Written by: Adrienne Clark
Director: Patrick Brice
Cast: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Don’t talk to strangers. It’s classic parental wisdom, and yet, at some point in our lives we stopped following that well intentioned advice. It’s different for everybody, but one day we realize that we’re going to have to talk to strangers all the time. Whether it’s a job interview or directions, as adults we interact with strangers on a daily basis.
It usually isn’t a problem. Laws, spooky folklore, and human compassion keep our day-to-day interactions pretty mundane, but it’s always a risk. Every time you meet someone new there is an opportunity that something will go awry. This is why Craigslist has a whole page devoted to personal safety tips. Even with all the dangers, we know that we can’t let our lives be run by fear. So we keep getting out there, trusting that the people we meet are who they say they are.
Creep begins with videographer Aaron (Patrick Brice) driving out into the mountains. He’s answered an online ad for $1000 for a day’s work. Although he’s not sure what he’ll be filming, it seems like easy money.
After an unsettling moment when Aaron realizes that no one knows where he is, we are introduced to Josef (a mad and masterful Mark Duplass), the man who placed the ad. His request is a little odd, but nothing too crazy. Josef has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and he wants to make a video of himself so that his unborn son will be able to know his father.
Aaron is touched and the two begin their work. At first, all seems like it will go well. Josef’s requests are a bit odd (most people go their whole lives without filming a stranger in the bath), but nothing that can’t be taken in stride to help a dying man with his last request. Still, as the day wears on, Josef’s personality begins to change. Things continue to turn strange at Josef is revealed to be something different than he first appeared.
What could devolve into a very traditional horror movie, instead takes a unique path to create one of the strangest and most exciting third acts in modern horror.
This film is a grand slam. I haven’t seen a found footage movie that actually worked since The Blair Witch Project (and I could argue that it was more of a triumph of marketing than storytelling). Found footage almost never works, either the angles and quality are unrealistic, or the footage content doesn’t make sense. How many times have you had the “if it was me I’d be running in the other direction, not filming” conversation with your friends after one of these films? And yet Creep figured it out, and I bought it the whole time.
I was able to suspend my disbelief in large part because the POV camera is a real, three-dimensional character with needs, wants, and desires. He is also the only other character in the movie so he is constantly reacting directly with the major threats in the film. This means we have time to settle in and get into his head. He’s not just the camera man; he is us.
While we’re talking about interacting, we need to take a moment and discuss Mark Duplass. Holy shit. This man is a genius plain and simple. He carries nearly the entire movie on his crazy shoulders, and he’s likable for a large portion of the story. A less talented actor playing a villain would alienate the audience through playing up the “craziness” of the role, but Duplass draws you in even as every trigger goes off that you should get away.
Duplass supported throughout the film by Brice’s camera direction. Long, odd shots of Josef just staring are totally unsettling and create a very visceral fear in the audience. It also restricts the audience’s vision giving the movie a claustrophobic feeling.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m in love with this film, so it’s hard to criticize it. There are a couple of moments where the found footage concept holds the narrative back. For example, I will never believe that someone has the presence of mind to wake up in the middle of the night and immediately begin filming. And to what end? Most of us spend our lives trying to talk ourselves out of our fears. It doesn’t feel very true to life to have a character immediately suspect there is something worth filming just because they heard a noise. It’s not too bad, but it did remind me that I was watching a film, which momentarily takes you out of the story.
Creep was written, directed, and performed by the same two men, and you can tell that this film was a labor of love. True care went into every moment, and the result is a film that you can watch again and again. I know I have, and now you will too.