Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bobcat Goldthwait and Other Mysterious Creatures: Willow Creek review

Last year, comedian and director Robert Francis “Bobcat” Goldthwait logged over 400 miles of drive time throughout Bigfoot country in search of the mythic beast.  Though he came up empty handed, the colorful locals he met created the basis for his found footage horror film Willow Creek, which debuted at Fantasia last Monday.

“I’m just really fascinated by [Cryotozoology],” said Goldthwait.   “I mean if these things aren’t real why, as the character in the movie says why for thousands of years people have seen it?  So I find that even interesting, what is the subconscious reasoning for these archetypal characters that have shown up in all different cultures for thousands of years.”

The character  in question is Jim  (Bryce Johnson), out to find Bigfoot with his girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore).  They have travelled to Willow Creek to camp near the site of the famed Patterson-Gimlin footage.  The footage is a clear shot of Bigfoot walking down a quarry before turning its head at the camera in a way that some cryptozoologists have argued would have broken a human in a monkey suit’s neck.

Both lead actors shot much of the film, each bringing their own unique camera technique.  That verite quality offers some of the best found footage work since the sub-genre’s popularity.  The tension builds to an unbearable 19-minute still take of the two leads in a tent while eerie noises grow closer and more aggressive.

“Alexie is the better cinematographer,” said Goldthwait.  “Bryce is more of a point-and-shoot guy.”

Also adding to the realism are interviews with actual residents of Willow Creek who claimed to have seen the creature.  It is early, travelogue-style scenes like these that also offer Creek a sharp wit before taking a turn to the horrific. 

Photo By Gareth Hedges

Goldthwait got his start as a stand up in the early 80s before becoming well known as the nasally-voiced Zed in the Police Academy movies.  He began directing films in 1992 with Shakes the Clown – a pitch black comedy about an alcoholic party clown who gets involved in a murder mystery. 

Goldthwait's third feature, Sleeping Dogs Lie, was part of the 2006 "Independent Dramatic Features" competition at Sundance.  His next project, World’s Greatest Dad with longtime friend and occasional partner Robin Williams, played at the Just for Laughs festival and met with some controversy.  The plot involves Williams stealing his son’s work after he dies from autoerotic asphyxiation.

God Bless America opens with a father driving across the country to shoot a shallow reality show star in the face.  Needless to say, his humour is grounded in the bleak and uncomfortable.  But he’s damn funny.  And no, he doesn’t do funny voices anymore.

“[I dropped that persona] not that long ago.  I always did kind of a watered down version of that character because the audience expected to see that,” he said.  “But eventually it really rang false for me and seemed kind of silly and I’m more comfortable being myself on stage.  And actually I think you get a better idea of how I see the world when you watch the movies I make than you do from that persona.” 

Goldthwait always worked political satire in his stand-up routine, but it was with America that he cemented his disgust with pop-culture and political hackery.

“I’m frustrated by the right and the left in the U.S.. As long as everybody’s busy name calling and blaming each other nothing gets resolved or fixed.  So it’s a really strange time.  I don’t understand how the right party was able to Shanghai lower income people into believing they were looking out for their better interests.  That’s a pretty impressive move.  I hope they do the publicity for this movie.”
His next project is a musical adaptation of the 1975 concept album by The Kinks, Schoolboys in Disgrace.  

Lead singer Ray Davies in involved, re-recording the album with the cast.

“It’s much larger than all the movies I’ve ever made…it’s a little more difficult.  You have to attach a cast to it and it’s a catch-22, you know?  To get a cast and a budget, you need one to get the other.  So it’s certainly the project I’m most passionate about.  That’s why I was here, actually.  I was at the Fantasia frontiers market trying to get producers and talk to production companies,” he explained.

“I don’t want to make a movie that [Ray] didn’t like.  I’d rather not make the movie than have him disappointed.”


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