8 Jun 2014

Review - Aside from a Chilling Final Act, 'Willow Creek' is a Slow Burn for Acquired Taste

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Stars: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson
Running Time: 80 mins
Sub-Genre: Found Footage
Release: June 2014

Jim and his girlfriend Kelly are visiting the infamous Willow Creek, the alleged home of the original Bigfoot legend - the tale of huge ape like creatures that roam the forests of North America. It was there that in 1967, the legendary beast was captured on film and has terrified and mystified generations since. Keen to explore more than 50 years of truth, folklore, misidentifications and hoaxes, Kelly goes along for the ride to keep Jim happy, whilst he is determined to prove the story is real by capturing the beast on camera. Deep in the dark and silent woods, isolated and hours from human contact, neither Kelly or Jim are prepared for what is hidden between the trees, and what happens when the cameras start rolling...

The found footage sub-genre has come a long way since the Paranormal Activity rebirth back in 2008; It reached a high and then hit an all-time low, yet now we can finally see some hope spark once again with the release of Willow Creek, even if its a slow and steady one step at a time. When was the last time you watch a found footage horror that actually scared you? Yeah I get it, you loved V/H/S blah blah blah, I did too, but did it scare you because it certainly didn't scare me. Willow Creek is exactly that, a scary film, but if you can hack the steady pace then you are in for one hell of a treat; but if like me, looking for one thrill after another then this bizarre Bigfoot tale may just be something you might not want to indulge in.

Back to basics is where Bobcat Goldthwait takes Willow Creek, feeds back to the basics which made Blair Witch Project so successful; a small cast, one camera, one woodland area and hell of a lot of creepy noises and dead silences to make your spine shiver. The difference here is that Blair Witch worked to its maximum ability, whilst Willow Creek neither surpassed the line of trying something new nor stood back and let the scares dominate. Instead, Goldthwait lets you wallow in the dread of the unknown without progressing, leaving us with a 80 minute film of mostly nothing; atmosphere is certainly built from this but that sort of silent terror is something of an acquired taste, something that I do not prefer.

Although this sort of film can prove quite unlikeable to the certain type of audience, there is no denying that it has a charm due to the impressive duo in which the entire film follows. Their likable personalities feed off of each others energy, making for a true and honest character relationship worth caring for, making the turn of events more effective due to the characters savvy and witty behavior towards each-other and the subject matter. Instead of a trio of babbling teens who prove strongly unlikeable in which we want to see die, we instead get a genuine couple whose onscreen presence is enough to make the first 60 minutes bearable, even if the bare minimum occur during so which by the way is enough to make you turn off the film all together.

The film experience is held together however by a hugely chilling final act that is likely to make you forget the pain you had to wait beforehand, but all will be forgotten as soon as you witness the extra-long take of the unlikely duo feared for their life as the creature makes his movie; and that is absolutely terrifying. The rest of the film from that point in picks up, delivering scares by the minute through simplicity; the fear of what you can't see outlasts the fear of what you can see, and judging by the fact you can't or don't ever see anything you catch my drift. It's clear that Goldthwait has taken a leaf or two out of Blair Witch's book, and it never quite does the tribute justice, but there is a lot of fresh ideas here to give the film that extra boost, especially when it's boasted by and impressive cast and a final act that truly delivers.

VERDICT:Although its slow-burn delivery will be an acquired taste, Willow Creek has enough chilling frights to please those who seek a scare, regardless of Goldthwait's lack of reinvention with the found footage sub-genre.

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