“Creep” Movie Review

    

     Found footage films have seemingly run their course since early success stories like “Paranormal Activity” and “Cloverfield” struck audiences with the originality and glaring authenticity the genre was able to provide.  To a certain extent, writer/director Patrick Brice has achieved similar success with his horror/comedy hybrid “Creep”, a film that makes “The Blair Witch Project” look like a mega budgeted summer tentpole, but takes full advantage of what it does have going for it by providing a number of memorable if not cringeworthy scenes.  Those scenes I speak of primarily feature a not so subtly creepy performance by Mark Duplass (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), who hams it up to the max during each and every minute of his time on screen.  What results is a sort of spoof like atmosphere onprevious found footage horror films which leads to several more than likely purposeful laughs, as well as the obligatory scares expected from the genre.

     One of the longstanding issues with a found footage based story is the fact that we as the audience are only limited to what our protagonist is pointing the camera at for a visual reference as to what’s going on.  This, of course, always leads to a number of scenes where the filmmakers are forced to create reasons in which the person with the camera actually has it on or takes it with them in circumstances the rest of us would never think of.  Brice and Duplass co-wrote the screenplay for “Creep” and as the film moves on to its final half hour, they clearly were searching for ways for this to happen, so as to allow the audience to continue on with the ride.  During the first hour; however, Brice and Duplass have built in an ingenious plot device that allows the proceedings to remain plausible for the duration of the film’s first and second acts.

     Aaron (Brice) answers a Craiglist ad that seeks to find a videographer for a one day job in a middle of nowhere mountain town.  Curiously, the ad says the person will need “discretion”, a key word Aaron picks up and ponders on, but nonetheless is attracted to the $1000 the job will pay.  When Aaron arrives, he soon meets Josef (Duplass), who immediately makes an impact with his odd overly friendly personality.  When he embraces Aaron with a big man hug and tells him that kind of affection will be the norm during the day, it’s a surprise Aaron doesn’t get back in his car and drive away.  Josef explains to Aaron that he wants to be documented on video for one day as a keepsake for his unborn son he knows he will never meet, as Josef then reveals he has inoperable brain cancer and has less than three months to live.

     The story immediately lives up to its title when Josef’s first request to be filmed has him undressing and getting into a bathtub where he proceeds to act out a bath with his invisible future son.  He explains this was an enjoyable experience with his own father and that he intended on bathing with his own infant son.  The way that Duplass performs this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film.  Save to say, we know Josef has a screw loose and with the bathtub scene being just the beginning of his masterpiece, there’s no telling what else he has in store.  As the story progresses, we begin to understand that Josef’s intent here is to manipulate Aaron into various emotions as if he’s some kind of psychological maestro.  Often, Aaron will find himself alone within Josef’s house or on a hiking trail where Joseph has oddly run way ahead or out of sight.  Then, without warning, Josef will purposely jump into view and scare him.  These scares are so blatantly obvious that you have to wonder if Brice’s intention here was to base his film more within the realm of a comedy since the majority of Josef’s antics would qualify as such.

     Brice does a fine job creating a number of sequences that go well beyond the typical camera moving about a house waiting for something to jump into frame.  In one scene, Josef requests the camera be shut off because he has something disturbing to share with Aaron, who he now claims he feels really close to.  Aaron obliges, but leaves the audio on, so the audience now sees a black screen, but also subtitles of what Josef is confessing to him.  There are many original scenes like this throughout the first hour, but it becomes clear the filmmakers ran out of ideas during the last half hour when the action moves to Aaron’s home and we’re presented with a very standard stalker scenario.  Nonetheless, “Creep” is a marvel in low budget independent filmmaking.  Though Duplass may indulge a bit too much in his character, Brice keeps the story grounded as he portrays your average everyman who is just looking to get ahead by taking an odd job that pays well.  The script by the starring duo brings enough to the table to allow the film’s found footage format to show that, perhaps, the genre isn’t dead after all. GRADE: C