Directed by Patrick Brice.
2014. Rated R, 82 minutes.
In the earlier days of the internet, there was a Public Service Announcement that played on TV on a pretty regular basis for about a year or two. It starts with a pubescent girl, online in a tween-centric chatroom, exchanging messages with a boy who always has the perfect response. The camera pans away from her, to show the person on the other end of this conversation, while a narrator tells us "If he sounds too good to be true,..." As he gets the last part of that sentence out, "he probably is," the camera reveals a grubby looking middle aged guy who looks like he just buried a body in his backyard. It was jarring, but the message was clear, you can't trust
Aaron is an aspiring videographer who got his latest gig by answering an ad on Craigslist. People still do that? Anyhoo, Aaron is hired by Josef (Duplass) to follow him around and document the day. Josef tells Aaron it will be left for Josef's unborn, but already on the way son since Josef has been diagnosed with a terminal and incurable form of cancer. He doesn't expect to live much longer. With that the two set off on a journey that starts oddly, and only gets weirder as it goes along. Fuckin' Craigslist.
The early parts of Creep are a bit problematic. Act one is there to set up for us to get to know a bit about how the characters operate and relate to. While quirky and certainly making the latter parts of the film believable, it goes on too long. Instead of swiftly moving through this portion of the film by just letting the two men interact, the film seems to be fighting against its own method of storytelling. That method, by the way, is one of a found footage movie. The movie seems to feel itself slipping away and only knows one method to get our attention back. Josef will invariably run away and hide from Aaron, who will follow, frantic to catch up. When he does, Josef will do something to scare the shit out of him. For us in the audience that means jump scare, after jump scare, after jump scare, after...you get the picture. One of the first ones was quite effective and involved a rather vicious looking wolf mask Josef calls Peachfuzz. Unfortunately, the returns on this tactic diminish quickly. They have to. How scary could they be when you know they're coming?
Luckily, there is a turning point. Instead of yet another jump scare, about halfway through the movie, we get the rape story. I won't spoil it, but just know that the tension in the movie is ratcheted up about a thousand percent. Aaron starts to grasp the scope of what's really going on. As viewers, we kind of thought it was going a certain way, but weren't sure how it was going to get there. Once that happens, it's equivalent to being waken from a deep slumber by The Incredible Hulk slapping you in the face. You'd be forgiven if you suddenly and loudly proclaimed "shit just got real," because you'd be exactly right. From that point forward, the movie never again struggles to hold our attention.
Like most deranged psycho movies, Creep rises and falls based on the charisma of our bad guy. As Josef, Mark Duplass gives us an excellent one. He gives off the nutjob vibe so effortlessly and believably, we have no choice but to believe that he is a total whacko. It's a virtuoso performance in a film sorely in need of one. Duplass indeed carries the production. It would completely fail without the effort he puts into his role. He thoroughly overshadows co-star Patrick Brice, who is actually an integral part of the film, both in front of and behind the camera. As far as in front of the camera goes, he is one of only two people in the film, and definitely the one we root for. Behind it, he serves as director while the story itself is a creation of he and Duplass together. The two men combined to create a wonderful little film.
Creep is a film that plods along early in an effort to establish itself, and possibly, find its way. The latter portions of the movie contain far fewer gotcha moments, but are more tense as creepy things keep happening. The rape story provides a very clear line of demarcation between a kinda weird, kinda interesting film and one that grabs us by the throat and refuses to let go. It takes a little long to go from one to the other, but once it does it's well worth it.