Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Willow Creek - The Sasquatch Hunting Project

Willow Creek
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Written by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Alexie Gilmore & Bryce Johnson

Unrated - Approx 80 Minutes
Jerkshool Productions


Alternate Titles:

"They put fruit in my sushi.....who does that?"

I don't remember exactly the first time I heard of Bigfoot.  Whether it was in a book that I got from the library or perhaps an episode of Unsolved Mysteries I can't recall.   What I DO remember is the first time I ever saw the Patterson-Gimlin Film that allegedly shows a Bigfoot strolling through the forest in the middle of the day.  It's long arms eerily swinging back and forth....the way the head turns to look back at the men filming....it spooked me.  That was when I really began to think that there may be something more to Sasquatch then just old stories and legends.  I saw that footage in the first paranormal themed VHS tape that I ever rented:  Secrets of the Unknown.   If I remember correctly, SotU was a 30 minute documentary series that covered a wide range of topics:  Bigfoot, UFO's, The Loch Ness Monster, etc.  Now I know this is going to come as a shock, but I did NOT rent this from Video Paradise.  Nope.  This was one of my first rentals from Blockbuster Video.  Back in the early days of Blockbuster, they had a huge variety of tapes that just weren't available at my beloved mom & pop shop.  I remember watching the Bigfoot tape on a weeknight and I was completely enthralled.  It was all I talked about the next day at school.  This was the start of my love of the 'Squatch!

     The Patterson-Gimlin Film 

There have been a metric shit ton of Bigfoot films, tv shows and documentaries produced over the years and a good deal of them tread quite closely together.  For every great film such as The Legend of Boggy Creek, you also end up with a film such as The Asylum's wild and wonky Bigfoot, film starring Danny Bonaduce and Barry Williams!  Lemme tell ya....watching Danny Partridge and Greg Brady fight on top of Mount Rushmore as a giant Sasquatch is blasted by helicopters is definitely not something you're likely to forget.  No matter how hard you try.  Trust me.

I haven't seen them all, but I've seen my fair share and I think it's only fair to say that a good many of the Sasquatch films made are fair to middling.  Bigfoot flicks, much like zombie movies, are generally cheap to produce.  A trip to the local Halloween Costume Store and you're off and filming (See Suburban Sasquatch for a good example) your 'Squatch epic!
When I heard that Bobcat Goldthwait was making a found footage Bigfoot movie, I was intrigued.  God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad were both great films.  I wondered how Bobcat would handle straight on horror...especially found footage.  I was quite surprised.  

Our story unfolds with a young couple, Jim and Kelly, heading up to Northern California to visit the sight of the now legendary Patterson-Gilmlin Film.  It has been a lifelong dream of Jim's to take this trip and he full well believes in the beast.  Kelly, on the other hand is extremely skeptical and she's really only taking the trip to make Jim happy (cause she's a pretty swell girlfriend).  As they make their way closer to their destination, they stop in Willow Creek (which just so happens to be the Bigfoot capital of the world!) and visit all the kitschy Bigfoot attractions including the Bigfoot Restaurant (home of the Bigfoot Burger, which by the way looks delicious!), Bigfoot Books and of course one of several giant wooden Sasquatch statues that are hanging out around town.  As best I can tell all the locations are real.  I know that the Bigfoot Restaurant is, cause I Googled it and several Yelp reviews came up.  So that's kinda cool that there's a genuine local flavor going on there!

Jim is also making a documentary out of the trip and interviews many of the locals in Willow Creek.  I've heard that they used real locals in some of the interviews (much like they used real locals in the filming of Under The Skin) but I am unsure if that is true or not.  Some seem authentic, while others seem like they may be actors.....I know for sure that The Forest Ranger was actor Peter Jason.  He's appeared in everything from episodes of Gunsmoke to John Carpenter's They Live!  There is one hell of an amusing interview with a fellow that Jim describes as the Bob Dylan of Bigfoot experts.  Jim wasn't kidding.  This guy's even written a song about the Patterson-Gimlin expedition into the woods called Roger and Bob Rode Out!  It was actually pretty catchy.  You don't get to hear too many Bigfoot themed songs these days.  As an added bonus we're treated to another dude singing a 'Squatch song while playing his ukulele!  

As Jim becomes more and more excited about getting to the actually filming location, Kelly becomes more and more uneasy, but of course still goes along with Jim's idea to hike out to the location to camp.  It's the movies third act that truly impressed me.  Entering the woods, they encounter an angry local to doesn't just warn them off, but literally tells them to fuck off.  Jim, STILL not deterred in his hunt for the truth knows another way into    After driving for about two hours on a dirt road into the middle of the Six Rivers National Forest, they come to the end of the road and must hike the rest of the way to Bluff Creek where the film was shot.  After hiking for what appears to be most of the day, they set up camp about an hour and half hike from the site (according to Jim's calculations).  After some last moments of levity, night inevitably falls and that is where the fright truly begins.  

Naturally I'm not going to spoil the film, but what I WILL say is that there is an intense single take that lasts about twenty minutes.  It consists solely of Jim and Kate sitting in the tent as Tree Knocking (allegedly one of the ways that Sasquatch communicates.....by banging wood on trees) and vocalizations (just want it sounds like....Sasquatch yelling!) and a too close for comfort visitor outside their tent keep them terrified.  It doesn't happen often when I watch a film, but I found myself holding my breath....straining to listen to the sounds occurring outside Jim and Kate's tent.  If you've ever been camping and found yourself startled awake in the middle of the night by a strange sound, you will no doubt have the same reaction.

No sir!  Much as I know that you were looking forward to Sasquatch ripping someone limb from limb and them beating them with their own appendages, it ain't happening here.  

Well, there's a little skin....but.....well....you'll see.

Yes and No!  The film is steeped in Bigfoot lore and from the moment the couple steps into the woods you can almost feel the eyes on them (and you...being a found footage film, you feel as though you're there with Jim and Kelly).  However, you never actually SEE any Sasquatch.  You can definitely FEEL them though.

Final Thoughts
I went into this film thinking it was more or less the Sasquatch equivalent of The Blair Witch Project.  And while I am a fan of BWP, I do believe that Willow Creek actually made some improvements on the formula.  Most of the film was build-up.  It was a lot of interviews and little moments here and there at the kitschy tourist attractions and conversations in the car.  By the time you're in the woods with Jim & Kate, you have much more of a sense of who they are and you feel more for them.  It's certainly not a perfect film, but it's a fun Bigfoot romp with a few good scares.  

Final Rating


  1. ...but no actual Squatch? Boo! I'm about as burnt out as I can possibly be on found footage, but I really enjoyed Bobcat's God Bless America. I guess I'll just have to suck it up and check this out. It's always seemed odd to me that no-one has ever managed to make a really good Bigfoot movie. Seems like a big, hulking cryptid lurking in the woods should be a slam dunk. I'm going to once again confirm my questionable taste in movies and say my favorite Bigfoot movie is Abominable. Don't judge me. lol

  2. Well, no VISIBLE Squatch! It sounds odd, but this one really worked for me. I don't mind found footage films if they're done correctly. The shaky camera "NO, NO, NO! GO, GO, GO! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT" yelling type crap sucks, but if it's a well made found footage then I can get into it. Willow Creek is a more thoughtful film and (I think) really gives you the time that you need with the characters to get to know them. Are they 100% likable? No.....but they're not supposed to be. They feel like a real couple. They've got their problems, but you can tell they love each other....which in turn makes you start caring about them.

    Well, I'm everyone knows that my taste in film is EXTREMELY questionable.....I said good things about Suburban Sasquatch!
    I do like Abominable.....it was like Rear Window with a 'Squatch! My favorite is still The Legend of Boggy Creek!

  3. Although I am hesitant to see another "found footage" film, I will have to give this a shot based on the success of Goldthwait's previous films.

    That and Police Academy. Yeah, more Police Academy. But I did enjoy God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad.

  4. That is all I can ask is that people give it a shot! Personally, I like found footage films (when they're done right). This one (I thought) was quite well done and managed to creep me out a bit.

    And hell's yes. We need more Police Academy! Zed's the man!