Willow Creek (2013)

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willowcreek

Comedian-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwaite has proven himself to be a thoughtfully provocative filmmaker; first with the Robin Williams tragi-com World’s Greatest Dad, followed by the let’s-shoot-all-the-douchebags black comedy God Bless America. So what does Bobcat bring to the table with Willow Creek, his found-footage fright flick about a yuppie couple in search of Bigfoot? A legitimately scary movie with a harsh message for dilettante daytrippers, and that also happens to mirror the narrative structure of The Blair Witch Project.

Jim (Bryce Johnson, a poor man’s Matthew Modine) is a Sasquatch enthusiast who’s keen on visiting the Willow Creek wilderness where the famous Bigfoot footage was shot by Roger Patterson in 1967. Jim’s girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) is along to keep him company. After interviewing some folks about the legendary creature, the curious couple is strongly advised to abandon the project by two different locals. As it turns out, this was excellent advice that should have been taken to heart.

The whole trip is treated as quite a merry lark until the 42-minute mark when Jim and Kelly find that their campsite has been ransacked. It is at that point that Kelly sensibly says, “I want to go home.” This is followed by a long and harrowing night sequence with the frightened couple trapped in their tent as something roars and stomps around right outside.

The protagonists in Willow Creek, while basically decent and likable, are in no way up to the task at hand, namely, confronting the unknown. Most of the blame goes to Jim, an irresponsible man-child who carelessly follows his whims without a second thought. Kelly, while more of a pragmatist, is too self-absorbed to recognize what a dangerous situation they’ve stumbled into. They’re nice enough, but they reek of frivolous bourgeois entitlement.

Ultimately, their flimsy relationship falls apart in the face of a challenge that they were stunningly unprepared for. To be fair, though, being menaced by a howling legend in the Forest Primeval would test the mettle of even the most devoted couple.

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Shrooms (2007)

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If you can get past the movie’s ludicrous premise, Shrooms is actually a fairly tight little thriller about another camping trip gone to hell. But that premise is a real whopper. Allow me to vent for a moment.

WHY THE HELL WOULD A GROUP OF FRIENDS WANT TO TRAVEL ALL THE WAY TO IRELAND—where five out of the six have never been—TO PICK MUSHROOMS AND TRIP BALLS? EVEN BETTER, THEIR GUIDE TAKES THEM TO A BLIGHTED WILDERNESS THAT’S INHABITED BY TRAUMATIZED FORMER INHABITANTS OF A HOME FOR WAYWARD YOUTH THAT WAS RUN BY A CRACKPOT RELIGIOUS SECT THAT TORTURED AND ABUSED ITS INMATES? AND NOW, IT’S RUMORED TO BE HAUNTED BY THE GHOST OF A SADISTIC MONK AND THE LITTLE SACK-HEADED FERAL CHILD WHO TRIED TO KILL HIM. WHY, THAT’S PERFECT! THAT’S EXACTLY WHERE I WOULD WANT TO CHOW DOWN ON HALLUCINOGENS, ALONG WITH MY BEST BUDDIES THAT I DON’T REALLY LIKE AND WHO DON’T LIKE EACH OTHER. SHEESH! WASN’T THE HAUNTED ABATTOIR AVAILABLE? OR A REALLY VENGEFUL AMERICAN-INDIAN BURIAL GROUND?

To their credit, director Paddy Breathnach and writer Pearse Elliott deliver enough shocks and shivers to keep us on full alert. But this trip was doomed from the get-go and this little troop of backpackers never stood a chance.