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DARK SKY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast:
Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson
Writing Credits:
Bobcat Goldthwait

Synopsis:
Looking to make a splash with his research videos into the existence of Bigfoot, Jim and his girlfriend Kelly take a camping trip to the mountains surrounding Willow Creek, California, a small town where infamous footage of the supposed Sasquatch was filmed. Before long the headstrong couple are lost in the woods and discover that someone - or something - is stalking them. With each passing night bringing unknowable danger, the two must use all of their cunning to try to make it out of the forest alive.

MPAA:
Unrated

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 80 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 9/9/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait and Actors Bryce Johnson and Alexie Gilmore
• Deleted Scene
• “The Making of Willow Creek” Featurette
• Trailer and Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Willow Creek [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 11, 2014)

Though best known as a circa 1980s stand-up comedian, Bobcat Goldthwait debuted as a movie director with 1991’s Shakes the Clown. Though now seen as something of a cult classic, Shakes did little for me.

Apparently it failed to advance Goldthwait’s career behind the camera, as he wouldn’t direct another feature for 15 years. Goldthwait did a lot of TV work across that span but didn’t return to movies until Sleeping Dogs Lie in 2006.

I didn’t see any of Goldthwait’s flicks until 2011’s God Bless America, and that one left me with little interest in any future work from the director. Bless offered a heavy-handed, smug and sanctimonious effort that flopped in all possible ways.

So why does 2014’s Willow Creek, Goldthwait’s newest movie, currently reside in my Blu-ray player? Because hope springs eternal, I guess, and because the movie offers a story that seems both intriguing and also different enough from Goldthwait’s comedies to merit a look.

To celebrate his birthday, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) takes her boyfriend Jim (Bryce Johnson) on a special camping trip. They head to the California forests to trace the supposed path of Bigfoot as part of a documentary project he pursues.

This trip comes with unexpected consequences. As they attempt to track Bigfoot, they find themselves stalked and harassed by an unknown party and need to deal with this potential threat.

With Creek, Goldthwait leaves behind traditional filmmaking techniques and goes with the “found footage” format. 15 years after Blair Witch Project popularized the genre, it lacks some of the steam it boasted in earlier years, but it still can work when used the right way.

In this circumstance, the choice to go “found footage” makes sense. I guess the movie could work with a more traditional style, but I like the first-person perspective, as it gives the material a claustrophobic feel.

On the somewhat negative side, the style does lead to some nearly-inevitable pacing issues. Given that they don’t get the same opportunities for narrative exploration and exposition, found footage movies tend to take a while to go anywhere, and that becomes a factor here. If you hope to find much real drama during the first half of the film, you’ll encounter disappointment. Heck, if you want excitement before the actual finale, you’ll leave unsatisfied, as we get little “action” until the very end.

I don’t view that as a problem, though, as the gradual pace of the tale draws us into it in a satisfying manner. Some movies pull this off better than others, but most - like Paranormal Activity - never manage to involve the viewer.

Creek comes across like an update on Blair Witch, as it boasts similar styles and themes. Indeed, that might be the biggest complaint I muster here, as sometimes the two movies come across as too much alike for me; I won’t call this a remake, but it really does share a lot of common characteristics with Blair Witch.

Nonetheless, Creek manages to stand on its own and provide a fairly satisfying tale. Even when not much seems to happen, it builds a sense of tension and leads us slowly toward its compelling finish. The movie winds up as a better than average example of the found footage genre.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Willow Creek appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. “Found footage” movies always look mediocre, and that was the case here.

But since I expected that, I couldn’t complain. Parts of the film actually appeared pretty good, as daytime camcorder shots demonstrated nice definition and vivacity. However, interiors tended to be softer and muddier, and “night vision” elements were thick and bland. Those tended to display moderate artifacts as well.

Given all the forest footage, colors tended toward the green side of the street and generally looked a bit heavy. Daytime town shots were more accurate and used a sandier feel. Blacks seemed somewhat dense, while shadows showed a bit of murkiness.

Again, none of this was a surprise – or a problem. A movie that purported to be captured by consumer electronics shouldn’t offer stellar visuals, so the inconsistent sharpness, colors and blacks made sense. Given the inherent blandness of the image, I didn’t feel comfortable with a grade above a “C+”, but I thought the Blu-ray captured the source appropriately.

Whereas some other “found footage” films featured broad soundscapes, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Creek seemed mostly monaural. For the majority of the film, the audio stayed firmly in the front center channel. Matters expanded in a mild manner as the film progressed, which meant some use of the sides and rears, but those moments did little to expand the soundfield and passed quickly. I felt fine with that given the nature of the material.

We got no score of any sort and effects were minor. These seemed adequately captured given that they were supposed to sound like they were recorded with consumer-grade electronics. Speech was fairly natural and concise; some lines got buried but that felt appropriate. Nothing here impressed but the audio worked for the story.

A handful of extras fill out the disc, and we start with an audio commentary from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait and actors Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the project’s origins and development, cast, characters and performances, settings and locations, camerawork and the movie’s format, and related subjects.

For the most part, the track satisfies. It fizzles some during the movie’s second half, and we get a bit too much happy talk along the way. Still, we learn a fair amount about the film and the participants keep matters interesting, so this ends up as a good chat.

One deleted scene lasts four minutes, 32 seconds. This clip shows an interview with “Bigfoot expert Cliff Barackman”. While not a fascinating sequence – and saddled with bad audio recording – it does tell us how Jim knew an alternate route into the Bigfoot site.

Next comes a featurette called The Making of Willow Creek. It runs 11 minutes, 27 seconds and provides Bryce Johnson’s footage from the set. The segment concentrates on the creation of the Bigfoot prints seen in the movie. I normally like behind the scenes material, but this reel lacks much substance.

The disc opens with ads for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and LFO. We also get the trailer for Creek.

With Willow Creek, we greet a fairly good entry in the “found footage” genre. While I can’t say it mesmerizes, the film maintains a tense atmosphere and delivers in the end. The Blu-ray provides acceptable audio and picture as well as a few good bonus materials. Both the Blu-ray and the movie work for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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