“When it comes to found footage horror films, I always wonder: who is this person who edited this film? If you think about it, that would be the creepiest person ever!” Bobcat Goldthwait said as he presented the Canadian premiere of his latest directorial project.
As part of Fantasia, I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Bobcat Goldthwait about his newest film, one of the most anticipated in this year’s line up. Willow Creek, although it had to overcome the public’s blasé attitude towards the overly done found footage genre, did not disappoint in the least.
In the film, Jim, a handsome goof, and Kelly, an aspiring actress, are going on a road trip that will bring them deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountains. But this isn’t any old camping trip – they are on a search for the ever elusive Bigfoot.
Jim is a Bigfoot enthusiast and has set out to document their search for the mountain cryptid as they meet friendly and not so friendly locals. Kelly is not a believer but entertains the idea to spend quality time with her beau. Quality time that quickly turns into something unexpected.
I walked in to the interview, the fifth one Bobcat gave that morning, and offered: “I hope this isn’t going to be overly redundant for you.” To which he answered laughingly, “So long as we don’t talk about Police Academy you are in the clear.” For those who can’t place the name to the face, Bobcat played Zed in the Police Academy movies back in the 80s. He is known for his stand up comedy, dark humor and films such as Sleeping Dog’s Lie, World’s Greatest Dad (one of my favorites) and God Bless America.
“I really had a lot of fun making this movie, there weren’t really many obstacles. It was pretty easy because it was getting together with my friends and going off into the woods and making a movie,” Bobcat explained, “The obstacles for me, were the obstacles that most viewers have with found footage movies. I was trying to figure out why they keep the camera going and how we were going to do a fresh take on this. My concern was making these people really realistic and hopefully have people engage with them.” Bobcat was definitely successful.
Willow Creek boasts a 19 minute take that had me covering my eyes, squirming in my seat and jumping a foot in the air when the person in front of me let out a shrill shriek. During our interview, Bobcat admitted to also jumping at certain scenes during the screening, despite knowing the mechanics behind them – which included Bobcat hurling boulders at the unsuspecting actors.
Willow Creek is a found footage, faux documentary which includes segments that are unscripted chats with actual locals. The film is both light-hearted and funny as well as terrifying. A hard balance to strike.
The leads, Alexie Gilmore (Kelly) and Bryce Johnson (Jim), who is an actual Bigfoot enthusiast, deliver strong performances. They were also directly involved in shooting the film itself, with Bobcat often lying down in the trunk of the car giving them feedback on scenes as they tried to keep on the windy mountain roads.
Why a Bigfoot movie then? During the Q&A, Bobcat addressed the question of whether or not he believes in Bigfoot. His answer was that he was open to the possibility.
However, Bobcat is a fan of the lore and now a collector of Bigfoot memorabilia. The inspiration for Willow Creek came from Bobcat’s childhood interest in Bigfoot lore, watching films like Boggy Creek, and his trips visiting various areas with reported sightings, also known as Bigfoot country.
“I showed the film to what I call believers,” Bobcat recounted, “and one guy said ‘this is the best Bigfoot movie ever’ and another guy said, ‘after the Patterson-Gimlin film’ and they all nodded in unison.” In fact, the reception has been so positive that Bobcat has been invited to take part in the next Willow Creek parade where he shall be waving from a float next to a Bigfoot mascot.
I couldn’t help myself but ask Bobcat a question about his polarizing film God Bless America, a very dark film which tends to be a movie that people either love or hate.
“I think the folks that don’t like it confuse the message of the movie,” he explained, “I like to say it’s a violent movie about kindness. When those characters start rattling off the things they don’t like, I agree with about eighty percent of the things but there are things they don’t like that I actually like. There’s a bonding that happens when people don’t like the same things. So, I wasn’t going to have that couple have sex, but they were going to be very close. I always say that the key to a successful marriage or relationship isn’t liking the same things but hating the same things. That’s why that stuff is in there.”
“Some people get bent out of shape about those things,” Bobcat continued, “but, I really think those kinds of people operate on a very shallow level. They take everything at face value and aren’t interested in the subtext of what’s going on. It’s like ‘How can you say you don’t like Green Day, fuck you I love Green Day’, you know, the kind of dummy who would fight with you at a bar over sports. I actually like Green Day, I just didn’t think that kid would like Green Day.” [I don’t like Green Day’s music, for the record].
For those World’s Greatest Dad fans, like myself, Bobcat mentioned working on a similar kind of script, telling a similar story from a different perspective.
As a filmmaker, Bobcat looks to directors like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder for inspiration.
“They did all different kinds of movies sometimes they were comedic sometimes they were scary. They weren’t stuck with making the same type of movie over and over again,” Bobcat said.
Certainly Bobcat’s career hasn’t been a one trick pony either. In fact, his next project is a musical based on a Kinks album which he was proposing at Fantasia’s Frontiers market. I am super stoked.
* Photo credit Isabelle Stephen