SIFF Double Feature – The Keeper of Lost Causes and Willow Creek
The Keeper of Lost Causes: Danish policeman Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) doesn’t have a lot to smile about. His wife has left him, his stepson has moved back in to play loud music and have sex with his girlfriend, a decision he made got him and two other cops shot, and he’s been demoted to reviewing cold cases down in the basement. On the bright side, he has a new assistant Assad (Fares Fares) who makes really bad coffee, but who doesn’t seem to mind that even on his best days, Carl is kind of a jerk. Carl and Assad are supposed to write up three cases a week, but never get past the first one they look at: a possible suicide involving Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter), a young politician. She disappeared off a ferry a few years ago, and it was assumed she jumped to her death. Carl doesn’t think facts of the case support this conclusion, so he and Assad proceed down an ever increasingly circuitous path to the truth.
This is a solid and enjoyable B film. It’s three quarters dark and moody Danish thriller and one quarter mild torture porn. (I hate to use that phrase, but if I do, you’ll know exactly what I mean.) It’s adapted from the first in series of books by Jussi Adler-Olsen and definitely feels like it’s setting things up for a sequel, especially the coda at the end. There’s nothing particularly original here, and it feels like something I might see on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS. But that’s not a complaint at all. In spite of some silliness to the reveal of what actually happened to Merete, I was able to suspend my belief long enough to relax and enjoy the movie. There is some violence, but most of it is not terribly graphic, and if you enjoy Scandinavian mysteries, chances are you’ll enjoy this. The performances are really good, especially that of Fares Fares; Assad adds a much-needed touch of lightness to Carl’s dour grumpiness. Director Mikkel Nørgaard does a good job here, and I’ll be down to watch if they film more entries in the series.
The Keeper of Lost Causes plays on May 22nd at the Lincoln Square Cinemas and May 24th and 25th at the Egyptian Theatre.
Final Grade: B
Willow Creek: Bigfoot obsessive Jim (Bryce Johnson) decides to take his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) into the woods of Northern California to the site of a famous 1960s Bigfoot sighting. Kelly doesn’t believe in Bigfoot, but she loves Jim and is willing to come and help him film a documentary about the trip. Along the way, they good-naturedly bicker and stop at every Bigfoot-themed tourist spot to interview a few folks who have sighting stories of their own. The closer they get to the site however, the more warnings they get to stay away. Of course they ignore all that and continue on to their destination. Once they get there though, things don’t exactly proceed the way Jim had hoped.
As a child I was terrified of Bigfoot. Crazy scared. I’m from Southern Oregon, and we spent a lot of time in the summers in Northern California. The lock on our camper was broken, and I would often lay awake at nights terrified that Bigfoot was going to come in and grab me. My bed, of course, was right by the door. I still find the idea of Bigfoot horrifying. I also love (as much as you can love someone you don’t know in a completely nonstalkery way) the director of Willow Creek, Bobcat Goldthwait. So I was completely mentally set up to enjoy/be scared by this movie. Which is why I was totally disappointed when I didn’t/wasn’t. It’s not horrible, but it’s a much less frightening rehash of The Blair Witch Project.
Lets talk about the found footage format for a minute; a lot of people whine about how overdone it is. That doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s a good way for filmmakers to get their ideas across under tight budgetary circumstances. I get why shaky cam haters hate (and this film has a lot of shaky cam) but a good film will use that to its advantage, and it’s easy to overlook some flaws if the story is good. BUT, you cannot adhere too closely to the details of earlier films, or you will alienate people because all the found footage horror films get seen by pretty much the same audience. And Willow Creek uses a lot of the same scares as The Blair Witch Project, but without its pacing and impending sense of danger. The acting here is spot on, but the good stuff doesn’t happen until the last third, and even then it’s mostly sudden movement-type scares. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not scary or funny enough to justify it’s reliance on things that have already been done.
Willow Creek plays on May 23rd at the Lincoln Square Cinemas and on May 31st at the Egyptian Theatre.
Also, be sure to check out our interview with writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait and star Bryce Johnson.
Final Grade: C