What you’re going to get with Creep, a new thriller from director Patrick Brice, co-starring with Mark Duplass, is a found footage thriller that serves its purpose admirably with a brisk, 78-minute running time. Just writing that alone makes me happy. 78 minutes, yes, a story can be told and an audience can be entertained in 78 minutes, no need for filler or unnecessary exposition just to make your movie longer. Are horrors and thrillers making up the only genre with a consistent level of confidence in the idea that “less is more”?
I’m sure Brice and Duplass could have wedged in more back-story, more cute quips, more jump scares and even more creepy and sinister behavior on the part of the film’s antagonist and some of it might have even worked, but it would have also worked at delaying the inevitable. If you hope to continually stay one step ahead of the audience don’t waste time allowing them to catch up.
The film begins with Aaron (Brice), on his way to a mountain cabin after responding to an online ad asking for someone to spend the day filming… something. He’s not sure what the job is exactly, but he’s low on cash and the $1,000 pay for a day’s work sounds good to him. His unease, though, is evident almost immediately as he pulls up to a long, sloping driveway, parks at the bottom and makes his way to the front door.
He knocks, no one answers. He calls, no one answers. He waits, no one arrives. He heads back to his car and, BOOM, Josef (Duplass) scares him half to death, the first of many jump scares within the film’s tight narrative. The jump scares are given purpose as Josef will later suggest it offers up the thought of a near-death experience, bringing out or true selves and primal instincts. We also soon learn this guy is a bit off, but first to the reason why Aaron is there.
Josef tells Aaron he has a cancerous tumor in his head and wants to make a video diary of himself for his unborn son. First stop, the bath tub, where Josef pretends to bathe a baby during “tubby time”. It’s the first of many awkward situations and conversations before the narrative goes down some dark corners, riffing on a few horror cliches along the way with far less comedy than I expected. In fact, there’s little to no comedy to be found. I guess I expected at least a little with Duplass’ involvement, forgetting he directed Baghead and co-starred in The Lazerus Effect. My fault.
Living up to the film’s title, Duplass puts on a shit-eating grin for the film’s duration, pops on a wolf mask he calls “Peachfuzz” as if it’s a common, everyday occurrence and tells stories that would send anyone running for the hills. So why would Aaron stick around? Well, like so many horror films, and found footage horror films especially, reason and good decision making are not popular character traits. Creep does attempt to give as much reason for Aaron’s behavior as it can to keep the story moving forward and it’s clear several aspects were to be considered as tongue-in-cheek, but this film won’t be winning over those that have already given up on the found footage style of filmmaking.
All things said, as much as I had fun with and enjoyed Creep, I couldn’t help but wish they had flipped the antagonist and protagonist, almost serving as a modern era remake of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. Hey, considering Brice has created something of his own little mythology, with talk of sequels, perhaps that’s an idea for the next installment.