Willow Creek (2013)

willow05For anyone who thought Blair Witch was too action-packed, had too many scares, had too much character development, was confused by the complex arcs, and thought the ending was a little too definitive — this one is for you.

Jim and Kelly are going to the site of the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot video to make a documentary.  Like all documentarians and DJ’s in the movies, there is not a chance in hell anyone would sit through their production.

They do stop by many interesting sites in the area — Bigfoot Burger, a huge Bigfoot mural, a Bigfoot statue, Bigfoot Avenue, Bigfoot Hotel, Bigfoot Bookstore; sadly there is no Bigfoot Shoes.  Most of the other people in the small cast are actually citizens of Willow Creek who make their living in jobs created by the Bigfoot economy.  In some cases, they were not told this was intended to be a fictional movie.

This movie isn’t a slow-burn; it’s a no-burn.  Really nothing horrific happens for the first half except we have to see Jim’s butt.  Luckily the leads are not the usual hateable assholes; and the eccentric characters and touristy sites in the town are interesting.  It is 43 minutes in that we get the first hint of anything — a jump scare that turns out to be a raccoon.

willow03At the 47:30 mark, a lengthy static shot begins.  The camera never moves, there are no edits other than one blink to total darkness.  Jim is awakened by a knock.  The couple is tormented by subtle sounds at first.  Then, something walking around, some grunts and howls, maybe a woman screaming, something hitting the tent.  All of this developing very slowly, I can imagine this being intense in a theater.

Jim is fairly stoic, but does communicate that he is scared. Kelly is more emotional in a fearful, but not crazy way.  It was like Paranormal Activity in that you spent extended periods of time just waiting for something to happen.  The fact that there were stretches of nothing works in the picture’s favor.  I was tensed up to prepare myself for what I expected to be an explosive conclusion to the scene.  It didn’t really turn out that way, but does that negate the suspense I felt?

I had the scene lasting 18 minutes, although 19 seems to be the standard everyone uses in reviews.  It could even be up to 22 depending when you start it.  But does it really matter?  As dawn breaks, they reasonably decide it might be a good idea to head home a little early.

Naturally, at this point they become lost.  It could be another Blair Witch nod, but they’re in the woods — getting lost is kind of a given (speaking only from personal experience). They even use the ol’ “I’ve seen that tree before” trope.  Compounding the fear of being lost, they begin hearing the same eerie sounds from the previous night.

There is an encounter at the end, but not necessarily what we expect.

Overall, I liked it, but can understand a lot of people being put off by the first half which is just getting to know the leads and some folksy characters.  It could have benefited by something early in the film, but since it was found-footage, that gets a little dicey.

It might have helped if they showed the original Patterson-Gimlin film they frequently reference.  Maybe it was a cost issue since this was clearly a low-budget joint.  But it does leave a certain er . . . 800 pound gorilla not in the room.   This is like if Oliver Stone had not ponied up for the Zapruder Film in JFK.

I give it 3 out of 5 toes; but the big ones, not the pinky and its neighbor.


  • I was a fan of Bobcat back in the day.  He comes off like a good guy in the commentary.
  • Bobcat’s original concept was to do this as a Christopher Guest type of satire on people who attend Bigfoot conventions, but he decided that would not be very nice. See — what a good egg.
  • The leads seem to be his rep company as both have made three movies with him.
  • A rare DVD watch, so I got to hear the commentary which was interesting.

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