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Dir. Patrick Brice, 2014
Creep is a found-footage horror film starring Mark Duplass. And your reaction to that previous sentence will probably have a bearing on your willingness to watch the film; found footage horror and mumblecore (of which Duplass is a major figure) are probably the two most divisive developments of digital indie cinema of the last decade. I’ve been an apologist for found-footage horror longer than most people, but the last few years the crop of films have become lazy and derivative to the point where I’m not sure a movie like V/H/S Viral was even ready to be released. So, while I think I lasted at least 5 years longer than most horror fans, I’ve tried to avoid them recently. I initially didn’t know Creep was a found-footage film until I started watching it, but decided to keep with it because I didn’t feel like wasting another 1/2 hour of my life flipping through my Netflix
The premise of Creep is that Josef is a man dying of cancer who pays a freelance photographer named Aaron to film him for the day (“like Michael Keaton in My Life“). But something about Josef seems a little off. That’s a bit of an opaque summary, but if you’ve ever seen a horror/thriller film before, from the first time Josef appears (and even perhaps implied in the very Eastern European spelling of his name) you know where this is going; in fact, it essentially tells you where it will end up. At this point you’re wondering how I gave this a good review. What Creep has that most other found-footage horror films are lacking is energy, much of which comes from its humor. I’m not sure I’d classify this as a comedy, but it is often quite funny (though Duplass indulges a bit too much in the dark comedic aspect of his character than I wanted; I think the film would have been far more effective if he had approached it with more ambiguity). We don’t know much about either characters, even by horror film standards (though that’s the whole point of Josef, and Aaron has the handicap of being stuck behind the camera most of the time), but the humor makes them more likable and vulnerable; we become endeared to people who make us laugh. The film also pulls off a Simpsons-worthy visual gag 3/4 of the way through the film, and while it retains its POV focus, plays with the format a bit.
Brice and Duplass have made it known they’d like to make a trilogy of Creep films. I’m not sure Creep is good enough that I would eagerly await its sequels, or even watch them, but in a horror landscape where far too many found-footage films feel dead on arrival, it’s nice to find one that has some life.