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Willow Creek is another Blair Witch Project rehash, but don't let that
deter you. It's a different approach to minimalist found-footage
horror, and it winds up being a truly frightening experience if you can
make it past the first half. Not that the first half is poor - it's
just a long setup to introduce you to these characters: Jim, the
believer, and Kelly, the skeptic, on their hunt for the one and only
Bigfoot. It's satirical in a way, watching Jim interview these
townsfolk about Bigfoot sightings and you as a viewer knowing how
ridiculous it all is, but that is what makes Willow Creek work so well.
You're led to believe it's going to be a dumb satire on the Blair Witch
Project for the first half of the film, which makes it all the more
terrifying when things take a turn for the worse.
Rather than having jump scares and disturbing imagery, the scares in Willow Creek come almost entirely from sound. There's even a point where the main character shuts off the camera light so you can't see anything. All you can do is listen to the open wilderness: wood knocking from a distance, leaves crunching, ominous howls, getting closer and closer. It taps into everyone's innate fear of the unknown in the simplest and most effective way.
As far as minimalist horror goes, Willow Creek is right up there with Blair Witch, possibly even surpassing it. The only complaint I have aside from the overlong build up (which ends up paying off anyway) is the atrocious rock song that plays during the end credits. It takes the dreadful atmosphere you were experiencing moments before and slams your eardrums with this horrendous upbeat music. It can be a relief for some people, reminding us that it's only a movie, but I found it grating. However, this doesn't take away from the fact that Willow Creek is another reminder that found-footage can work with the right team in front and behind the camera. A perfect midnight horror movie.
In my review for the mediocre found-footage/horror film 'Followed' I
talked a bit about my dislike for how serial murderers are often
portrayed in cinema. While Se7en was a good thriller, it epitomizes IMO
the problem... Serial Killers murder for sex and power, and usually a
bit of both. However, fart too often, movies seem to depict them as
these brilliant psychopaths whose sole purpose in life is to get into a
game of 'cat and mouse' with their equally brilliant adversary, that
is, whatever detective Morgan Freedman might be playing in any given
What's frightening to me about serial killers is that for the most part they go undetected and often get away with multiple homicides for years. That, and to top it off, they blend in with the outside world very well. That is what Willow Creek gets right-there is a hint of realism here on top of the campy thrills that separates Willow Creek from your average slasher film.
This is one of the few movies that I actually felt a certain sense of dread for our hero's, Jim and Kelly-which is a big thing for me, as it takes a lot more than gore and a loud bump to make me jump.
I would like to also mention that I thought the actors did quite well-not only the killer, but the protagonists as well. I thought Jim was really likable, which is another surprise for this type of movie, which usually has very poor character construction.
Worth the watch.
I'll be honest. This film definitely went for full Blair Witch and just
barely did not make it. On the upside though, it did get very close.
Willow Creek is one of those movies that although it doesn't quite
scare you, it leaves you unnerved. The film is very amateur but this
serves to benefit the film. The buildup is fantastic but in my opinion,
the payoff was a tad lackluster, but perhaps that is just because i
wanted to know more.
Willow Creek is by no means a masterpiece of horror but it is a very effective shaky cam film with good suspense and eerie atmosphere.
Warning though, some parts of this film do drag on... a lot. The beginning of the film lasts forever, and one scene in particular drums up the suspense well but ultimately runs too long in the middle of this very short movie.
If you read about this film and immediately though you might be interested, watch it. I did not go in expecting too much, but I was pleased with what I saw.
This really worked for me. I know the usual contingent is out with
cries of, "Boring!" and "Worst movie I ever saw!"... but... whatever.
They show up for everything short of Chainsaw Gynecologist IV. First
off... if you don't like found footage movies, you won't like this. If
you didn't like The Blair Witch Project or June 9, you won't like this.
If you can't stand low budget movies that don't have loads of special
FX and jump cuts... you definitely need to look elsewhere.
Willow Creek is a slow convincing build-up to a chaotic slap of weirdness. Everything leading up to that ending is atmosphere and getting to know the characters and ramping up the dread of what might happen to folks who wander out into the woods looking for monsters. There's a LONG scene in a tent with the characters becoming increasingly terrified... can you watch long scenes where not much happens? Do you have that sort of patience? If so you might like this movie as much as I did. Also, I'd say the real horror of the film doesn't sink in until after a few moments are taken to mull over the implications of what we see in those final moments. How they were foreshadowed early on. It's a creepy movie and I'm glad I watched it.
I admit that I like found footage films, or, rather, I find that story
telling device compelling. Assuming it's done well. To do it well, your
film relies heavily on acting first, then editing, then sound They all
work well here.
Too often, these sorts of films have actors who don't know what to say, or how to say it, as they are expected to improvise and aren't confident how to be "natural". In this film, the actors are brilliantly natural and their chemistry is superb. They are a very believable as a couple and as people.
The goal itself is interesting, as I have rarely watched a Bigfoot movie, so I found that part of the film at interesting spin. But really, the slow burn here is what really makes me like this movie.
As with other films in which the protagonist is a wannabe filmmaker, there are lots of establishing shots with the local townsfolk to talk up the legend, and to get a sense of what is to come. It's all done pretty realistically, and, again, the actors dialogue/exchanges with each other are especially convincing.
Again, this film is very much about the slow burn of tension. This is very much exemplified in a scene near the end that lasts nearly twenty minutes for one continuous shot. And it's not boring. At all. The actors are brilliant in the scene, as is the sound. It's a highly effective scene and you really begin to get into the same dread of what's next as the characters due to the immersive nature of the scene.
Overall, I really liked it. I think the director did a great job in choice/direction of actors, and the overall story was not over the top. It's a great example of how found-footage should be done.
Though, the film doesn't actually try to tell you it's found footage, it's just that the only point of view is the camera(s) used by the characters. But I'll assume someone found the footage in that fictional universe at some point.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not going to lie, I was pretty terrified by the movie. That's the
main reason I've given it 7 stars out of 10. The plot is basic but
plausible, the acting is very good for most of the film and importantly
the back and forth between the two leads is totally believable which
really helps draw you into their world and suspend your disbelief
enough so that you really do begin to feel involved in proceedings.
Exactly what a good found footage film should do, in other words.
So far so good, right?
Well now for the bad part. This film is just the Blair Witch Project with Bigfoot. It really is. It's the same film, practically identical premise (just substitute Blair Witch for Bigfoot), same exact scares, even some of the dialogue is the same or as close as as to make no difference. Scary or not, the level of repetition is quite unforgivable, I'm surprised somebody hasn't sued. Watching the later stages of the film I was equal parts crapping myself and increasingly infuriated as it began to dawn on me quite how closely this movie paralleled the (superior) Blair Witch Project.
The final verdict:
Ultimately despite everything, I'm really glad I watched this film. It left me feeling pretty strung out, so in that respect I have to say it was a really successful horror movie. It's just a shame it relied so heavily on somebody else's original genius and had so few ideas of its own.
Update: Having just watched the new Blair Witch (2016), I'd like to mitigate some of my criticism of this film. Whilst everything I said was true, in many ways this film is more of a spiritual successor to the Blair Witch than the 2016 sequel, which is really, really bad. It made me realise that whilst this film is very similar to the original Blair Witch, a good horror movie is a rare thing, a well-made one even rarer. This film is well-made and scary as hell. I was too harsh on this movie and from now on I'm going to look on it as the unofficial successor to the Blair Witch and try to forget about the awful sequels the people in charge of that franchise keep knocking out once every decade or so.
If you're looking for a good Bigfoot movie this is the only one that
comes to mind.
Now, I call it good, not great. It has it's fair share of flaws, but being from the same guy who directed God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad I expected a certain level of quality often not shown to horror movies, and almost never to the found footage genre.
This movie handles it's scares with tact and maturity, and even has a very tense scene in a tent. I won't delve into detail as I do think this movie is worth watching. It's certainly nothing new, but it takes the good well established staples of horror, arranges them in a pleasant package, and doesn't have anything that really made it a bad movie...
...until the end. Sadly, without revealing too much, the movie has a rather disappointing, confusing, and unsatisfying ending. It doesn't ruin the movie as a whole, but since it's the last thing you see, a bad ending skews the rest of it in a negative light.
This movie was made solidly enough to the point where I can definitely recommend it. Willow Creek isn't the best movie in world, or even the best horror movie, but with all the recent schlock like Devil's Due and Paranormal Activity 5 it stands leagues ahead. I want a sequel to this, one that hopefully solves the problems this one had.
TLDR Version: Good, not great. Worth a watch despite it's flaws.
The entirety of the plot could be boiled down to, "Two insecure people
hear sounds in their tent for 40 minutes." The characters are vapid,
boring, and lack anything insightful or interesting to say. The
interviews with the locals are as exciting as you'd expect "unedited"
footage with a bunch of random people discussing Bigfoot to be.
When things finally do begin to happen, they don't proceed anywhere. It goes on and on with no point or purpose until all I wanted was for both of them to die, and die slowly.
Bobcat's other films showed some promise in some regards, but this was just awful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Awful. A solid hour of useless, bumbling interviews with local
townspeople and the male protagonist standing in front of Bigfoot
sculptures, none of which adds a single plot device. We get it. This is
Bigfoot country. Do we really need to hear the local musician's entire
folk song, mistakes and restarts included? Awkward pauses are
acceptable for building suspense, but if you're going to make the tent
scene last twenty minutes, perhaps we could get a bit more than some
growling and something poking the tent? And whomever was responsible
for the sound effects has an illustrious career ahead of them in
something other than sound editing. The Bigfoot howls sounded like a
man trying to sound like a young cow/tornado warning.
The encounter with Bigfoot lasts all of two minutes, and the only thing the viewer gets to see is the camera flying around and a fat woman in a loin cloth for a split second. I'm all for ambiguity, but, when you've spent the entire film avoiding plot devices like the plague, ambiguity turns into "Eh, I suppose this ending will suffice. Plus, we don't have enough money in our budget to pay the fat woman for a re-shoot."
I think the single most annoying thing about this film is that it received an 86% on RT. Did it release on April 1st, or did all of the critics decide to try a new drug beforehand?
Director Bobcat Golthwait takes a detour from his unique brand of
pitch-black comedy and creates an applaud-able, yet flawed,
found-footage horror set around the Big Foot phenomenon.
A couple, making an amateur Big Foot documentary, go hiking in the nature reserve where the infamous Patterson and Gimlin Big Foot footage was recorded. Once they're too far in, things start to go horribly wrong.
If the typical found footage genre tropes annoy you, this film won't convert you. However, if you consider The Blair Witch Project a high point for the genre because of its subtly and ambiguity, then you might find something to enjoy about Willow Creek. Willow Creek simply uses sounds and suggestions to creep the audience out. One scene in particular, a single 20 minute take inside a tent using the sounds from outside as the only vice for its scares is quite a brilliant feat in horror filmmaking.
However, there's a good 40-50 minutes before anything creepy actually happens. Which is good for building up tension, but rather trying for patience. Combining this with a lack of visual horror, then it won't come as a surprise that opinions will be divided.
If you're fed up of found footage horror films where ghouls consistently jump out at the screen, Willow Creek might be a nice surprise. But it's overly subtle nature might drive a few horror fans away.
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