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Release Date: June 6, 2014 (Limited)
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
MPAA Rating: NR

Going into Willow Creek, the latest offering from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait, I found myself feeling conflicted before the film even began. On one hand, my found-footage horror fatigue is still in full force, making it difficult to feel interested in anything in this stale genre. On the other hand, Goldthwait has proven himself multiple times over as a solid director, and I was interested to see his take on a horror film. Fortunately, Willow Creek zaps a few jolts of life back into found footage with a funny, tense and rewarding little Bigfoot movie.

The film stars Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson as a young couple setting out to make a Sasquatch documentary in the mountains of Northern California where the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage was caught. As one might imagine, they receive more than they bargained for when strange things begin to happen out there in the forest.

Willow Creek is minimalist slow-burn horror film in its purest form, creating a lot of buildup and just letting the viewer’s imagination run wild. While the couple conducts interviews with several of the colorful townsfolk, the majority of the film consists of only the main two characters, Kelly and Jim. Fortunately, the two leads are likable and not a chore to deal with, unlike most found-footage victims. Their performances are natural and believable, and they aren’t complete jerk-off idiots either. They both have an enjoyable comedic wit about them that makes us actually care for their well-being, a rarity in these types of films.

Although this is certainly a traditional horror film, director Goldthwait injects plenty of humor into the well-crafted script, keeping things light and humorous until the violent conclusion.

Crafting a story that successfully pulls off the slow-burn horror angle is something of a feat these days. Blair Witch created the formula and Paranormal Activity perfected it, so it’s difficult to make a movie like this and still make it scary, fun and entertaining. More importantly, the payoff at the end better be something special.

While Willow Creek’s finale may not be as big and bombastic as some may prefer, I found it to be fitting…and quite disturbing. The specific method in which Goldthwait shoots the ending is particularly interesting, however I can’t divulge exactly what it is without veering into a spoiler.

Clocking in at a mere 80 minutes, Willow Creek is a brief but extremely tense horror story that proves once again that found footage is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. It’s too bad this film wasn’t released before the 50 others like it because it may get lost in the shuffle, but as someone who has grown to have a pointed hatred for found footage, I can say this is one of the better ones.

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