Thursday, October 26, 2017

Willow Creek (2013) [Unrated]

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Bryce Johnson as Jim
Alexie Gilmore as Kelly

Synopsis: A couple ventures out to the famous site from the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, to search for Bigfoot - despite warnings by the nearby townspeople of Willow Creek.

Acting: 18/20

Writing:  33/40
Directing/Editing/Production/Etc:  38/40

Overall:  89/100 B+

Review: This is a "found footage" film done right. The actors who play the couple in this film have a great chemistry together, the writing takes an interesting angle on the Bigfoot story and the overall execution finds a great balance between suspense, action and getting into the characters and story.

Being apprehensive about yet another Bigfoot story is understandable but this film does a great job at keeping the story interesting and it's more thought-provoking than it may seem on the surface. This movie was also surprisingly impressive when it came to adding a comedic element, which added to the story, as opposed to taking away from it.

*Spoiler Alert!*

The murals, town locations and most of the townspeople are real and seemingly inspired by these homemade Bigfoot/Willow Creek tour videos (especially 3:33 - 5:43) by the Bigfoot Books owner who made an appearance in this film:


The scene with the Bigfoot mural on the huge wall by the road is not only the funniest scene in this film but one of the funniest scenes in any film. ("They got [Bigfoot] as a day laborer or something... 'Bigfoot help you put up house, for berries'.") The actor playing Jim did a phenomenal voice improving the Bigfoot accent and expressing the Bigfoot mindset. This scene alone makes the film worth watching. ("Maybe he just doesn't want to work, that's why they can't find him. 'Bigfoot tired of working'.")

Since the Big Foot Books owner genuinely cares about all of the Bigfoot stuff, his part in the film was very interesting and gave us some real background information about the original Patterson-Gimlin film, which was a really nice touch to the documentary-feel of the film.

The origin story of Bigfoot being exposed by the cutting of 'virgin timber' in that area, was very cool because it gave a potential explanation for how Bigfoot was eluding society for so long in the untouched forest and the story about Bigfoot vandalizing the camps of the loggers, was nice foreshadowing for when Jim and Kelly's camp is vandalized later.

There are quite a few scenes peppered throughout the film that add a good sense of mystery to the film: should they be more worried about Bigfoot, nature in general or the locals?

Neither of the two are very familiar with the woods/nature/uncivilized territory. There are many clues given throughout the film that they are not prepared for the dangers ahead of them whether they encounter a Bigfoot or not. They don't even have a weapon despite the potential danger of bears and mountain lions. Furthermore, there was plenty of foreshadowing of danger when they got to the campsite.

Later, when the couple does start to encounter potential danger, they lean on their video recorder (technology - a societal luxury) for comfort, even though it was superficial as it didn't actually do anything to protect them - showing how much they had become out of tune with nature.

The tent-scenes were perfectly suspenseful as they really put you in the moment and what it would feel like to be there; Very organic. (Especially the footsteps - so creepy!) 

That being said, there was another story going on here, which was brilliantly executed (as many horror films tend to do): Now that we are 50+ years after Feminism started it's plan to make women more "the same" as men and vice-versa, modern women are more vulgar and less nurturing than their recent ancestors and modern men are more acquiescent and less supportive than their recent ancestors. This film does a great job showing why those roles might work fine in cities etc. but not so much out in nature. Problems that are 'manageable' in the context of society become great endeavors in the context of nature.

The comments by the visitor center lady were a great example of how out of touch with reality women can be. She said she doesn't believe in Bigfoot at all yet she 'wouldn't be surprised at all' if she saw one 'because [she] doesn't believe' - which makes no sense. Realistically, she'd be incredibly surprised to see Bigfoot because she doesn't believe in it, which is the opposite of what she said.

There is a very interesting contrast that takes place involving the way people will act one way off-camera and another way on-camera as well as speaking to how this tends to differ between the genders:

  • Shaun White Guy Sr. is a female resident of the Hopa reservation and was being very passive-aggressive in her immediate storytelling before abruptly calling for the camera to "cut", so she could correct Jim that it's pronounced "hoopa" not "hopa" in a cranky manner. On the second take, with that pronunciation corrected and her feelings satiated, she becomes a completely different person who is more soft-spoken and feminine as well as much less aggressive - clearly putting on for the camera.
  • Troy Andrews is a former male ranger who tells a story about hearing an encounter with his dog and it being dead (ripped in half) when he found it. Jim mentions that off-camera Troy had said he thought it could've been a Sasquatch but now, on camera, he is less open to that possibility - suspecting "pot farmers" and other locals instead.
This was interesting because the woman wanted to be "liked" while filmed on camera, whereas the man wanted to be "respected" while filmed on camera; showing natural gender differences.

The starring couple had communication problems foreshadowed from the get-go. Kelly is often demeaning and cold towards Jim ("my boyfriend is a big idiot" ; repeated leprechaun comments) while Jim has a hard time taking Kelly seriously - especially about her feelings and warnings (she says "I don't feel safe driving around this mountain like this." and he responds "No it's great, keep going.") . Kelly is also very vulgar sexually: she thinks of a douche commercial to fill the silence ; makes a foot vs. weenie "burger" comment ; claims to be getting 'horny' by a Bigfoot wood carving and makes sexual gestures with the carving in public even though Jim asks her to stop (foreshadowing her future).

When Jim mentions in his documentary that he is there with his girlfriend Kelly, she doesn't want to be mentioned, which totally deflates him. Yet later when Kelly narrates on video for the first time, she does the same thing when she says "This is Kelly driving with my boyfriend", yet she had criticized Jim for doing the same thing. This was very indicative of how western women will often hold men to standards that they don't equally hold themselves to.

She tells him to "be yourself" after getting done criticizing him for being himself, which of course then causes him to not be himself and he doesn't perform so well for the camera. This was very indicative of how modern women don't allow modern men to really be themselves, while at the same time, modern women are telling men who they "really are" inside, for them - which is just what the women want the men to be.

Kelly feels she's making some big sacrifice by going on the trip despite not caring or believing in Bigfoot even though it's important to Jim. Jim doesn't need full support but he would like some middle ground: not outright denial but at least some open mindedness from his girlfriend. ("You don't have to say you believe in Bigfoot. I'm just looking for 'I don't know, maybe there is one Jim. I'm not really sure but maybe you're right, maybe there is something out there'.") All Jim is asking for from Kelly, is what most women expect from most men, a little placating to their feelings. The difference is that most women want this most of the time, whereas most men only need this once in a while, when something is very personal and/or sensitive.

When Kelly falls in the woods and Jim doesn't help her up but instead warns her to be careful, this was a great reality of what total equality/lack of gender roles looks like (especially in place of chivalry). Since they're supposed to be 'complete equals/the same', he ignored some of her repeated assertions of fear and uncomfortability the way he would if she were a man; instead of trying to give her some more comfort and keep her from freaking out. Another sign of gender differences could be seen when she had a much harder time carrying the camera and going through the woods at the same time than he does. Furthermore, when Kelly says she wants to go home, Jim says not to worry about it as it's probably just a bear - which is a problem for any grown adult in the woods but especially for a woman over a man, as bears can smell your gender and see women as easier prey, therefore almost always attacking the woman (or child) first - which is often when a man steps in to save the woman if a man is around. These kinds of things are easy to forget in the comfort of technology and society but in the natural world, women aren't so fortunate.

When the couple hears what "sounds like someone's crying", and a woman, they do absolutely nothing to investigate the noise - virtually leaving the person to fend for themselves, even though it sounded like "someone's in pain". As the woman in the situation, Kelly wasn't any more willing to go help the other woman than Jim was.

As they are trying to make their way out of the woods, their relationship issues - communication, trust, etc. - are exacerbated, and their gender roles prevail in nature. Kelly starts to break down first, getting dizzy and incredibly anxious and frightened whereas again, Jim is able to keep his cool better. She doesn't take the lead even though she's the more aggressive character and he doesn't break down emotionally even though he's the more sensitive character. Even though their gender reversal works fine in artificial society, it doesn't transfer in nature; In nature, it hurts them.

As products of the modern world, the couple is defenseless against whatever nature has in store for them - whether it was a bear, mountain lion or Bigfoot. Kelly screams and eventually starts crying whenever the creature bangs or pushes on the tent whereas Jim does not - a sign of the remnants of gender roles. (She went from doing sexual gestures with the statute to being a scared little flower.) While Kelly is more than happy to "get out of dodge", Jim is clearly not happy that they discovered something yet aren't able to get definitive proof of what it was. She really doesn't care about finding any evidence of Bigfoot (which is supposed to be 1 of 2 main reasons they're out there).

While hearing the "vocalizations", Kelly wants to turn the light off so maybe "whatever it is will go away" yet Jim doesn't want it to [go away]. This is indicative of how Kelly never took Jim's Bigfoot endeavors seriously and made the decision to go scouting Bigfoot with him despite not really wanting to find Bigfoot; Just like she entered a relationship with Jim but doesn't really take him seriously as she doesn't really want to marry him.

It's very rare that a woman ever thinks marriage is "too soon" and Jim was completely deflated when Kelly rejected his proposal. She then proposed for them to move in together, showing she most likely had plans to keep stringing him along until she found someone better. Not only does she not want to marry him, but she asks him to move in with her in LA - something he's actually willing to do just for her even though he clearly stated before that he'd never want to move to LA. This shows that despite their problems, he's still the one doing the majority of submitting to her and not the other way around. This is indicative of how men in general - in western society - do tend to acquiesce to women much more than women do to men, it is not 50/50.

The Bigfoot mural of female-Bigfoot toasting 'breakfast' and male-Bigfoot bringing female-Bigfoot some flowers was very interesting because of how much it reflects the transition from nature into society and how that allowed for the expression of gender roles. We had progressed enough as a civilization that instead of men and women being forced to be more androgynous due to the dangers of nature, men and women were free to be a little more diverse and unique. The mural highlights how objectively, this benefits women more than men, as men are still stuck with dealing with many dangers of nature (he has to go out there to get the flowers) while the women get to be in a safer location, tending to things that are less dangerous (making the 'breakfast'). This was also a foreshadowing to Kelly's future.

The last time the "whimpering/crying" is heard, we discover that it is the "Missing" woman from the poster, presumably kidnapped by Bigfoot and held as a sex slave since she is naked. Further proving this: when Jim is attacked and taken by Bigfoot, his clothes are immediately torn off and his throat seems to be attacked as he is choking so he cannot call for help. Then we hear Kelly screaming as she is presumably "attacked" and taken. However, we hear her scream "Help me! Help me!", showing her throat wasn't attacked, and then we hear multiple Bigfoot howling - presumably at the joy of their newest replacement for a sex slave. Instead of the falsely labeled "oppressive" gender roles in society, she is now 'sentenced' to a life of actual oppressive gender roles in nature.

Sex differences in personality traits are larger in prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities equal with those of men. Nature does not afford women equal opportunities with those of men. (Which is why women should be more grateful for men and the society they created.)

*End of Spoiler Alert!*

Overall this film was a suspenseful, clever and well-executed Bigfoot story, providing impressive social commentary on the freedom of gender roles in society, as opposed to in nature.