Like many (most? I assume?) horror film buffs, I’m about as maxed out on the “found footage” subgenre as you can get. It’s gotten to the point where I flatly refuse to watch anything that even mentions the two words, unless I have very good reason to ignore my gut and see it anyway. And that’s what happened when I read a review of Willow Creek on Bloody-Disgusting.com (I trusted you, Bloody Disgusting!). Unfortunately, although it was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, whose movies I’ve greatly enjoyed in the past, and the aforementioned review claimed the film “breathes new life into the genre,” I cannot report that this movie instilled in me any newfound optimism.
Willow Creek is rife with all the standard hallmarks of a found footage film: the main characters, Jim and Kelly, are setting out to make an amateur documentary, this one about Bigfoot. Jim believes, Kelly does not. They go through the motions of shooting expository material that explains the legend of Bigfoot, exploring the nearby town, and interviewing the locals.
All of this goes on rather happily – if dully – for the first two-thirds of the movie. Yes, two-thirds, and that’s at least one-third too long. The interviews, while apparently authentic, aren’t anywhere near interesting or spooky enough to help the narrative, which is badly lacking in suspense or any building sense of dread. The couple road trips and hikes in beautiful, sunshiney wilderness that, while lovely, does nothing to improve upon the sense that this is simply a boring couple’s vacation footage. Perhaps it’s realistic enough, but that doesn’t mean it’s engaging or scary. (In fact, it seems to resolutely avoid being scary most of the time. Again, perhaps this is in order to seem more realistic; and again, that doesn't make it good.) We also get plenty of improvised banter between Jim and Kelly, which should build a rapport with the viewers and make them care about what happens to the couple later on. Unfortunately, these conversations eventually transform into the requisite squabbles that, frankly, I always find incredibly grating and actually make me want to see the characters bite the big one sooner rather than later.
Then there’s the tent scene. Some have pointed to this scene as the film’s saving grace, but I found it interminable. It’s a long, completely static shot of the two huddled in a tent, listening to noises outside. The scene is only mildly creepy (and sometimes inadvertently funny), and just endless. The movie then wraps up in a rushed final act that is actually somewhat intriguing – and which I dearly wish there had been more of, or at the very least hints of, throughout the rest of the runtime.
I wish I could say I liked this movie, because I really am a fan of Goldthwait's. The best I can manage is that it's not (even close to) the worst found footage horror movie I've seen. But the sad fact is, I finished Willow Creek with the bothersome feeling that I had wasted 80 minutes of my life on the found footage genre… yet again.