Just recently, while doing radio, I was asked what my favorite Bigfoot-based movie is. Well, that’s not hard to figure out for me. Craig Woolheater – the owner of Cryptomundo, an immensely popular website that focuses on unknown creatures – called it one of the best Bigfoot-themed movies ever made. Craig isn’t wrong. It’s a 2013 production titled Willow Creek. The movie was both written and directed by comedian and screenwriter Bobcat Goldthwait, well known for his recurring roles as “Zed” in the Police Academy movies. With Goldthwait at the helm, the movie has its amusing, lighthearted, and occasionally downright hilarious moments. It would be very wrong, however, to describe Willow Creek as a comedy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Harry and the Hendersons this is most definitely not.
Willow Creek demonstrates one thing from the outset: Goldthwait has a keen knowledge of Bigfoot history and of the nature of the Bigfoot-seeking community. That much is obvious from the fact that the film takes much of its inspiration from real-life Bigfoot-based incidents and cases. The movie tells the story of Jim and Kelly (actors Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmour) who head off to Humboldt County, California – in search of the site of the legendary and controversial Bigfoot encounter of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in 1967. It’s clear that, of the two, Jim is the Bigfoot enthusiast. Kelly is his girlfriend who does her very best to put up with what she sees as Jim’s growing, tedious, monster obsession.
For Jim, the whole thing is very much an adventurous road trip. And, with that in mind, the pair takes with them a camcorder to record every aspect of the trip – and, hopefully, to film Bigfoot, too. The first sign we get of the disturbing activity that soon follows comes when the duo turn up in the town of Willow Creek and are cryptically warned to keep out of the woods – something which, rather inevitably, only spurs Jim on even more. The banter between Kelly and Jim very much comes to an end when, after trekking miles into the woods, in search of the hallowed ground on which Bigfoot (or a man in a suit) trod back in 1967, the pair becomes lost. As in totally lost. Concern and worry becomes downright fear when something large and violent stalks their camp as they sit, terrified out of their wits, in their tent. I will not give the conclusion of the movie away, except to say that Bigfoot fans will not be disappointed. Nor were those that reviewed it.
At the website of acclaimed reviewer, Roger Ebert, Brian Tallerico says: “The centerpiece of ‘Willow Creek’ is an extended sequence that everyone making a found footage film should be forced to watch. And take notes. The camera doesn’t move. There are no quick cuts. There are no asides to the camera/audience to break the tension. We are merely in the tent with Jim and Kelly, watching their faces and, most of all, listening. What is scarier than an unexplainable, unidentifiable sound in the pitch-black woods, miles from civilization? ‘Willow Creek’ makes the case that the answer is nothing.”
In June 2014, Eric Kohn, of Indiewire, stated of Goldhwait’s production: “‘Willow Creek’ has been quietly screening at regional festival over the summer and may have a hard time getting noticed in a sea of similar projects: Last year saw the release of the poorly received ‘Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes,’ while ‘Blair Witch’ co-director Eduardo Sánchez has been developing his own spooky found footage Bigfoot movie, ‘Exists.’ However, ‘Willow Creek’ stands alone because it aims to engage with several genres at once. While it eventually devolves into exploring the terrifying prospects of something hairy lurking about in the shadows, Goldthwait uses that thrill factor to validate the commitment of Bigfoot believers. ‘Willow Creek’ never feels like an attempt to proselytize, but it’s a smart recognition of the dangers involved in doubt.”
With that all said, if you haven’t seen Willow Creek you really should!