Bobcat Goldthwait continues to throw off our expectations. He's made a horror movie – a "found footage" one at that – called Willow Creek, opening in select theaters and hitting VOD this Friday.
The legend of Bigfoot, moreover, the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, is his inspiration this time as he tells the stories of a couple who venture into the wild of Northern California to make their own documentary about the cryptozoological superstar. Along the way, they interview the locals and visit the site of the Patterson-Gimlin film until they run into, well, trouble.
"I remember the Time Life books [with Bigfoot," Goldthwait told Shock, reflecting on his earliest memories of the creature. "I saw a magazine that had stills from the Patterson-Gimlin footage when I was a kid and that got me interest. I also saw Legend of Boggy Creek when I was a kid and those In Search of… episodes – those were the things that got me. You can say all of that inspired me. So, a couple of months before I made the movie, I got in my '97 Ford Escape – you know, because that's what I drive because I'm indie filmmaker – and I just drove up to all those Bigfoot sites."
Initially, Goldthwait aimed to make a Christopher Guest-like mockumentary. "It was going to be a Bigfoot movie set at a convention or something like that. But after talking to the locals I met along my trip, I didn't want to take the piss out of them at all. And I was talking to director Joe Lynch and he was like you should just go do your own found footage movie."
The result is a film that mixes fictional drama and interviews with real Bigfoot experts. "The thing you have to think about going into a found footage movie is – who found this footage? I mean, who's this asshole that said, 'Sorry your family died, but we found their footage and we should cut this together for a movie,'" Goldthwait laughed. "The challenge is to do these long takes and to try not to cut away. Luckily, I worked with actors I've known. And I gave them this outline to work from. I'm a fan of [Joe] Swanberg's stuff and I wanted to do something like that, so the actors and I would talk about the scene and we'd take it from there."
"The thing that interested me, there are so many filmmakers I admire – like David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino – they have these themes where there's not much going on but they were suspenseful," he added. "In the past, I feel like I failed at tension, but made people feel uncomfortable without the bells and whistles. Hopefully here we made it work."
And did the locals think they were part of a documentary or a genre film? "Eighty percent of the cast are local – whether they knew they were in a doc or not was on a need-to-know basis. They were all great though. I consider myself a bit of a kook and an outcast so I wouldn't put these people in the wrong light."
On contributing to the found footage sub-genre, Goldthwait feels like it's an approach that's not going to go away. "There are a lot of movies, but the problem is, for filmmakers, in an effort to do a new take on it, they're making their movie unrealistic. The Blair Witch Project is a great movie. They get away with making a lot of elements work. I don't like my genre movies being 'meta' – that takes me out of the movie. I don't like the winking. I find it insulting. I'm not really a fan of making it too complicated."
Showing his affinity for horror, I had to ask what was the first "defining" film that ignited his appreciation for the genre. "I think, the first movie I saw that made me go 'how did they do that?' was Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster," he said. "I know a lot of filmmakers look at Star Wars and ask 'how do you do a movie?' but Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster made me realize – how would you film that? That movie was a big influence. It made me laugh. I haven't said this anywhere yet, by the way, but I totally believed the new Godzilla. I believe those FX. I just don't understand how they could make him so real but they couldn't make Bryan Cranston's hairpiece believable."