Director: Patrick Brice
Cast: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Watch Creep online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” says Josef, after leaping out at Aaron in th middle of the woods. It’s the kind of prank that friends often play, an act that comfortably crosses the boundary between silly and sinister. But Aaron and Josef are not friends. In fact, they don’t even know each other.
That’s the central conceit behind Creep, a no-budget horror movie that delivers more scares than films with 10 times more money. Essentially a two-hander, it follows Aaron (director Patrick Brice), a videographer who responds to a Craigslist ad to film a guy for a single day. The guy in question? Josef (Duplass), who is ill and wants to a leave a video diary for his son.
Mark Duplass will be familiar to many indie fans. The actor has a knack for appearing normal, delivering the kind of naturalistic performances on-screen that make his chameleonic back catalogue of characters entirely believable and, more often than not, likeable. Creep’s inspired move is to hinge its entire runtime (a slight 77 minutes) on the actor doing the exact opposite: Josef starts out sympathetic and sad, but that surface slowly peels away, as he starts to behave weirdly. He holds eye contact for a second too long. He hugs the stranger in his home like they’ve known each other for years. He repeatedly hides around the place waiting to spring out.
There’s simply something… off about him – an unsettling aura that is built up through tiny details and small gestures. It’s all about this interaction between the two characters, a relationship that is twisted and played with by both performers. Is Josef the “creep” of the title? The movie’s name just as easily refers to Aaron, who cautiously steps through Josef’s house, clutching his trusty handheld camera.
That’s Brice’s other masterstroke: giving the tired found footage format a disturbingly fresh new spin. The director is just as believable as his co-star, despite spending most of his time off-screen. That role of narrator, of course, automatically positions him as the “normal” story-teller, the one whose account of events we trust. As events spiral into increasingly unusual territory – from an animal mask with the nickname “Peachfuzz” (and a dance that goes with it) to surprise packages in the mail – Creep could collapse under the weight of its quietly mounted suspense, but its finale is as underplayed as the rest of it. We’re left with the lingering question of whose this found footage is – a suggestion that, combined with a steady stream of jumps, ensures that we never feel at ease with our lead couple. Subtle and smart, Creep repeatedly crosses the boundary between silly and sinister. It means to scare you. And it’s not sorry.
Creep is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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