Monday, November 10, 2014

Return to Boggy... oh, wait...

Last night a friend and I watched Willow Creek... Bobcat Goldthwaite's (!) love song to Bigfoot and The Blair Witch Project. I liked it quite a bit... slowly building dread... a long sustained scene of encroaching horror... a sudden chaotic mess of violent weirdness before the darkness... and then some crappy music over the credits that kinda shit all over the mood but... meh, up to the end credits I was firmly on its side.
Anyway... my point isn't to review the thing... it comes down whether you hate found footage movies or micro-budget horror or anything that requires an attention span and imagination (no, you do NOT get to see the monsters)... if so this one isn't going to please. On the other hand... if you love The Blair Witch Project, June 9, Bigfoot in general... or movies that take their time telling the tale... maybe it's worth a watch.
The thing I thought was worth discussing about this one, besides the fact that I found it pretty scary, is that up until the very final moments... and mostly after it was over... I hadn't found it creepy. Scary... but not creeeeepy. And then I did.
From here on it's all about the ending... so... lots of spoilers... so... whatever.

The thing is... at the end of the movie... amidst running and screaming and unseen monsters and weird inhuman noises... there's this woman. A naked woman.
You'd heard her a bit earlier in the film... and maybe seen a photo of her on a missing poster in the diner. She whimpers and jabbers out in the darkness and you're not really sure until that brief glimpse that it's a human woman you hear... but it is.
She just standing there. Huge and naked and obviously a bit past sanity.
Only a glimpse. But it changes the context on much of what came before it... and made the movie haunt me for a good while after.
Being naked is important here... because if she'd been fully clothed it would have implied something much different. 
See, up until that naked mumbling woman showed up I was pretty firmly expecting that this wasn't really about Bigfoot at all... that it was angry mountain folk exacting revenge on the city folk for nosing around in their woods. There would be a violent beatdown... but it would come from fists and axe handles and maybe a gun... and would probably involve rape and/or cannabilism of at least one of the protagonists if not both.
Just saying that was my guess... it seemed reasonable because if the movie just ended up with the couple being smacked by a hairy claw... that would seem kind of anti-climactic, even if it was in fact a climax (and maybe it was just a bear, yeah?)

So anyways... there's this naked woman. Out in the woods, in the darkness, just standing there like she's in a daze.
The obvious implication is that Bigfoot (Bigfeet? The movie implies there's a bunch of them) kidnaps human women... but kills human males (so sorry birthday boy... but at least your beliefs were vindicated).

Now... here's the second squicky aspect of that ending. Earlier in the movie the female of the couple, who has no interest or belief in Bigfoot at all, makes several jokes about Bigfoot's sex organ. How big it must be and whatnot. At one point she mock strokes the (non-existent) penis of a wooden Bigfoot statue.
This seemed like pretty standard joking around early in the movie when it all seems a lark... but seeing that naked woman in the woods... and the final sounds of that girlfriend screaming out in the darkness... followed by multiple howls of her captors... well, there's not much way around the idea that she was about to get up close and personal with cryptozoology in a way she (and I) never expected.
Captured and raped... probably gang-raped... by monsters.
It's a horrid, lurid thought... and in a way a really really black bit of humor giveb her earlier comments about the big hairy guy's privates.
It's creepy... it's horror. It bothers me. That's good right?
So is this a successful horror movie? I guess so... it scared me... then it creeped me out... and it's a bit squicky as well. Not that the idea of monsters raping women is anything new... implied or not. Humanoids From The Deep did it in the Wayback with a whopping lot more exploitation dolloped on top.
The idea of Bigfoot running off with women isn't anything new either.

So should I be 'offended' by this movie? Bothered about Mr. Goldthwaite's choices and such? Is there some nasty undertone of something here? Not that a WHOLE LOT of horror films don't pack in the overt misogyny. But I guess I'm not sure if I should identify this as one of those... or not. There's no exploitation angle... no shots of horny Bigfoot. That one shot of the nude woman in the wood is NOT something I imagine any normal male could build a house with.

I'm also on the record for thinking that modern horror films often shy away from sexual horror, particularly when it obviously SHOULD part of the story.
Chief on that list would be the Hostel movies... because it just seemed so damn weak that they failed to address what very likely would have gone down in those filthy little rooms before the final cut/drill/saw. And I don't mean just to the female victims. 
Sure, there are lots of nude women in horror films... and there's often some sexual predation on the minds of the hillbilly cannibals or mutants or whatever is chasing them... but it hardly ever comes to pass. Male characters are generally pretty safe from anything rapey happening to them at all.
Compare that to a rarefied something like Calvaire... where the protagonist seems to generate unrequited lust in everyone he meets... and DOES get the blunt end of it eventually.
Things seem wilder in 70s horror... could something like They Came From Within even get made nowadays? Maybe/probably? Even if it did those little girls on leashes would NOT be there.

I'm not saying I WANT to see rape and other genital nastiness in horror... but when it really should be present and it blatantly isn't... AND yet tosses in loads of topless women in the non-horror sequences... what's that about?
So... circling back to Willow Creek... yeah, I guess it makes total sense and feels appropriate that the female protagonist ends up in THAT sort of awfulness. It's a much more shocking and confrontational ending than anything else I can think of. The movie didn't pull its punches and I appreciate that. Even if it does leave me feeling a pretty icky.