Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Some quick thoughts on Willow Creek.

Bobcat Goldthwait's
Willow Creek (2014)

~spoiler free~

Found footage. Like there's just all this footage lying around everywhere. Found footage films have become somewhat of a chore for me. A trend which has somehow outlasted the generation that originally appreciated it and lapsed into a new generation of horror fans who think it's something new. I normally avoid these movies since having watched the adversarial boner-killer that is V/H/S, nothing but a baited hook to oldsters like me, but it's fucking hard because there are so many being made. However, having said that, I remember fondly the somewhat limited resurgence of it when Cloverfield came out and I found myself wondering 'Well what makes me like Cloverfield, when I really can't stand this sort of thing?'.
It has something to do with subject matter. Hell, who doesn't like giant monsters – and suddenly the found footage aspect of it was somehow newer, edgier and more engaging. I found myself for a time seeking them out again. Movies like REC were fairly thrilling to me, while others, like Paranormal Activity, I found to be just as insipid and dull as the Blair Witch series ever was.
While the sub-genre made good progress in the capable hands of those who were willing to try something new – it fell on its ass when directors and producers relied on nothing but jump scares and loud noises. The popularity of the found footage movie did well within the mainstream either way and suddenly the horror movie was getting another shot at the big screen.
So yeah, in short it was a thing and now its just kind of a thing, limping along behind its recently panned-out success with straight-to-video releases and cash-ins, pandering its way down the line of bored people who want to recapture the realistic horror of found footage.
Often I see a movie that snags my interest and often when it ends up being a FF movie I kind of pout for a while and then forget all about it.
But in this case – my willingness to buy anything Bigfoot won out and I decided to watch Willow Creek.
Promising me 'the monster movie of the summer', with its visceral red jacket and bitching cover art it tickled the buying bone just under the wad of blackened organic tar that is my congealed lust for simian destruction.
I went into it skeptical as always – skepticism being a strange taste in my mouth because as a horror fan with no recognizable standards – the dignity of being a snob about these movies is an opportunity I've long since passed up (I will never once ask you to put any faith into anything I say about anything ever, good luck!). Found footage, to me, often translates into a method of delivery which increasingly rouses suspense from the viewer, even though there's nothing really happening but the mundane self-indulgent posturing of whoever it is that has the hand-cam. This could also be translated into being lazy. The viewer knows something is supposed to happen at some point so they're always on edge – paranoid about that inevitable moment when something is bound to bother them. This is the primary source for those annoying back-of-the-DVD quotes:
I was on the edge of my seat! (waiting for something to happen)
A jarring experiment in suspense! (because the movie is called 'All These People Eventually Die' and they just keep drinking and cursing like frat boys)
And I'll admit that initially Willow Creek did seem lazy to me. In fact, if I didn't have the infatuation with Bigfeets that I do I would have found it unwatchable – as the first hour or so of the movie is nothing but a Sasquatch enthusiast and his reluctant girlfriend out on a trip to the original Patterson film site. It was shot on location so it was interesting to me in the way a documentary about the Patterson film would be, so I kept with it.
However the movie does has a turning point. During the first night of their trip into the woods to reach the site, they are awoken by vocalizations in the distance. This is a nearly 30 minute, single shot scene where the couple sits frozen in their tent, afraid to move an inch, only whispering to one another frantically as the noises of clacking wood and ape-like wailing grow closer. If you end up loving or hating this movie, this is the scene you should at least give a nod to.
The entire shot is very organic and very real – mirroring that painfully human moment we've all had – sitting up from our beds, remaining as still as we can – even willing our hearts to beat softer – persuading our lungs to expand more shallowly – straining to hear, what we thought we heard, somewhere not so far off in the darkness. Moments pass without it, the sound of some thing in the shadows which is aware of you, and you ease up a little, your muscles relax, only to have it come in again out of sequence – freezing its hold on you now with more emphasis, causing more deliberation, because it has become louder, closer.
Its a brilliant scene because we've all been there. That moment where rationality shifts out of existence and you think to yourself “This is it. There is something out there that maybe isn't quite explainable and I can't handle that”.
The movie is worth watching for that feeling alone – and after it – the remainder is almost inconsequential.

I've always thought of fear as something that bothers the soul of you, your mind and your heart – not just some cheap shock popping in off angle to yell in your face. To me there's a difference between being startled, and being afraid, and it takes a real talent to project that difference on screen. I wasn't overly impressed with Willow Creek but for that scene, and if you, like me, like to remind yourself from time to time just how irrational we can be – I suggest you watch it.