Posted by: John Kirk on June 30th, 2014
I said I would comment on Bobcat Goldthwait’s excellent (showing my bias already) film Willow Creek.
Horror movies are not my cup of tea generally and I think the last two I saw were Scream-The Original and I Know What You Did Last Summer over a decade ago.
So I went into this wide open to experiencing a little suspense. I got more than I bargained for.
It’s also a very funny film with really sharp wit permeating the movie throughout and subtleties which only people who follow sasquatch would catch.
The story is centered around Jim Kessel (Bryce Johnson – Pretty little liars) and his girlfriend Kelly Monteleone (Alexie Gilmore – The Greatest Dad in the World) who embark on a roadtrip to find the site of the Patterson-Gimlin film. Jim is making a documentary about sasquatch and Kelly is the perfect skeptical foil to the believer in Jim.
During the drive to Willow Creek Kelly peppers Jim with all sorts of questions about sasquatch including the now standard skeptical question, “If Bigfoot exists, how come they haven’t found a body or bones?” Jim’s answer is one we have all employed in refuting the skeptics: Have you ever found the bones of any animals in the wild yourself? In all my time investigating my buds and I in the field have found juvenile deer skeleton which curiously was left in neat little pile by something.
The Q&A session about bigfoot during the drive scenes shows clearly that Bobcat is one of us. He knows the subject matter like a sasquatch investigator and not just someone who read up on the subject and then penned a script that would be half cocked. He knows what the hell he is writing about and it shows.
Jim and Kelly arrive in Willow Creek and tour the epicentre of Bigfootery in Northern California with all its assorted sasquatch kitsch. I love kitsch. Seeing bigfoot motifs everywhere you look in Willow Creek was captured in the film, makes me want to head out on a roadtrip to see the sites.
Jim drops in for a chat with Steve Streufert of Bigfoot Books and the conversation is natural you think that you have stumbled on two newly friended sasquatchers talking in some quiet corner at the Ohio Bigfoot Conference at Salt Fork Lodge. Steve’s performance was very natural and he has good acting chops.
The quirky nature of the town of Willow Creek arises again when they sit down to eat a Bigfoot Burger, complete with a bun that looks like a foot belonging to the bipedal hairy hominid. Even weirder is when they go for a beer at local saloon where Timmy Red plays a sasqutach song on a ukelele. It is absolutely surreal in that place and this is where the film begins to get creepy.
Timmy, who seemed totally harmless, transforms in a menacing freakazoid when he sees Jim playing around and slightly mocking a statue of sasquatch. This where Timmy gives Jim an ominous warning about not fooling around with the big hairy man.
Bobcat cuts the tension with Tom Yamarone doing a great version of his epic hit, “Roger and Bob rode out that day.” Yams sings his heart out and in sticking with the heightened reality show feel of the movie, Yams forgets the words and they do a cut and paste edit and off he goes again with the rest of the song.
One of the great things about the film is the care Bobcat leads you on a guided tour of the route to the film site. You see the very backroads that Roger and Bob traversed to get to the location of the film. Bob Gimlin was sitting beside me, and the second the now heavily overgrown site appeared, Bob turned to me and said,”There it is John!” Amazing recall for a man of 82.
As Jim and Kelly start the final leg of the of the journey to the site, they are suddenly stopped by a nasty piece of work who less than subtly tells them to turn back. You never know who this guy is and you wonder if he is an illicit pot grower, a Dueling Banjos backwoods hick or a major league weirdo with a dark secret to hide.
Jim is undeterred by this piece of fruitcake and uses a different route to head to the film site. After setting up camp and going for a swim, they return to find the camp site has been disturbed. Undeterred they stay on for the night.
This is a night filled with activities attributed to sasquatches such as howls, woodknocking, rock throwing, Samurai chatter and the ever popular groans. The tension and fear soars when the source of all these disturbances enters the campsite and terrorizes the two hapless lovers in the tent.
The actors played all of this put inside a tent without a script and is it is a testament to their creativity and brilliance that you are taken on an intensely scary ride with them as the creature harasses them for hours on end. This film reminded me why I don’t like horror films. They make me sit on the edge of seat and the anticipation of what is going to happen next and my body fires equal amounts of adrenalin and cortisone in my system as the suspense mounts.
Bobcat is eminently successful in making this finale of the film one where the sense of helplessness the actors feel pervades the entire movie theatre.
Spoiling is not something I do, so I will keep the twisted ending to myself, but it is totally unexpected and very frightening.
If you want a sasquatch horror movie made by a director who really knows his stuff, this film is IT.
The audience at the premier at the Seattle International Film festival I saw the film at with Tom Yamarone, Bobcat, Bob Gimlin and the lead actors Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore were clearly impressed and engaged themselves in the Q & A with real enthusiasm. I’m not surprised, because if you had been taken on a thrill ride like they were, wouldn’t you want more?
Willow Creek gets two thumbs up because it is very good as a horror film, but also because someone made a film about sasquatch and actually knows what he is talking about.
Can’t tell you how refreshing that is.
One of the founders of the BCSCC, John Kirk has enjoyed a varied and exciting career path. Both a print and broadcast journalist, John Kirk has in recent years been at the forefront of much of the BCSCC’s expeditions, investigations and publishing. John has been particularly interested in the phenomenon of unknown aquatic cryptids around the world and is the author of In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (Key Porter Books, 1998). In addition to his interest in freshwater cryptids, John has been keenly interested in investigating the possible existence of sasquatch and other bipedal hominids of the world, and in particular, the Yeren of China. John is also chairman of the Crypto Safari organization, which specializes in sending teams of investigators to remote parts of the world to search for animals as yet unidentified by science. John travelled with a Crypto Safari team to Cameroon and northern Republic of Congo to interview witnesses among the Baka pygmies and Bantu bushmen who have sighted a large unknown animal that bears more than a superficial resemblance to a dinosaur. Since 1996, John Kirk has been editor and publisher of the BCSCC Quarterly which is the flagship publication of the BCSCC. In demand at conferences, seminars, lectures and on television and radio programs, John has spoken all over North America and has appeared in programs on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, TLC, Discovery, CBC, CTV and the BBC. In his personal life John spends much time studying the histories of Scottish Clans and is himself the president of the Clan Kirk Society. John is also an avid soccer enthusiast and player.