M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Four of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2013 and going through September 30, 2014. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2013 and September 30, 2014 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on September 9. 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!
WILLOW CREEK (2013)
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Written by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson
I was beginning to think that finding a good Bigfoot movie was damn near as hard as finding the elusive creature itself. Having sat though my fair share of mediocre to horrible Squatchploitation flicks, it got to the point where I was dreading seeing this subgenre of movies. Then along comes Bobcat Goldthwait, an unconventional director and one I definitely wouldn’t expect to be able to deliver a film that just might be the best Bigfoot film I’ve ever seen. But deliver he did with WILLOW CREEK.
Filmed in the first person POV that might cause many to let out a groan of Sasquatchonian levels, WILLOW CREEK follows an amateur documentary filmmaker Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) as they travel to the legendary site where the Patterson-Gimlin footage was filmed capturing what looks to be an upright ape walking through the wooded areas of Bluff Creek, in northern California. Jim’s intention is to walk the same steps Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin walked the day they captured something fantastical on their camera. Soaking in the local culture which is heavily influenced by the Bigfoot mythos sporting Bigfoot burgers, various carved statues, and Bigfoot hotels, Jim and Kelly find themselves immersing themselves deeper and deeper into this phenomenon with Jim playing the role of steadfast believer and Kelly acting as the skeptic. Much of the earlier part of the film is dedicated to getting to know Jim and Kelly while they attempt to film this documentary, while the latter half follows them on a perilous journey through the wilderness challenging the beliefs of both would-be documentarians on whether the Sasquatch really exists. And actors Johnson and Gilmore do a fantastic job of making themselves likable and relatable by seeing them at their most comfortable and most vulnerable before they even step one foot into the wilderness. Both are talented actors able to hold the attention of this viewer for the extended amount of time that occurs before they set out to follow the trail.
A lot might be said about this film being a found footager, and more of a comment on making a documentary than an actual found footage film. Jim is a believer and therefore doesn’t really have an objective point of view here, seeking adventure and discovery rather than really trying to be a fly on the wall capturing the truth. Numerous times throughout the film, different takes are used in order to show Jim trying to act natural, a trait Jim really isn’t good at as he has a lot of difficulty containing his enthusiasm once he gets closer to the site. At the same time, as found footagers go, Goldthwait keeps everything sensible. The camera is never propped just right to catch anything. There are no illogical cuts or edits by some omnipotent editor. And there are no musical bangs on an invisible piano from an invisible orchestra. Everything happens during the filming of the raw footage of this documentary, which makes it feel more genuine and all the more effective in grabbing me and keeping me in the film.
Most importantly, this is a scary movie. There’s a nineteen-minute sequence in this film that had me paralyzed with fear. The extended intro where we follow this couple around and get to know them does its job because it allows the viewer to rely on that connection during the last half of this film when the peril begins to intensify exponentially. Goldthwait goes for simplicity here, and in doing so offers up the most powerful of scares: simple sounds and then silences, unexpected mutterings and moans, pitch darkness and the power of the great unknown are elements Goldthwait plays with perfectly, leading to an ending that is both shocking upon experiencing it and then doubly so after the fact when it’s made clear what was happening out there in the darkness and making some of those odd sounds.
Much like Goldthwait’s other films SHAKES THE CLOWN, GOD BLESS AMERICA, and WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, the filmmaker exemplifies his unique eye for offbeat cultures and the under the radar details with WILLOW CREEK. This is not just a found footage film. It’s a smart use of found footage, incorporating elements of humor and utter fear expertly in order to scare the hell out of the viewer. For believers in Bigfoot like myself who had been becoming skeptical that there would ever be a truly great Bigfoot film made, Bobcat Goldthwait and WILLOW CREEK, thankfully, proved me wrong.
THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!
#18 – WILLOW CREEK
#19 – MACABRE
#20 – GRAND PIANO
#21 – RIGOR MORTIS
#22 – ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE
#23 – THE MACHINE
#24 – DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN
#25 – THE SACRAMENT
#26 – THE SEASONING HOUSE
#27 – THANATOMORPHOSE
#28 – DEVOURED
#29 – CONTRACTED
#30 – DISCOPATH
#31 – SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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