Looking for work, Aaron (Patrick Brice) comes across a cryptic online ad: “$1,000 for the day. Filming service. Discretion is appreciated.” Low on cash and full of naiveté, he decides to go for it. He drives to a cabin in a remote mountain town where he meets Josef (Mark Duplass), his cinematic subject for the day. Josef is sincere and the project seems heartfelt, so Aaron begins to film. But as the day goes on, it becomes clear that Josef is not who he says, and his intentions are not at all pure. The directorial debut of Patrick Brice and produced by Jason Blum(Paranormal Activity, Insidious) and Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed), Creep’s intense interplay between its two protagonists upends expectations at every turn.
Just when you believe in your heart that the Found Footage genre within horror has finally come to a halt with sheer exhaustion, along comes CREEP…..
Its very rare these days that horror in particular blows me away, simply because all we seem to be getting are endless repetitive story-lines, pointless remakes of classic films, and yet another further sequel a franchise simply does not need. Even this genre, of a silly person filming non stop the endless carnage around them when in reality, should put the camera down and just run, as seen its glory days long gone.
Even when I sat down to watch this tale I could not feel a bit of excitement in my bones, despite the buzz surrounding the film. My love for Found Footage started with Cannibal Holocaust got rediscovered with Blair Witch and then peaked with Paranormal Activity. There were a few on the way that flirted with my deep love affection, but having sat through so many over the recent years, even the sound of a camera being switched on as the credits roll, fill me with despair at times.
Creep needed to start with something big, something to grab my attention and make me sit up, the fact that it didn’t and instead focused on the “less is more angle” really was a clever move looking back, because fifteen minutes in,I was intrigued and hooked by the character of Josef who is dying of cancer and want’s to leave a memory for his child, so hires Aaron to film him for the day. All simple you think, but being a horror film, you know something bad is going to happen, but the beauty of Creep is you do not know what? Is Josef part of a cult? A monster in human clothes?, is this going to be a torture film?.
Even stating in this review, that you be guessing at times shows just how Creep refuses to play by the rules of this genre, a film that calls itself an horror but in reality its not. This is a suspenseful dark tale with no bloodshed, and the scare factor comes with the eerily atmosphere of dread. You know that the direction we are going is to a real dark place, but you don’t know where and you don’t know how!
We share the full journey with Aaron and at times its damn uncomfortable. It feels like we are there with him and its the first time in a long long time that a film like this does not feel like found footage. The camera becomes the eyes of Aaron, or better still, the camera makes us feel like we are actually there in that room, feeding off the strange surreal vibe that Josef is bringing to the table.
Right from the beginning we should have known something was amiss, as Aaron knocks the door to start his job, there is no answer and climbs back in his car, before Josef jumps out of nowhere, scaring the shit out of the poor bastard and also us watching. Its a habit that Josef likes to do through out the film and while there may be a few that will grumble “Just get out of there”, I can totally understand why Aaron stays. Josef is dying with only months to live. He looks like a person who knows his time is up and despite his eccentric behaviour, a day’s work for $1000, where is the harm? even if he has to film Josef taking a bath and pretending his unborn son is there with him. You may think surreal? but that is nothing to what happens afterwards?
The opening hour is just that, Aaron filming Josef, and as he is getting paid for this, hence the reason the camera never stops. Aaron continues to act weird, jumping out at inappropriate moments, but then following it up with an even more inappropriate cuddle. They go for a long walk to a place with a rock shaped love heart near a small waterfall, where Josef states the water could “cure him”, all innocent and fine, and the strength of the character of Aaron makes us believe that this man in front of him is just an oddity, we share what he feels, that our naive brain is telling us “this guy is dying, just go with the flow” but deep in our gut there is vibe of “just watch yourself”.
To be fair Aaron does do the right things, when night falls and his time is up, he says goodbye but Josef persuades him for one last drink, which is followed by a dark twisted story from the dying man and even then Aaron not only does what he should do, but also goes further than any of us watching would. Fair play on Brice and Duplass, who not only carry the film on screen, but also wrote the story that plays with our expectations on numerous occasions.
I really can’t say any more because from that moment, the film becomes something you can not guess at times. The threat of a Slasher movie surfaces when Josef puts on a wolf mask, but then that is followed by an ingenious twist that is up there with the “rewind” button in Funny Games.
Creep really is an impressive film. At first I was wondering why this was called “Creep” because all I could think of that Josef was nothing more than “Weird” but then the film stretches and you can see why. I also have to say that the film is littered with a dark comical tone, you will find yourself laughing but only because of the unease developing over you.
As the film hits its final stride, the pace never quickens or falters. The tone stays the same from the opening shot, right up to the final and it works because simplicity is the key. Why bother with haunted asylums, ghost dimensions or even searching for supernatural things in the deep woods, when all you need is two characters in a room and making the viewer feel like a “Peeping Tom” toying with our experience of the found footage genre.
Just when I thought nothing could have beaten It Follows for the best horror film of 2015, Creep came out of nowhere and challenged the crown.
Brice and Duplass had not only created one of the best of the year, but quite possibly had made one of the best found footage horrors in recent memory…….. its that good!