YOU WILL BELIEVE!
BUT DON'T GO CAMPING
WITHOUT A GUN!
NO FUCKING KIDDING!
Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Willow Creek is such a terrific horror film - original, funny and superbly directed by the incomparable Bobcat Goldthwait that it demands a big screen experience, so much so, that failing the opportunity to see it theatrically, it's the kind of picture you want to OWN on a format that's going to deliver maximum impact - not only on a first viewing, but subsequent helpings as well.
For my money. nothing less than Blu-Ray will do (or if you absolutely must, I grudgingly acknowledge DVD). The film is such an immersive experience, it might even be better seeing it at home. There you won't have to deal with, uh, people. Though I will admit, in the case of Willow Creek, it's kind of fun listening to people jump, scream and then feel that collective winded silence when the movie ends.
You can, however, get that at home too. I screened the movie for my little girl and it was a blast having her respond with utter terror. In fairness, she also responded to the humour, commented on how much she liked "how the movie was made" and then wanted Dad to do Google searches after the movie that dealt with the Gimlin-Patterson bigfoot footage and as much stuff out there that I could find on the bigfoot/sasquatch phenomenon. In any event, you want the best picture and sound to experience this film, not just to terrify your 13-year-old daughter, but yourself and anyone you choose to show it to.
Thankfully North Americans will have that opportunity with the Anchor Bay Canada and Anchor Bay Entertainment Blu-Ray release of Willow Creek which not only comes replete with a gorgeous high-def picture and sound transfer, but an amiable, insightful commentary track that includes writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait, stars Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson.
If you're planning to see the film at home on Blu-Ray (or, if you must, DVD), here is how you must watch it. (This is how you should watch ALL films at home, but especially films like Willow Creek.
1. Turn off all telephones.
2. Make sure everyone has expunged ALL waste matter. No pausing of the film is allowed. No ingestion of solids or fluids that will inspire a need to expunge waste matter.
3. ALL blinds must be drawn, ALL lights must be off. NO LIGHT PERIOD.
Now, you're ready to watch and now, my review of the film proper:
* * * * *
In the wilderness, in the dark, it’s sound that plays tricks upon your eyes – not what you can’t see, but what your imagination conjures with every rustle, crack, crunch, moan and shriek. When something outdoors whacks the side of your tent, reality sinks in, the palpability of fear turns raw, numbing and virtually life-draining.
You’re fucked! Right royally fucked!
There were, of course, the happier times – when you and the woman you loved embarked on the fun-fuelled journey of retracing the steps of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin who, in the fall of 1967 shot a little less than 1000 frames of motion picture footage of an entity they encountered striding through the isolated Bluff Creek in North-Western California.
Your gal was humouring you, of course. She was indulging you. She was not, however, mocking you – she was genuinely enjoying this time of togetherness in the wilderness as you lovebirds took turns with the camera and sound equipment to detail the whole experience. You both sauntered into every cheesy tourist trap in the area, chatted amiably with numerous believers and non-believers alike and, of course, you both dined on scrumptious Bigfoot burgers at a local greasy spoon.
Yup, Bigfoot – the legendary being sometimes known as Sasquatch or Yeti – a tall, broad, hairy, ape-like figure who captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of indigenous populations and beyond – especially when the Patterson-Gimlin footage took the world by storm. And now, here you both are in Willow Creek, California, following the footsteps of those long-dead amateur filmmakers.
All of us have been watching, with considerable pleasure, your romantic antics throughout the day. When night falls, we’ve joined you in your tent and soon, the happy times fade away and we’re all wishing we had some receptacle to avoid soiling our panties. You’re probably wishing the same thing, because in no time at all, you’re going to have the crap scared out of you.
We have, of course, entered the world of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek. Goldthwait is one of the funniest men alive – a standup comedian of the highest order and a terrific comic actor, oft-recognized for his appearances in numerous movies (including the Police Academy series). He’s voiced a myriad of cartoon characters and directed Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show and subsequent concert flick.
In addition to these achievements, Goldthwait has solidified himself as one of the most original, exciting and provocative contemporary American film directors working today. His darkly humoured, satirical and (some might contend) completely over-the-top films are infused with a unique voice that’s all his own. They’ve made me laugh longer and harder than almost anything I’ve seen during the past two decades or so.
Even more astounding is that his films – his first depicting the life of an alcoholic birthday party clown, one involving dog fellatio, another about an accidental teen strangulation during masturbation and yet another which delivered a violent revenge fantasy for Liberals – ALL have a deep current of humanity running through them. His movies are as deeply observational and genuinely moving as they are nastily funny and often jaw-droppingly shocking.
God Bless America, for example, is clearly the most perverse vigilante movie ever made. Goldthwait created a wonderful character in Frank, an average American white-collar worker who suffers noisy neighbours, endless hours of TV he hates but watches anyway, loses his job for sexually harassing a dumpy co-worker who’s been coming on to him, is estranged from a wife who left him for a hunky, thick-witted cop, only gets to see his daughter by promising to buy her things he can’t afford and has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. When this beleaguered schlub begins a spree of mass murder, doing what all Liberals must do when civilization is on the brink of collapse, we’re with him all the way. When he teams up with a like-minded 12-year-old girl, the two of them a veritable Bonnie and Clyde, blasting away at America’s most vile entities, Goldthwait’s movie goes ballistic and so do we, cheering on these very cool birds of a feather who kill people – not because they’re necessarily criminals, but because they are horrible human beings contributing to society’s downfall.
I actually thought Goldthwait was going to have a hard time following that one, but I was wrong, of course. Willow Creek is a corker! It forces you to emit cascades of urine from laughing so hard, then wrenches sausage chubs of steaming excrement out of your bowels as it scares you out of your wits.
It’s a ‘found footage’ film, but I hesitate to use the almost-dirty-word to describe it, because Goldthwait, unlike far too many boneheads, hardly resorts to the sloppy tropes of the now tiresome genre. He’s remained extremely true and consistent to the conceit and in so doing, uses it as an effective storytelling tool to generate an honest-to-goodness modern masterwork of horror.
His attractive leads are nothing less than engaging. Lead actor Bryce Johnson has a naturally comic and commanding presence. As a bonus, he reveals a scrumptious posterior that the ladies will admire (and, of course, gentlemen of the proper persuasion). Alexie Gilmore is so attractive, sharp, smart and funny that it would be a shame if stardom wasn’t in the cards for her.
Goldthwait’s clever mixture of real locals and actors is perfection and the movie barrels along with a perfect pace to allow you to get to know and love the protagonists, laugh with them, laugh with the locals (not at them) and finally to plunge you into the film’s shuddering, shocking and horrific final third. The movie both creeps you out and forces you to jump out of your seat more than once.
Goldthwait is the real thing. If you haven’t seen his movies up to this point, you must. As for Willow Creek, I’d urge everyone to see the film on a big screen with a real audience if they can. When things get super-terrifying, you can feel that wonderful electric buzz that can only happen when you’re at the movies. Sure, it will work fine at home in a dark room with your best girlie snuggled at your side on the comfy couch, but – WOW! – this is a genuine BIG SCREEN EVENT. Try to see it that way, first! The movie is so good that it holds up nicely on subsequent viewings, allowing you to appreciate the full nuance of Goldthwait’s direction, his expert use of sound, the delectable humour (black and otherwise shaded) and then, there’s the bravura with which Goldthwait gives you the willies before he delivers several moments of cinematic cold cocking roundhouse blows.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
Willow Creek is now available in North America via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada and Anchor Bay. In the Uk, it's available released on DVD via Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment. If you don't own it, buy it.