Found Footage Horror Gets a Makeover in “Willow Creek”

Lovers of found-footage horror films (with a twist) would do best to keep an eye out for Bobcat Goldthwait’s new film, Willow Creek. Inspired in part by the famous Patterson-Gimlin raw footage that "proved" the existence of Bigfoot, the film features a couple retracing the filmmakers’ steps and documenting their trip. Funny and frightening, the film’s second act features the filmmaker heading into some personally uncharted territory.

FilmLinc Daily spoke with Goldthwait in Montreal after the film’s premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival. When asked what inspired him to tackle this story, the director explained his numerous influences. “[The television program] In Search of… was what exposed me to this. And then there was a Life magazine article that had stills from the Patterson-Gimlin footage. And then there was  [the film] Boggy Creek. Those are all things that made me become fascinated. So I drove up there because I always wanted to go to that town, so I don’t know if that means I have a good marriage or a bad marriage when your wife says, ‘yeah, why don’t you drive up 11 hours to go!' It’s an 11-hour drive from L.A. to where Bigfoot walked, allegedly, in 67.”

The film was both an individual and collaborative experience for Goldthwait and, knowingly or unknowingly, he may have mirrored the characters after his closest personal relationship. “I wrote an outline and I wrote some of the scenes that actually ended up in the movie,“ he explained. “Here’s what my wife says, ‘this movie is just a better looking couple playing us.’ If I say that without attributing it to her, people [say] 'oh man…' but it’s her line!”

The two performers in Willow Creek, Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson, do much of the film’s heavy lifting, often operating the camera while performing either in front of or behind it. With just over 60 cuts, the film gives the actors their due, most notably in a riveting and claustrophobic 19-minute take confined to the inside of a tent. Goldthwait appreciated his actors’ efforts. "The thing that we’d have to work on when [the actors] were operating the cameras was making sure they didn’t telegraph it, didn’t get ahead of where to point it. When I got finished with the movie, I gave them producing credits just because I felt that, you know, they were pretty important."

If you’re a fan of his previous films like World’s Greatest Dad or God Bless America, rest assured that Willow Creek features Goldthwait’s notable humor. "The thing that interests me is this feeling of awkwardness," the director confessed. “That’s usually what I’m pursuing and the byproduct of that is laughs. This movie, if it works for people, when they laugh it’s because they’re scared and they’re awkward. But I don’t sit there and go, ‘that’s a funny joke,’ or ‘that would be a funny scene.’ There’s this feeling I get and I just kind of try to be faithful to that. And I do believe that’s probably why I’m not well-known as a filmmaker or popular. Because I’m asking the audience to fill in the punch-line. If you have to take things at face value, then my movies won’t work for you."

Willow Creek
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Screens: November 5 at 9:00pm

Scary Movies 7 Official Description:

One way of keeping found-footage horror interesting is to have a director well versed in comedy entertain us into not thinking about the gimmicky conceit behind what we’re seeing. For his first foray into horror, Bobcat Goldthwait does just that—he takes an over-used device and makes it fun again. The early part of his agreeably micro-budget film follows a super-likable couple (Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore) as they embark on a Northern California Bigfoot tour, documenting it every step of the way. He’s a believer and she’s accommodating enough, but when they get deeper into their journey (into their tent, more specifically) things start to get truly hairy. And that’s also when the film transforms into an experience that’s as nerve-wracking as it is comedic.

Bobcat Goldthwait will also present a screening of Hammer Films classic The Nanny starring Bette Davis on November 5 at 6:45pm.

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