Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti and Harry And The Hendersons

Here is the transcription of the Fright Club introduction to Willow Creek by Film Historian Darrell Buxton. Don’t miss the next Fright Club offering which will be Friday The 13th Part 3 3D on, yep you guess it, Friday 13th June.

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Good evening, welcome to Quad for our May Fright Club offering. My name’s Darrell Buxton, and as usual I’m here to introduce the movie. And tonight we’re delving into the wild world of Bigfoot, with Bobcat Goldthwait’s new film WILLOW CREEK.

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti movies are abundant  – since the mid-fifties there have been dozens of productions based on supposed sightings of such mythical creatures, and indeed the very first programme I can remember watching on TV was the long-lost, recently rediscovered 1968 Doctor Who adventure ‘The Web of Fear’, featuring robotic Yeti in the London Underground. I saw this aged five and it scared the life out of me.

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The fifties saw a boom in Yeti flicks, starting with 1954’s THE SNOW CREATURE (directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of the more famous and much more talented Billy), followed by the Japanese HALF HUMAN, another U.S. offering MAN BEAST, and THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, a more thoughtful British take on the theme from Hammer Films, based on Nigel Kneale’s TV play ‘The Creature’.

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Those crazy exploitation-crammed seventies brought another wave, possibly inspired by the infamous and supposedly real footage of an actual Sasquatch filmed by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin in Bluff Creek, California in 1967. Movies included 1974’s luridly titled SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED, 1972’s LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK which also spawned a couple of spin-off sequels, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE starring the great Jack Elam, and a documentary titled THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT. Even the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman had encounters with the furry beast, in episodes called ‘The Secret of Bigfoot’ and ‘The Return of Bigfoot’, and the small screen’s love affair with our hairy pal continued with a wintry TV movie from 1977, SNOWBEAST, fondly remembered by those of us who saw it when it first aired.

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And not one but two of the official video nasties on the BBFC’s banned list involved variants on the theme – the Spanish movie THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI, starring Paul Naschy, and 1980’s NIGHT OF THE DEMON, notorious for various gruesome scenes including one in which a marauding Bigfoot tears off the wedding tackle of a passing motorcyclist, as well as planting an axe in someone’s neck, and whirling an occupied sleeping bag round and round before launching it into a spiked branch, impaling the unlucky camper who was merely trying to get a good night’s sleep.

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HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS gave us a family-friendly Bigfoot box office hit in the mid eighties, leading to Disney’s feature length TV imitation simply called BIGFOOT, and British make-up ace Bob Keen’s TO CATCH A YETI, in which a creature named Hank The Yeti confronts Meatloaf, playing a game hunter called Big Joe Grizzly.

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And so far during the 21st century there have been well over fifty Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or related movies, roughly one every three months on average, including THE BIGFOOT TAPES, THE UNTOLD, THEY CALL HIM SASQUATCH, YETI VENGEANCE, STOMP! SHOUT! SCREAM! (set at a Florida beach party in the mid sixties and featuring a local version of the creature known as the Skunk Ape), LEGEND OF THE SANDSQUATCH, DEAR GOD, NO!, a gore and nudity filled outrage in which a vicious bike gang get more than they bargained for when they invade the log cabin of a mad scientist in remote woodland, and the sex comedy SWEET PRUDENCE AND THE EROTIC ADVENTURE OF BIGFOOT, in which the monster’s feet aren’t the only outsize part of his anatomy.

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And so to the latest addition to the Sasquatch chronicles, with our film tonight, WILLOW CREEK. WILLOW CREEK is written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, the cult American comedian perhaps best known in the UK as Zed in the POLICE ACADEMY series or as Eliot Loudermilk from SCROOGED. Goldthwait has enjoyed a somewhat maverick career, seemingly doing precisely what he wishes, including controversial appearances on TV talk shows, comedy club stand-up on the same bills as his good friend Robin Williams where they worked under the respective pseudonyms Jack Cheese and Marty Fromage, starring roles in Twisted Sister’s promo music videos, supporting Nirvana on tour in 1993, and directing a string of decidedly individual and utterly extraordinary movies. Bobcat’s work as a director may prove to be his forte; his debut, the 1991 film SHAKES THE CLOWN, anticipates later fare such as BAD SANTA with its hilarious portrayal of an alcoholic entertainer hitting the bottle, getting into arguments and fights, and ruining kids’ birthday parties. The opening scene sees the young son of Shakes’ latest sexual conquest pissing all over Bobcat’s head! Equally jaw-dropping, so much so that king sleazemeister John Waters regards it as one of the best movies of the past twenty years, is SLEEPING DOGS LIE, a MEET THE FOCKERS-style rom-com with the added complication that the lead female character once decided to give her pet dog Rufus a blow-job, a regrettable incident from her past that totally dominates the story.

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Bobcat re-teamed with Robin Williams for 2009’s WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a black comedy taking auto-erotic asphyxiation and teenage suicide as key plot points. Truly, there seems to be no-one else out there making stuff like this guy. Bobcat returned to the big screen for 2011’s satirical GOD BLESS AMERICA, in which the terminally ill central character goes on a killing rampage to rid the world of  the shallow, stupid, self-obsessed people he sees as having dumbed down society – this one has drawn favourable comparison with Oliver Stone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS and one suspects that the plot probably has quite a lot in common with Goldthwait’s own barbed view of everyday existence. In nailing the excesses of reality TV and the modern freakshow of The X Factor, here’s proof that ‘Bobcat’s Got Talent’.

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WILLOW CREEK is Bobcat’s stab at doing a found-footage movie. Ok, ok, we know  – there hardly seems to be a person who hasn’t tried to make one of those in the years since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT showed the way. But Bobcat seems to have approached this latest branch of his career in the right way. He explained to cinemachords.com website that he wanted to challenge himself by taking on this particular format, saying that whenever he watched entries in this ubiquitous brand of first-person production he always found himself asking “who is the creep that edited this movie after they found this footage? Why is the camera still running?”. Goldthwait is also amused by the entire overriding concept of this modern subgenre – as he points out, a typical movie of this type seems to rest on the premise “hey, here’s some footage of some people who got killed. If I cut it a bit I can make a tremendous motion picture!”. He approached WILLOW CREEK with the intention of making a piece of fiction, but giving it a genuine documentary feel, and so simply wrote a twenty five page outline rather than a full script, filling things out with improvisation and by conducting interviews with town residents who thought they were being filmed for an actual true-life study about local legends and possible creature sightings.

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Bobcat feels that the film business has rather watered down the image of the mystery monster of the forest. As he remarked recently, “yeah, I mean somebody cut off Sasquatch’s balls somewhere along the line. Basically when they were doing HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS they were like “oh man, we can’t have a dick hanging out!”. And then obviously Chewbacca didn’t wear pants either, did he?”

I can’t possibly follow that, so I’ll sit down with the rest of you now to enjoy the latest wild ride from the inimitable, unique, crazy talent that is Bobcat Goldthwait. Ladies, gents, and Bigfeet, we give you WILLOW CREEK.

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