Willow Creek Review
The best moment in “Willow Creek” comes right near the end of the film. We see Jim (Bryce Johnson) and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) sitting in a tent, hearing strange sounds coming from the woods around them. It is a scene that lasts close to twenty minutes and its completely hypnotic the way director Bobcat Goldthwait captures silence is near-perfect. It has been awhile since the use of silence was pivotal for lots of older movies and I was truly giddy that Goldthwait used the technique for his film. I think it is an underrated technique and the way Goldthwait used it in “Willow Creek” could be a new standard for the genre.
The thing is, as good as that long stretch of scene is, it doesn’t payoff in a way that forced me to leave the theater is shock. “Willow Creek” is too slow, too talky and just plain unexciting. Sure, there is a great twenty minute scene followed by a bizarre finish, but I am not convinced that the journey was worth the trip. We just spend too much time following Jim and Kelly around, goofing around, interviewing locals, stepping on people’s feet figuratively and the whole thing finishes before anything really happens. “Willow Creek” suffers from the fact that I needed more and I wanted more. I didn’t want more because I was enthralled by what I was seeing, I wanted more because there wasn’t enough here to begin with. It seems Goldthwait wanted to make a “The Haunting” 2.0, but he ends up fumbling in the process.
Oh…and have I mentioned that I am getting sick of the found footage device. At first, I loved the prospect of it, and I love the possibilities it produced. I think there have been several wonderful examples of the device out already, and I am sure there will be more, but 2014 is literally killing the device for me. I had a good time with “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and “Afflicted” earlier this year, those are movies I am glad I saw. Despite “The Sacrament” keeping me up all night last month, I feel the film would have benefited more from not being tied to the found footage device. There was a lot I would have liked to have seen in that film that you can’t really show with found footage and that bothered me a bit. With “Willow Creek” though, the device is completely wasted. I didn’t like how much the film borrowed from “The Blair Witch Project” in terms of character and story. I didn’t like that it took so long to get to where the film was going. I didn’t like that we had to watch so much boring character interplay before we got to the big finish. It is sad that the pros are overwhelmed by the cons here.
I have already read a few reviews of “Willow Creek” that Jim and Kelly are both likable. Honestly, I couldn’t disagree more. Jim and Kelly are a couple who have decided to venture into Bigfoot County to discover if the fabled monster is real or not. Despite being criticized by the locals, they press on and soon find out why that was such a terrible idea. Both Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore are both bright young leads, but they look like they are impersonating countless other actors who were once in their shoes. They don’t bring anything new or invigorating to the characters we find in found footage films. In fact, that is my biggest beef with “Willow Creek” it feels too much like every other found footage film I have seen in recent years that I wonder why Goldthwait even bothered in the first place. After seeing how well Goldthwait can write a satire script with “God Bless America,” I can’t believe how dull the characters are in this film.
If you want a great final thirty minutes of film in movie that features nothing else worth of merit, then “Willow Creek” is for you, had that final thirty minutes been in a movie with creepier atmosphere and richer characters, then I think “Willow Creek” would have been something to talk about. With the director involved, I am slightly disappointed by this films outcome. This is a cardboard, cookie-cutter of a found footage movie, and I can’t believe how annoyed I am by it.
FINAL GRADE: C-