Film Reviews

BIJOU FROM BEYOND – Willow Creek (2013)

BIJOU FROM BEYOND – Willow Creek (2013)

Sean Hanson

June 27th, 2014

2 Comments

Bobcat Goldthwait’s comedies — Shakes the Clown, World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America, to name a few — always had a dark streak, but Willow Creek is his first bona fide horror film, a found-footage tale of a couple (Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson) on the hunt for documentary proof of Bigfoot’s existence.

The premise itself isn’t exceptionally novel, mostly serving as an opportunity for Goldthwait to reinvent The Blair Witch Project for audiences who are all too familiar with the limitations of found footage. For a while, I wasn’t sure that Willow Creek was actually a horror flick, as we spend forty-five minutes watching our characters goof off in a town that milks the Bigfoot legend for tourism dollars.

Tension finally mounts as our protagonists leave Willow Creek, head for the woods and set up camp, culminating in a nineteen-minute unbroken take that’s effective for what it doesn’t show, relying instead on sound design, foley work and naturalistic acting to sell the horror — a wonderful payoff for filmgoers who enjoy restraint and slow, methodical pacing.

What’s more, Willow Creek works overtime to critique gender characterization in horror films. She’s the skeptic. He’s the one who believes in Bigfoot. She fulfills his childhood dream of hunting for Bigfoot even as he resists moving to Los Angeles so she can advance her acting career. As Slant Magazine’s Ed Gonzalez observes, “Goldthwait lays bare a characteristic male pursuit of power to which females are often made subservient.” How that theme ties to the film’s ending is haunting.

Willow Creek is a fine study in the art of rising action and proof that Goldthwait has a bright future in horror if this whole comedy thing never pans out.

Bijou Art Cinemas will present Willow Creek on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. and a Q&A with Goldthwait after the screening.

Sean Hanson is a Eugene film critic whose work has been published by Something Awful and Front Row Central. Bijou from Beyond is an irregular column that provides critical analysis of films in the Bijou Cinemas Genre Series.

2 Comments

  1. Sean Hanson says:

    I found that interesting too: If Jim is Goldthwait’s Mary Sue, it’s another great reversal of horror tradition. The Brood and Possession, two other films that functioned as art therapy for men dealing with their divorces, gave us two male protagonists struggling to comprehend a world gone mad with their soon-to-be ex-wives leading the charge into darkness, but Willow Creek is a film about monstrous men and the horrible things they do to women.

    I have a feeling Willow Creek is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

  2. KES says:

    I found it interesting that, during the Q & A, Goldthwait indicated there were autobiographical elements to Willow Creek–that the film is, in part, an exploration of how male obsession can wreck heterosexual relationships–and the female lead reminiscent of his ex-wife.

    His comments made me think about the film as some kind of intriguing apology for his own single-mindedness, which is maybe a lovely gesture from an ex-husband.

    The ending of Willow Creek is, indeed, haunting, especially and particularly in light of his comments.

Leave a Reply