Dir: Patrick Brice
Written by: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Running Time – 81 mins.
European Premiere: Frightfest 2014
After answering an advert for $1000 for one day’s filming, Aaron (Brice) meets up with the eccentric Josef (Duplass). At first, Josef appears to be kooky but harmless but as the evening goes on, his behaviour becomes progressively strange before turning outright dangerous.
Craigslist certainly never seems to carry a great reputation when it comes to various films that have used it as a starting point. Whilst many go for the more sordid sexual route, Creep uses a deceptively sweet and innocent angle in order to craft something infinitely more effectively sinister. With a cast of only two, Creep is a distinct cut above most found footage horror in that they are both likeable, interesting and do not spend their time running around, bathed in the green and black of night vision.
Aaron (Brice) is, crucially, not a profoundly unlikeable jerk like so many other found footage protagonists. He is relatable, polite and good hearted. When most would have been incredibly awkward and desperate to get away from, Josef, he stays and makes the effort to befriend him. His naivety is, of course, his downfall and it is incredibly refreshing to convincingly feel the same terror as the character with the camera after Josef (Brice) is exposed.
Josef himself, is a wonderfully complex character. Whilst there is the initial sympathy towards him when his reason for wanting to be filmed is revealed, there is the constant sense that there is far more to him than meets the eye. His off the wall nature is, at first, charming and this adds further to the blood-chilling revelation of what sort of man he really is later in the film. It must be remembered that he is human, not a monster and whilst he does and has done horrible things in the film, it is to the immense credit of Brice’s performance that he is still, shockingly, sympathetic.
The interaction between the two is essential and adds an extra layer of effectiveness to the film. With largely improvised dialogue, the flow of conversation and gradual development of both their relationship and characters feels brilliantly natural and believable. This, ultimately, helps and audience to invest in them more as people, not characters, which is hugely beneficial as the film slowly reveals what it’s been hiding, there’s the extra danger of human unpredictability.
One ever present staple of the found footage horror rears its ugly head in the form of the jump scare. Within the first 20 or so minutes, Josef jumps out at the camera from a hidden spot far too many times and it becomes instantly tiresome, before the film has even properly started to get going. When your best hand at scares is having someone jump out and scream “Boo!”, there is a serious problem. The incredibly deliberate weapon foreshadowing feels very contrived also.
That being said, the first half of the film has a wonderfully uneasy feel about it. Gradually, the conversations between the men get more uncomfortable and in doing very little, there is a palpable atmosphere of dread that is created out of minimal effort. The peak of this comes in the form of an “off-camera” conversation where Josef tells an incredibly dark story, concerning his wife. It is an incredibly uncomfortable listen as it leaves the audience unsure as to whether or not it is ok to laugh. The story itself is both bizarre and horrifying and does a great job of conjuring up a sense of being very ill at ease.
Sadly, the superb air of tension gets thrown off balance in the second half of the film. The isolated setting of the cabin is replaced by Aaron’s urban apartment and the film becomes a stalker based set-up. Whilst Aaron still receives bizarre gifts and videos from Josef, there is a notable lack of pace or anything dramatic, the attempted jokes end up falling flat and the night in which Josef prowls around the apartment is overdone and un-engaging. Whilst proceedings take a dark turn come the finale, there is the unshakable feel that the film would have been infinitely better served cutting the length and restricting the action to the cabin and the very clear end point it could have used.
Despite the notable slump, there are two enormously impressive moments that proved to be genuinely terrifying. The iconic image of Josef’s silhouette, backlit by a bright light is masterfully put together and is visually striking. Not only does is look incredible, but it is literally the point of no return in the film, as he invites Aaron back inside his home for a drink as the audience scream internally for him to get away. The second moment is sadly at the end of the film and to spoil it would ruin its huge impact. Suffice to say, it is a stunningly long drawn out piece of nail-biting tension that is brilliantly almost unwatchable.
It has to be said, as well, that the film did a fantastic job at making the cheap and silly ‘Mr Peachfuzz’ wolf mask scary in one heart-stopping scene. Whilst the film hardly has endless re-watch potential, it would be interesting to see it again, just to pick up on the clues of the larger and incredibly chilling picture throughout.
Creep is certainly one of a very select number of found footage films to actually feel authentic. With two superb performances and two remarkably well shot scenes of enormous tension, it was so close to being a classic of the subgenre.
An over-reliance on cheap jump scares and a dramatic drop in the pacing in the film’s second act, however, results in the film letting itself down. There is great potential here from the writing partners and future found footage horror could definitely learn lessons from it.