Saturday, June 14, 2014

Willow Creek Review

I just don't understand why found footage films continue to be made. The Blair Witch Project fascinated audiences, myself included, with this innovative concept of making the viewer believe what they were seeing was real, but besides the occasional interesting film to come alone in the sub-genre since then, it mostly has lost its luster. Just recently this year the new Ti West film The Sacrament was released and while it was an enjoyable enough experience, the found footage aspect of it made it feel phony, and I walked away from it feeling as if it was a pretty good but not great missed opportunity. (My review for that film can be found here).

Willow Creek is the newest film by filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait, a man who I never believed I could take seriously until he delighted my dark comedy senses with his amazing 2009 film World's Greatest Dad, and then to a lesser but still enjoyable extent in 2011 with God Bless America. Here Goldthwait steps away from the depraved humor he presented in those two previous films to bring the world yet another found footage horror film, this one very much in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project as the story revolves around a young couple entering the woods together in search of the supernatural, in this case specifically looking for Bigfoot.

Much to my surprise, I actually really admire this film for having the balls to build the tension at such a slow pace that it honestly was borderline boring eventually, but it paid off. The final twenty minutes of Willow Creek are wonderfully realized, the most effective feeling of being terrified of what lurks outside in the darkness since a strikingly similar scene from The Blair Witch, both of which involve the characters residing inside a tent and the viewers never being allowed access to what approaches them. I felt my skin crawl and jumped on multiple occasions during this sequence, so credit is absolutely due to Goldthwait for keeping my eyes glued to a film like this for the first time in a while.

Another important aspect to note that made this film work was the brilliant editing and usage of sound to heighten the sense of realism that is so often missing in the world of found footage. The two main characters are constantly turning off the camera, so when it comes back on in the midst of something happening it feels very believable that what we are seeing is authentic, that it is at least possible that real people occupy the frame and they went hours without filming until they felt compelled to acquire more footage. Also, the way the dialogue sounds and the array of various noises that occur in the woods made me feel strangely paranoid despite knowing I clearly wasn't with them in nature, forcing me to look around the room quickly at least twice in response to the sounds before reminding myself how silly that was.

Despite all the praise that Willow Creek deserves, I still didn't love the film, and that makes me wonder if I will ever love a found footage work again. Goldthwait managed to pull off one of the better efforts I have seen here, and it still fell short of being something awesome because my mind simply will not allow myself to love a film like this ever again. The best compliment I can give it, one that I very rarely would say about a film of this nature, is that I will watch it again when I get the chance.


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