boring fashion. So much of the movie revolves around us following and hearing this couple’s conversations and adventures. Though, I should mention that I use the word adventure very lightly. I really tried hard to stay awake and/ or not look at my watch; as I kept hoping that something would happen. Thankfully, the running time is at least mercifully short, at a little over 80 minutes. But, it takes over an hour for something to actually happen, so it ends up feeling longer than it actually is.
To its advantage the acting is excellent. Alexie Gilmore is great in her role. She adds a lot of heart and pathos to the movie. It’s easy to like her, and her character is realistically written and portrayed. We can easily identify with her and see this whole ordeal through her eyes. She also happens to be easy on the eyes, which at least gave me something nice to look at and not end up falling asleep due to boredom. Bryce Johnson is also good, but his character is sometimes likable and yet at other times, he’s really the “Heather Donahue” from The Blair Witch Project of the couple. He, like Heather, is very driven to get his footage. This, at times, makes you wonder why Kelly puts up with him. But, a scene where he proposes to her in the tent helps to redeem his character. It’s a sweet, tender, and very human moment that makes you say, “Ah, okay I can see that these two obviously love each other”.
Interestingly enough, this leads to a moment in the movie, that at least starts off terribly boring. After hearing some noises coming from outside of the tent, he wakes her up. They soon begin to talk about the creepy noises. Nothing happens for a good couple of minutes, but thankfully Goldthwait finally and slowly begins rack up the tension. It is here that there are some genuine scares and chills; the type I wish was more prevalent in the rest of the film. Sadly, all of this tension and terror is lost when the ending comes. It’s one we have seen a million times. You know which one I’m talking about, to the point where it’s no longer shocking, scary, or cool. It’s just sort of ho-hum and lazy, very lazy in fact.
Willow Creek ends up being a huge disappointment. And, that’s a true shame because Goldthwait made a great film in the bloody and darkly hilarious God Bless America. I would love to see him tackle serious horror, but he quite frankly failed here. The aforementioned tent scene shows glimpses of someone who maybe could have made a great and scary film. Perhaps someday he will, but that movie is definitely not this one.
Quite frankly, the genre is really oversaturated with found footage films. And, good Bigfoot movies are a true rarity. In fact, other than Dear God No!, I can’t think of a single good one in the last 30 years or so. Thus, this movie pretty much had an uphill battle from the moment it was conceived. Sadly, much like our protagonists, it gets lost in the woods. And, that is because Willow Creek ends up taking that boring, tired, and beaten pass that too many others have trudged over. It’s a trip that you most certainly don’t need to take. Because, while the faces and names have changed, you know you sure as hell have been here before.