Willow Creek seems destined to disappoint hardcore horror fans. This found footage film lacks the grotesque gore or spark of originality that horror fans search for, but that doesn’t necessarily render the film ineffective.
The film is constructed from Blair Witch Project blueprints with few departures, as Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) and Jim (Bryce Johnson) head to a small town to make a documentary about Bigfoot, chat with unimpressed locals before making the ill-advised decision to set up camp in Sasquatch territory.
It’s refreshing because of how little director Bobcat Goldthwait diverges from said blueprints. There’s nothing fancy here, just an evocation of the terror found in unexplained noises when you’re camping alone at night (featured in a twenty minute long, utterly compelling setpiece). Goldthwait understands the purpose of found footage – not merely to save money (though this is clearly a microbudget production), but to create a sense of authenticity.
That kind of authenticity is present in every frame of Willow Creek, from the smallest cut to the particulars of Jim and Kelly’s relationship. Once verisimilitude is established, you don’t need big scares or special effects to scare your audience … even if horror aficionados, accustomed to unsympathetic protagonists, might disagree.