Although Cannibal Holocaust is considered the first found footage film, The Blair Witch Project became the quintessential film of the subgenre, coining the now popular term and creating a new wave of films capturing the things that go bump-in-the-night via amateur video.
Although some now consider this a tired genre or gimmick, horror fans are blessed with a brilliant “found document” every so often, from the 1992 Belgian masterpiece (and first real found-footage film) Man Bites Dog, to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, to Paranormal Activity, to the V/H/S series.
There have also been a series of misfires as well, but the latest lost tape to get it right is 1980s funny-man turned writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek, in which the hunt for Bigfoot becomes grounds for the documented expedition.
In the tradition of Blair Witch, our documentary filmmaking couple, Jim the enthusiast and Kelly the skeptic, venture out to Willow Creek in search of the elusive Sasquatch. Interviewing simpleton locals in Willow Creek, the Bigfoot capital of the world, before embarking into Bluff Creek in search of the famous 1967 Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin film site (where the two men caught the first moving picture of Bigfoot), Jim and Kelly encounter more than they bargained for.
Again, like The Blair Witch Project, all of the terrifying events take place off camera, from strange vocalizations in the middle of the night to a sabotaged campsite when returning from a shoot.
Jim does not become too demoralized from the unsettling actions taking place during his Bigfoot production, while his girlfriend Kelly does.
The acting is beyond the sub-par expectations of the genre, where the couple (portrayed by Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson) carry numerous scenes in one long drawn-out shot. This is something current horror films do not accomplish, because in this MTV-age of short attention-spans, films are assembled with quick shots, while casting is based on beauty, not talent.
Now that’s the wonderful thing about indie films: they may not get the attention they deserve, but they’re made with pure conviction.
Goldthwait did the festival run with this film, and it did not get a wide release, but the film has developed quite the cult following the past year, thanks to word of mouth.
Although we can all quickly dismiss the great American Bigfoot as a hoax, like South America’s Chupacabra or Sasquatch’s distant cousin, the Yeti, in the Himalayas, one thing for sure is that Willow Creek brings a tone of realism to the table, both from the found footage subjective camera work, and brilliant acting that makes this one stand apart.
– Matthew McPhee