MPI/Dark Sky Films will release Willow Creek in theaters and demand on June 6. I finally saw the film yesterday before my interview with director Bobcat Goldthwait and I have to say I really dug it. I’m usually leery of found footage features, but this movie wins out by concentrating on characters that are actually engaging (rather than onscreen camera operating ciphers).
I really enjoyed my conversation with Goldthwait, which covered a number of topics. But I also really want you to see this movie, so I’ve whittled it down to the Willow Creek essentials.
I watch a lot of found footage horror, so I’m always trepidatious. But I think you made the last really good one.
Thanks! Yeah I’m not a fan of found footage but unlike you I’m not forced to watch millions of them. I’m always wondering who found the footage? “I’m sorry your family got raped and murdered but I’ve edited together a beautiful picture here.”
I really liked these characters. Their chemistry plays a huge part in the movie’s appeal.
That was one of the things that interested me in the movie. That you make these real people. That you empathize with them. In genre movies you usually not only hate the characters, you sometimes hate them so much that you hate the actors playing them. I think sometimes we’re supposed to be identifying with and rooting for the monsters to kill the teenagers. I thought it would be more interesting if these were real people you identified with before terrible things happened to them. I’m really not a fan of letting the audience live vicariously through stuff.
Like, in Falling Down, when Michael Douglas’ character kills someone, we find out that the character happens to be an actual Nazi. A Nazi living in Silverlake. And that was so the audience wouldn’t think that Michael Douglas was a bad guy. In God Bless America I just had people being killed and at first I wanted the audience to be going along with it and not rooting for it. But then I kind of wanted the wheels to fall off and make you squirm and question your own self.
It’s so insane to pick and choose which violent behaviors are acceptable. It should either be that none of it is or all of it is.
I know you’ve worked with Alexie Gilmore a lot. Did you write it with her in mind and cast Bryce [Johnson] later?
I was traveling around just for fun, visiting all of these major Bigfoot places in California. And I had a couple of different ideas for a movie. I thought I would do a Christopher Guest type comedy that takes place at a Bigfoot convention. And when I came back I was talking to Joe Lynch and I said, “you know this really lends itself to found footage but I know that’s really played out.” And he said, “I know you’d do a Western and you’re trying to do a Musical, why won’t you do a found footage movie?” That’s what motivated it.
So once I decided on that I wanted to get two actors who I would love working with but who I would also believe as a couple. And the other challenge, I’m a fan of Joe Swanberg, Lynn Shelton and the Duplass Brothers and I wanted to know if I could pull off a film that was just an outline, if I knew enough about making films to do that. That was the other part of this movie.
Also, one of the films that influenced this movie was Grizzly Man.
I was thinking of Timothy Treadwell while I was watching it! These characters aren’t as nuts, but I see that.
His folly is still their downfall. And Paper Heart was also an influence believe it or not. I liked what Charlene [Yi] did by taking real interviews and mixing it in with the narrative. I knew that if I interviewed enough people they would want to tell the characters stories and tell them not to go into the woods.
Did you grow up fascinated by Bigfoot?
I was totally into it as a little boy. And that was from The Legend Of Boggy Creek mainly. I’m a weird mixture of being cynical but at the same time wanting to live in a world where Bigfoot lives. I think all of the movies I make are in that weird area.