Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson play Kelly and Jim, respectively, a couple who set out to explore the mythology surrounding Bigfoot. The latter is a firm believer in the creature and aspiring documentarian, so they head to Humboldt County in California to speak to locals, and to camp in the very same woods the famous 1967 sighting took place, are find out if the rumours of Bigfoot’s existence are true, once and for all.
The subject matter is brilliant, as while shot in the still relatively contemporary found footage sub-genre, implementing new technology with handheld devises such as phones to help document footage, it’s all set in such traditional surroundings, as Bigfoot is a creature that’s almost ingrained into the fabric of America’s horror culture. However sadly the traditionalism extends to the construction of the piece, in a detrimental way. Characters sitting in a tent, terrified while unexplainable noises can be heard from outside, is a scene stolen from The Blair Witch Project – a film that this bears so many similarities too, it’s laughable, carrying such a distinctly low amount of unique identity. Not just during the build up, in how they interview locals before heading out themselves, but in the way we see so little, with the suspense, tension and horror formed out of our protagonists reactions to camera.
What saves this picture is the acting performances, as there’s such an awkwardness to Johnson’s monologues to camera, born out of the character’s inexperience at presenting on film. This is tougher than you may think, as given he’s naturally gifted in such an area, to drop any sense of charisma in such naturalistic fashion and play someone almost unassertive in such such situations, is no easy task. However Gilmore is the more nuanced, dominant character, as she represents the viewer, as our natural entry point into this tale – because she’s the cynic. Kelly is the character who thinks Bigfoot is a fabrication and she needs convincing that there’s some truth in the tale, which is effectively where we stand, and, like Kelly, we need Jim and his documentary skills to convince us otherwise.
Ultimately Willow Creek is an entertaining, undemanding feature that’s easy to indulge in and enjoy. However considering the ingenuity of the man in the director’s chair, who always seems so inclined in pushing boundaries and trying new things, it’s a real shame to see such an unashamedly conventional turn, bringing nothing new to an already tired style of filmmaking.