Willow Creek (2013)

Director: Bobcat Goldthwaite
Starring: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson .USA. 1h 17m

Set in Humboldt County, California, and filmed over 5 days, a film now commonly known as the Blairquatch Project emerges from the forest to (not) wow it’s audience with the adventures of a Bigfoot enthusiast who drags his girlfriend into the wild to hunt bigfoot for his birthday treat.

Jim (Johnson) is a Bigfoot believer whose idea of a romantic getaway is to head deep into Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, with a camera and long suffering girlfriend in tow, he aims to film his holiday but captures more than he ever bargained for. Starting out quite jovial the duo travel around all the famous bigfoot sites and tourist spots, picking up burgers, interviewing happy but slightly questionable local people who have had strange encounters and even catching the odd song dedicated to the creature with big appendages. As their journey continues a few unsettling threats are thrown their way but Jim’s heart is set on spending the night in bigfoot territory and finding proof of the hairy guys existence.

The couple are pretty sweet but if you don’t gel with their relationship then the first half of the film will really annoy you to the core and it’s very much about them more than bigfoot. The candid interviews they do are pretty fun, fairly authentic and slowly bring together the narrative which sits firmly on the side that Bigfoot is alive and active in the forest and everyone should beware, but these out of towners aren’t afraid even after the classic ” you’d better turn around and go back to where you come from” line is thrown at them, minus the “city boy”.

Goldthwaite really didn’t want the film to be compared to Blair Witch, but it’s hard not to, an amateur shaky cam romp in the woods will always be described in such a way, but in the same breath Goldthwaite lists list’s Grizzly Man (2005), Blair Witch (1999) and Paper Heart (2009) as his biggest film influences..

One of the stand out moments in the film is the tent scene, it’s the most talked about and I have to admit that when I first watched the film it was the most memorable, the scene lasts around 18 minutes and is totally ad libbed, the actors didn’t know what was going to happen or how long it would go on for, as they sit huddled in their tent with the camera on and wildness going on outside the tent, the idea is that their reactions would be really authentic, but on a re-watch you can see the jumps but a wry smile from time to time, but it’s definitely a highlight as the film finally tips from jovial romp to a frightening dash from the jaws of death.

Apart from the shaky cam and some abrupt cutting and dodgy audio there’s a weak found footage feel about the movie, with no explanation as to who found the movie and put it together, it just happens. It seems Goldthwaite’s heartfelt feelings that Harry and the Hendersons (1987) is “the pussification of the bigfoot myth” and this is a vain attempt to make him tough but there’s not much of him or his actions that really make him a bigger threat than Harry…. But you can’t help but appreciate how Goldthwaite creates the fear of Bigfoot in the mind of the viewer more so than on the screen. This found footage project has only brief moments of brilliance but it ends up paling in comparison with others from the genre such as Exists (2014), it’s undoing it the narrow focus on the couple rather than the creature feature we all tuned in to see.

Rating: 4/10

Related: Exists (2014), Bigfoot (2012), Night of the Demon (1980). The Man who Killed Hitler and Bigfoot (2019)
Lists: A-Z of Bigfoot Films
Article: AOFA Short Introduction to Bigfoot and B Movies.

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