Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter heads into the woods to listen to the sounds of nature, the screams of terror, and the Willow Creek commentary by Bobcat Goldthwait.
Good movies about Bigfoot are few and far between, and the great ones are even rarer. No one expected Bobcat Goldthwait to deliver one of the best, but it happened anyway with 2013’s Willow Creek. The film is a faux-doc of sorts that follows a young couple into “Bigfoot country” — the deep woods of Northern California — on a weekend excursion, and their playful search for the beast grows less funny by the minute. Happily, it also grows more frightening and unsettling.
We’ll be dropping our list of the best Bigfoot movies this month, but in the meantime, I decided to pay this particular gem a revisit. It holds up, so I also gave a listen to the commentary. Happily, it’s pretty entertaining too. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…
Willow Creek (2013)
Commentators: Bobcat Goldthwait (co-director, writer), Alexie Gilmore (actor), Bryce Johnson (actor)
1. The film opens with some missing audio by design, but Goldthwait more than once experienced film festival screenings where projectionists would stop the film believing there to be an audio issue in need of fixing.
2. The idea for Willow Creek originated when Goldthwait visited the real Willow Creek with plans on making a “Christopher Guest-like” movie set during a Bigfoot convention. He decided that making fun of believers “wasn’t a nice thing.”
3. The script was essentially a twenty-five-page outline. He figures nearly eighty percent of their dialogue is improvised.
4. Goldtwait’s reflection is visible in the rear window of the car at 5:35 as he was laying down in the back seat.
5. Johnson was already a believer and highly interested in ideas like bigfoot and aliens, so the film was a great delight for him. Does Gilmore believe? “Nope.”
6. The two leads met each other on the car ride from Los Angeles to Northern California, but some of the real people they come across believed that they were a married couple.
7. The “missing” woman on the flyer is actually the film’s local casting agent. “She’s the naked lady later on at the end of the movie.” She told Goldthwait after filming the nude scene where she’s covered in cinnamon and chocolate, “well, that’s off my bucket list.”
8. The Early Bird restaurant serves burgers that “taste like shit” according to Gilmore. “The Early Bird was kind enough to sign releases, and their food is delicious,” says Goldthwait quickly.
9. Goldthwait isn’t actually a fan of found footage films because “who found this footage, you know what I mean, and made a movie? I’m sorry your family got raped to death, but I think if I re-cut it there’s a tremendous picture here.”
10. He prefers the idea of bigfoot being in the viewers’ mind rather than clearly on screen and thinks actually seeing the creature lessens the terror.
11. Goldthwait describes Harry and the Hendersons (1987) as “a pussification of bigfoot.”
12. The police were called after they filmed the final scenes with Gilmore and Johnson screaming at the top of their lungs. They came to investigate but were satisfied that they were just a bunch of weirdos making a movie.
13. It’s not mentioned in the film itself, but a handful of side characters including the missing woman and the angry man in the road are wearing the same necklace. “I just wanted to make it possible there is a connection with the people in town.”
14. He knew they were making “The Blairsquatch Project” but also knew it would be different enough. Too often filmmakers try so hard to avoid comparisons to that innovator that they neglect the elements of The Blair Witch Project (1999) that make it work so well.
15. It costs “four grand” for a raccoon in Los Angeles, but Goldthwait’s daughter was able to secure a deal by using a rescue. He also pet it when the handler wasn’t looking.
16. The biggest film influences for Goldthwait on this movie were Grizzly Man (2005) and Paper Heart (2009) (and obviously the aforementioned Blair Witch).
17. The big tent scene left the actors unaware how long it would last and what exactly they would hear outside. Goldthwait was among the group outside making noises, and he had a headset to listen to the couple’s dialogue inside so he could react accordingly. Adding to the atmosphere, they filmed the tent scene in the actual campground where Roger Patterson & Bob Gimlin camped the night before recording their infamous footage.
18. “Now with Netflix and all the other digital platforms I don’t think people listen to commentaries much, which is a drag.” Sadly true, but some of us still listen, Bobcat, so keep ’em coming!
19. He didn’t give them a heads up that he was rolling a boulder down the hill in front of them. “I was ad-libbing too,” he explains.
20. They made bigfoot prints in the riverbed for the film, and he felt bad that they wrapped filming of Willow Creek and left without erasing them. “More fake evidence!”
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“This was actually terrifying to shoot.”
“Should I reveal that we so lovingly called her ‘cinnamon tits?’”
“In Germany, they didn’t laugh at any of the jokes, but then they laugh when it gets violent at the end.”
“It was Bobcat’s idea to have Lexi jerk off Bigfoot.”
“I’d much rather be eaten by a bear than talk to the general public.”
“Remember when the cops came?”
“At least we didn’t film in Herpes Lake.”
“It bothers me that I don’t have a commentary for Shakes the Clown.”
Willow Creek remains a good time for fans of slow builds, found footage-ish formats, and creepy shenanigans in the woods. Goldthwait’s commentary reveals a compassionate filmmaker with some interesting ideas, and being a naturally entertaining and funny guy doesn’t hurt either. It’s a fun listen.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.