Creep (2014)

SEPTEMBER 28, 2020


Just about all of my favorite horror movies were "old" by the time I saw them; Halloween and Dawn of the Dead were both released before I was even born, and I obviously wasn't there on opening night for the likes of The Thing (I was 2) or any of the Friday the 13ths until they were no longer actually called Friday the 13th (Jason Goes To Hell broke my theatrical Jason cherry). So it's safe to say that, for the most part, a movie's acclaim and/or franchise significance isn't much of a factor when it comes to whether or not I enjoy it. With that in mind, I sadly have to report that the existence of a sequel deflated what I suspect was a big part of the charm for Creep, which is now six years old but "new to me".

When it's a supernatural kind of thing, there's less of a problem with knowing that there are sequels - I am used to the likes of Freddy or zombie Jason being "killed" at the end of one movie only to be revived in the next. But Creep, being a found footage thing, is about a very flesh and blood person, and knowing he returned for the sequel kept all suspense at bay here, because I inadvertently knew how it ended and yet knew almost nothing else about it. My entire knowledge of the film (entire franchise, really) could be summed up with "Mark Duplass played the title character and it's found footage" - I literally couldn't have told you one other thing about it prior to sitting down today. I didn't even realize it was a Blumhouse (Tilt) joint!

Oh, and that it was a horror/thriller, so as soon as the film established its premise I could basically see the rest of it flashing before my eyes. Our hero is Aaron (Patrick Brice, who also directed and co-wrote with Duplass), who takes a job filming Josef (Duplass) as he records a video diary for his unborn son as he is expected to be dead from cancer before the baby even arrives, let alone grown up (if you're thinking "That's the plot of the movie My Life", the movie acknowledges it!). But it only takes a few minutes for Josef to start making Aaron uncomfortable, starting off the series of videos by taking a bath and constantly trying to scare him. As the day proceeds Aaron gets more and more unsettled, and Josef thwarts his attempts to leave. It's obvious Josef is crazy, and - again - Duplass is the one to come back for the sequel, so you don't need to take Advanced Movie Plotting 101 to guess how things are going to end.

That said, it does swerve a bit for its third act (spoiler), as Aaron does manage to escape. The rest of the movie picks up some time later, where Aaron keeps getting weird packages from Josef and realizes he has followed him back to Los Angeles (the first half or so of the movie takes place at Lake Gregory, which is about 90 miles/two hours east of LA). This was a good call on their part; it was getting more and more ridiculous that Aaron would stay behind, even with Josef's attempts at keeping him there (which included hiding his car keys), so it gave the movie a bit of a boost at a time when the last grain of salt would have likely been used up.

But still, it's just these two guys throughout the movie; the only other person we ever hear is Josef's wife Angela on the other end of a quick phone call. Since Aaron is the one holding the camera, that means you're spending pretty much every moment of the first 50 minutes looking at Duplass, and while he's quite good and effectively, well, creepy, it gets somewhat tiresome after a while. Perhaps if he hadn't started being a weirdo as soon as Aaron arrived, it would have worked better? The two men pretty much improvised the entire movie going only by a general outline (similar to how Blair Witch Project was "written"), but it seems that most of what they came up with is "Josef starts talking about something and it gets weird, then he pretends to jump out at Aaron, apologizes, and then they go something else." Angela has a couple of reveals in her quick phone call, but alas they aren't fully explored (perhaps the sequel does?), and while I tend to believe in the "less is more" approach for exposition in my scary movies, here I would have welcomed it if only to break up the repetition.

That said it was kind of fun to go back in time a bit to when found footage was all the rage and people were perfectly OK with getting up close and personal with strangers. In the early '10s it seemed that the gimmick would never really go away, but it kind of has - the Paranormal Activity series has been dormant since 2015 and the failure of the Blair Witch revival a year later pretty much killed it off on the big-screen, with only the occasional indie still employing it. Instead, we've switched to "screen thrillers" like Host and Searching, which have the same kind of appeal but a very different set of perks and limitations. Since the two men are attempting to make a third film, I can't help but think they too should switch to this format - having Duplass' psychopath "Zoom bomb" some unsuspecting folks might be fun, and it would prevent too much of the wheel-spinning that a typical found footage movie has to have (which gets more frustrating with each new sequel, as the PA series proved). Plus they could make it right now! Social distanced movies are all the rage!

Anyway, it's an OK movie, but very much a "you had to be there" kind of thing that would work better at a film festival premiere and absolute zero awareness of what it was. Even the most basic information will tell you where it's going, and while that is OK for a big movie with lots of characters (knowing the plot of Die Hard doesn't spoil Die Hard), there's just not enough here to fully make up for it. They said they were inspired by movies like My Dinner With Andre and Misery - those movies had other characters and better conversations! They even go to a diner at one point and you don't see the waiter; Jean Lenauer is spinning in his grave!

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. I quite liked this film, but the sequel is great. It really takes the whole idea forward in a much more interesting way. Even if you weren't wild about the first I highly recommend giving it a go.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget