Willow Creek written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait takes the over used “found footage”approach and whilst not really doing anything innovative what it does do, it does that well that it becomes a moot point.
Jim (Bryce Johnston) and his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) are visiting Willow Creek the home of the Bigfoot legend, the fabled huge Ape like bipeds. This was the site that the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film was shot at.
Since “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999 the “Found Footage” device has been used numerous times usually for horror films which range from the impressive like 2007’s Spanish chiller “[REC]” to the more recent and distinctly less impressive Paranormal Activity films. There have been a few none horror films though like 2008’s “Cloverfield” and “Chronicle” in 2012. “[REC]” was that popular it spawned the American remake Quarantine which like most remakes of foreign language films was lacking everything that made the original so effective.
It doesn’t take long before it’s revealed that actually Kelly isn’t as enthusiastic about this trip as her boyfriend is, she’s only going along because he’s so invested in it. This fundamental of their relationship becomes more and more apparent as things unfold.
The botched and repeated takes of interviews with locals who have some sort of connection with the attraction that Bigfoot has become are pretty much what’s to be expected but what is a neat touch is that some of the subjects don’t share Jim’s belief in or enthusiasm for the mythical biped.
For the majority of its running time some might accuse Willow Creek of being a film where nothing happens but they’d be missing the point, a lot happens here. There’s a genuine sense of this being something pretty normal, the main conceit of the found footage device, then when the viewer has been lulled into a false of security things get distinctly not normal.
It’s the third act here that really capitalises on the tone that’s been established previously with the pair pitching their tent for the night.
Atmosphere is key to any film , especially horror. A screen full of gore and viscera isn’t unnerving in itself without any atmospheric context. The sight of Jason gutting some nubile teen in the woods isn’t scary or unnerving, whereas Pinheads first appearance in Hellraiser definitely ranks as being far more unnerving because of its atmospheric context. Willow Creek runs on atmosphere and its the third act where the engine really kicks up a gear.
Anyone dismissing Willow Creek out of hand for its narrative device will be missing out on one of the better examples of that device.