DIRECTED BY

Patrick Brice

 

STARRING

Mark Duplass

Patrick Brice

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

2014

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 17 Mins.

Creep / Creep 2 July 9, 2018  

though much of it shouldn’t be in this particular genre.

 

In Creep, Brice stars as Aaron, a forlorn videographer so desperate for a decent payday that he’s begun perusing Craigslist ads for potential jobs. As the film opens, he divulges that he has responded to an enigmatic assignment posted by a man named Josef (Mark Duplass), who refuses to relay much information on the message boards.

 

When Aaron arrives at Josef’s humble abode — a creaky, sparsely decorated cabin in the woods — the task is clarified. Josef says that he is dying from terminal cancer, and that his wife, Angela, is pregnant. Inspired by the Michael Keaton-starring weepie My Life (1993), Josef wants Aaron to assist him in making a series of video diary entries. Years from now, he hopes his son will be able to watch these snippets, which will ostensibly capture the man he used to be. It seems as though this will be a straightforward, if emotionally taxing, job. Aaron will receive $1,000 for his work, and that seems worth it.

 

But Josef’s behavior creates unease. He has a tendency to reveal something dark only to relieve the tension by cracking a careless joke or, on many an occasion, riffing on the art of the jump scare to help Aaron snap out of whatever somber mood hangs above them.

 

Worryingly, many things Josef edicts prove themselves untrue as time passes. His actions grow increasingly erratic. Tension mounts. And one of things I like most about the movie has to do with the way we feel as though we could reach out and touch Aaron’s disconcertion while still understanding why he is so unwilling to leave the premises in certain moments. He needs the money. He doesn’t want to seem impolite. He doesn’t want to delegitimize what he perceives to be a tragedy.

 

Of course, since the film is called Creep, and since it is categorized as a horror movie, our intuition demonstrates that it’s more frequently correct than it isn’t — the final act is just as nightmarish as we might have expected early on. Once the film transitions into Aaron’s home life, the feature proves itself supremely and methodically terrifying. Brice knows how to get under our skin. No actual violence occurs until the movie’s very last moments, and much of what comes before that comprises a series of unbearably suspenseful mind games. We’re tempted to watch much of the film through a veil of carefully placed fingers.

 

Duplass and Brice’s performances are key. Although the grimy found-footage aesthetics are efficiently and economically mounted, vital to the film’s effectiveness is whether we find the relationship between these people believable. What we see is convincing. Brice is excellent as the nice guy who comes to realize just what he’s gotten himself into much too late, and acts as anyone in his situation might. And Duplass, while offbeat right off the bat, never devolves into a caricatured portrayal. His Josef is strange, but not so much so that when he does reveal himself a sinister figure we don’t buy it. The film is a torrent of terror — a bona fide hidden gem unfairly subjected to the purgatory that is the video-on-demand release.

P

atrick Brice’s filmmaking debut, the found-footage horror show Creep (2014), is a waiting game — an excruciatingly slow-burning movie that picks and prods at our paranoia until we cannot bear it any longer. For almost all of the film’s 77 minutes, we ask ourselves: Are we watching something rooted in danger, or are our suspicions feistier than usual?

 

We discover that the former question is the one which carries weight. But the film, which allows us to see the world through its sympathetic protagonist’s eyes, is so hyper-aware of the uncertainty underlining the central relationship that much of what unfurls is surprising, even

1/2

DIRECTED BY

Patrick Brice

 

STARRING

Mark Duplass

Desiree Akhavan

Karan Soni

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

2017

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 18 Mins.

A

To review both Creep and Creep 2 in the same piece of writing does, though, entail that the former film be spoiled for a reader who has yet to see it. Creep 2 lives and dies by Duplass’s character, whose actual identity, revealed during the climax of Creep, is pivotal. If the latter movie sounds intriguing thus far, I recommend you watch it first, then continue on reading this piece.

 

At the end of Creep, it is made clear that Josef — if that’s even his real name — is a serial killer. For years, his modus operandi has pretty much looked the same. He places an ad on Craigslist, fabricates a story about himself, and then kills whoever is naive enough to take whichever job he pretends he needs done after a long game of cat and mouse. Aaron, as evidenced by a large collection of videotapes showed off at the end of Creep, was just one of many.

 

But things are changing for Josef in Creep 2. He is approaching 40 and, to paraphrase his words, is trapped in a sort of midlife crisis. He’s proud of the ingenuity of his murders so far — he’s killed 39 people in total, matching his age — but can’t help but feel empty. He considers himself to be in the midst of a lull in his “career.” He is contemplating suicide.

 

In the meantime, a 20-something, would-be filmmaker, Sara (Desirre Akhavan), is struggling artistically. She has started a YouTube series called “Encounters,” in which she responds to Craigslist ads and records herself getting to know an odd assortment of people. Call it Vice News (2013-present)-lite.

 

The idea is novel and intriguing. But the views are barely there. Her latest adventure has only gotten nine views after having been out for a handful of days. After a late-night crisis of identity, she decides that her next episode will be a finale. (Not that anyone will care.)

 

She responds to a request from Josef, which is about the same as the one that compelled Aaron in Creep. To our surprise, though, Josef doesn’t beat around the bush in the same way he did in the 2014 feature. Just moments after Sara arrives at his place of living — this time a sun-dappled villa in the countryside — Josef tells her that he is a serial murderer, and that he would like her to make a documentary about his life. He promises he won’t kill her, at least for 24 hours.

 

At first, Sara doesn’t buy it. She thinks this man is delusional. But as it happened with Aaron, Josef’s actions come to be so worrisome that she eventually comes to be convinced that he is, in fact, dangerous. She’s well aware that she’s in over her head. But what a hell of a finale this would be. Just think of the potential media attention she could receive if she makes it in the end.

 

Creep 2 doesn’t make for an improvement on its progenitor, and doesn’t have much a reason to exist: the film coming before it made for such hermetic, unsettling horror that expanding on it is needless. But it is resourceful and unexpected all the same. Whereas Creep was a macabre tale that subverted the found-footage subgenre just enough to make it seem new again, 2 is a sound black comedy.

 

Watching it immediately after viewing Creep like I did might be a mistake, though. It is so absurd, and so much a jab at the previous film, it almost threatens to impair the terrors coming before it. But sequels, especially in the horror genre, are rarely strong enough to stand alone. 2, so much a tonal departure from Creep, conclusively could.

 

As it went in the previous movie, 2’s success lies on the shoulders of Duplass and whoever is playing opposite him. But in a twist, it is Akhavan who runs away with the movie. In Creep, Aaron was hapless and almost nebulous — a stand-in for the untrusting us. But Akhavan’s Sara, always with a sardonic comeback sitting in the back of her throat, is capable and not easily deterred.

 

These films are proficient at what they do. One intends to be a crafty piece of low-budget horror, while the other turns that ambition onto its back and mines for laughs instead. I wouldn’t call 2 complementary toward its primogenitor: its sense of humor almost makes us feel weak-hearted for allowing our blood to curdle so often during the 2014 film.

 

Yet I’m pressed to think of a smarter way to continue the story. If the conceit were the same, 2 would be uninvolving. By overthrowing expectations, then, it at least makes for something interesting, if not always as chillingly persuasive. Another sequel, tentatively titled Creep 3, is in the works. I cannot predict what Brice has in store. But that unpredictability is a good thing.

 

Creep: B+

Creep 2: B

sequel to the feature, which resembles the blackened, French media satire Man Bite Dog (1992), was released in 2017. But while its existence might seem unnecessary given how good its predecessor is, it turns out to be an ingenious extension of the previous film. Hardly a Creep manqué, it takes after Wes Craven’s Scream 2 (1997), building on what made its antecedent such a success but incorporating a refreshing sort of self-awareness that helps it avoid nettlesome reiteration.