Actors: Bryce Johnson, Alexie Gilmore
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Dark Sky Films
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Run Time: 80 minutes
Willow Creek is a step back for found-footage horror films, choosing realism in characters, plot and dialogue over spectacle. While recently released found-footage horror movies utilize the medium to display impressive special effects through the grounded camera work of home footage, Willow Creek doesn’t even feel the need to show the horror at the center of the film’s narrative. In this way, among many other similarities, Willow Creek feels like a direct descendant to the original found-footage horror film; The Blair Witch Project. While this simplicity/subtlety is often more effective in terms of the film’s eerie build up, the climax simply feels disappointing without a reveal. Even The Jungle at least gave us a glimpse of the creature in question.
That creature in Willow Creek is Sasquatch, with the title referring to the area of wilderness that the infamous grainy Bigfoot footage was shot. Jim (Bryce Johnson) drags his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) on a camping trip into the wilderness in an effort to prove the existence of the legendary ape-man. The film begins with a lot of eerie interviews with the local population, mixed with mild arguments between the couple at the center of the story, all building towards an inevitable climax in the wilderness. There may be nothing but ominous warnings for a majority of the film, but this switches to foreboding sounds once the couple is unsafely camping in the middle of the wild.
Writer/director (and former actor) Bobcat Goldthwait has made a name for himself as an independent filmmaker, traditionally with films carrying more humor than Willow Creek. Although there are certainly moments of creepy thrills in the last act of the movie, it may not be enough to make up for the uneventful hour leading to the mild conclusion. Some humor may have gone a long way to adding some entertainment to the film, but it is possible that it also would have deterred from the only successful thrills that the film has. Even without special effects or a clear shot of the creature in question, the sound design and believable performances provide an unsettling atmosphere that is engaging up to the unsatisfying ending.
The Blu-ray release includes a commentary track with Goldthwait, Gilmore and Johnson. There is also a making-of featurette, created by Johnson on set, a trailer, and a handful of deleted scenes.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 3.5/10