Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its fifth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. The theater just doesn’t seem to be the place where the horror is at these days, I’m sad to say. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2013 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth noting or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
#16: WILLOW CREEK!
You can find WILLOW CREEK on Amazon here and on Netflix here. Below is my review of WILLOW CREEK from September!
WILLOW CREEK (2013)Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Written by Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Having done three Bigfoot-centric AICN HORROR columns (here, here, and here, I was beginning to think that finding a good Bigfoot movie was damn near as hard as finding the elusive creature itself. Having sat though my fair share of mediocre to horrible Squatchploitation flicks, it got to the point where I was dreading seeing this subgenre of movies. Then along comes Bobcat Goldthwait, an unconventional director and one I definitely wouldn’t expect to be able to deliver a film that just might be the best Bigfoot film I’ve ever seen. But deliver he did with WILLOW CREEK.
Filmed in the first person POV that might cause many to let out a groan of Sasquatchonian levels, WILLOW CREEK follows an amateur documentary filmmaker Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) as they travel to the legendary site where the Patterson-Gimlin footage of what looks to be an upright ape walking through the wooded areas of Bluff Creek, in northern California was filmed. Jim’s intention is to walk the same steps Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin walked the day they captured something fantastical on their camera. Soaking in the local culture which is heavily influenced by the Bigfoot mythos sporting Bigfoot burgers, various carved statues, and Bigfoot hotels, Jim and Kelly find themselves immersing themselves deeper and deeper into this phenomenon with Jim playing the role of steadfast believer and Kelly acting as the skeptic. Much of the earlier part of the film is dedicated to getting to know Jim and Kelly while they attempt to film this documentary, while the latter half follows them on a perilous journey through the wilderness challenging the beliefs of both would-be documentarians on whether the Sasquatch really exists. And actors Johnson and Gilmore do a fantastic job of making themselves likable and relatable by seeing them at their most comfortable and most vulnerable before they even step one foot into the wilderness. Both are talented actors able to hold the attention of this viewer for the extended amount of time that occurs before they set out to follow the trail.
A lot might be said about this film being a found footager, and more of a comment on making a documentary than an actual found footage film. Jim is a believer and therefore doesn’t really have an objective point of view here, seeking adventure and discovery rather than really trying to be a fly on the wall capturing the truth. Numerous times throughout the film, different takes are used in order to show Jim trying to act natural, a trait Jim really isn’t good at as he has a lot of difficulty containing his enthusiasm once he gets closer to the site. At the same time, as found footagers go, Goldthwait keeps everything sensible. The camera is never propped just right to catch anything, there are no illogical cuts or edits by some omnipotent editor, and there are no musical bangs on an invisible piano from an invisible orchestra. Everything happens during the filming of the raw footage of this documentary, which makes it feel more genuine and all the more effective in grabbing me and keeping me in the film.
Most importantly, this is a scary movie. There’s a nineteen minute sequence in this film that had me paralyzed with fear. The extended intro where we follow this couple around and get to know them does its job because it allows the viewer to rely on that connection during the last half of this film when the peril begins to intensify exponentially. Goldthwait goes for simplicity here, and in doing so offers up the most powerful of scares: simple sounds and then silences, unexpected mutterings and moans, pitch darkness and the power of the great unknown are elements Goldthwait plays with perfectly, leading to an ending that is both shocking upon experiencing it and then doubly so after the fact when it’s made clear what was happening out there in the darkness and making some of those odd sounds.
Much like Goldthwait’s other films SHAKES THE CLOWN, GOD BLESS AMERICA, and WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, the filmmaker exemplifies his unique eye for offbeat cultures and the under the radar details with WILLOW CREEK. This is not just a found footage film. It’s a smart use of found footage, incorporating elements of humor and utter fear expertly in order to scare the hell out of the viewer. For believers in Bigfoot like myself who had been becoming skeptical that there would ever be a truly great Bigfoot film made, Bobcat Goldthwait and WILLOW CREEK, thankfully, proved me wrong.
Worth Noting: WOLF CREEK 2!While many have tried to be the next big iconic slasher, John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor steals it, skins it, and eats it for dinner. Sure this sequel to the 2005 horror hit is over the top in every way, but I loved the ROAD WARRIOR-esque non-stop chase that goes from opening credit sequence to ending one. There is an unconventional shift in this film towards the end and it almost lost me, but then again, it backs up the unconventional charm of both the original and this unrelenting sequel.
Check out my full review of the film here and you can check it out here on Amazon!
#30: STALLED (worth noting: CHRYSALIS)!
#29: RIGOR MORTIS (worth noting: I AM A GHOST)!
#28: GHOST TEAM ONE (worth noting: HYSTERICAL PSYCHO!
#27: THANATOMORPHOSE (worth noting: CONTRACTED)!
#26: LIFE AFTER BETH (worth noting: EVIL FEED)!
#25: AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (worth noting: THE DEVIL’S MUSIC) !
#24: CHIMERES (worth noting: THE RETURNED) !
#23: AFFLICTED (worth noting: DEAD WEIGHT) !
#22: TUSK (worth noting: BENEATH) !
#21: FOUND (worth noting: RABID LOVE) !
#20: DEVOURED (worth noting: CRAVE) !
#19: DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (worth noting: THE HUNTED) !
#18: THE MACHINE (worth noting: BLOOD GLACIER) !
#17: GRAND PIANO (worth noting: OPEN GRAVE) !
See ya tomorrow, folks, as I count down the best of the best covered in AICN HORROR since October 1st, 2013!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE (out now!) from Black Mask Studios!