Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Willow Creek": Better As Unfound Footage

Now Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

I’m so fucking sick of found-footage movies.  They’re just an excuse for amateur filmmakers to make a lazy, poorly choreographed product with minimal special effects and a minimal budget.  All it takes are a couple of no-name actors, a camera and some off-camera sound effects, and bam, cheap film.  This isn’t always a bad thing.  The Blair Witch Project pioneered the genre, but that worked so well because the characters were always emoting and there was a constant feeling of dread throughout.  Cloverfield also works decently well because it doesn’t use the shaky-cam as an excuse to not show its monster, but instead allows us to catch glimpses and build up the sense of wonder for what it looks like as a whole, even if the end-result was a bit disappointing.  However, Willow Creek doesn’t follow those examples.

I was actually really hopeful that this would be a decent film, since veteran television director Bobcat Goldthwait sat at the helm for this one.  Found-footage films are usually the domain of newcomers trying to prove their worth with no money, but Bobcat’s been around for a while, so I’d hoped that he would have something new to bring to the table.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case at all; this film falls into the same traps that this genre is constantly victim to.  And the worst part is that the beginning shows a lot of potential for it to be otherwise.

The story follows explorers Kelly and Jim in their search to find Bigfoot.  Jim is a believer, and Kelly is a sceptic, because that’s how these plots work.  They’re making a documentary about their trip, and they begin by interviewing locals before going in and camping at the spot where Bigfoot was first captured on film a few decades ago.  The romantic interactions between Kelly and Jim are sweet and they feel authentic, which is good since this is purportedly supposed to be real events.  The interviews with locals also feel hokey and unscripted, and the film gives off a really cute couples’-adventure vibe for about half of its runtime.

Of course, this is all just set-up for when the ax falls and the dramatic tension sets in, and that tension worthlessly falls flat on its face.  The couple begin to get warned off by threatening hillbillies who don’t want them going into the woods, but they’re nothing more than cardboard-cutout harbingers that we’ve seen in every clichéd horror film ever.  When the couple finally get to the campsite, the big dramatic setpiece of the third act is… huddling in the tent motionless as eerie sounds emanate from outside the tent.  This is boring as hell.  It doesn’t even work well as a jump scare, because the sounds that the Bigfoots (Bigfeet? Bigfi?) make is like a mix between a tornado siren and an old man yelling at you to get off his lawn.  There’s no shock value, and the whole production feels cheap and lazy.

The final shots of the film are, of course, a shaky, split-second shot of the monster, accompanied by a shot of the ground and the sounds of the couple being ripped to pieces.  My reaction: “My god, they’re finally dead so I can turn this off!”  This was perhaps the most boring, trite, and pointless film I’ve seen in a long time.  It doesn’t just stick to genre conventions; it wears only the warts of the genre like they’re badges of honor.  It showed early promise in the first act, but when it came time to deliver the goods, I genuinely believe a first-year film student could have done better.  Just move along, folks.  Nothing to see here.

Can you think of any good found-footage films?  Let me know in the comments below.

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