$1,000 for the day. Filming service. Discretion is appreciated.
There are lots of amusing things you can toss into a horror film to keep the audience interested: a creepy location, random jump scares, several gruesome demises, some impressive special effects, a funny moment or two to release the tension – and then there is the “no frills” style of scary storytelling: nothing supernatural, nothing otherworldly, and very little in the realm of visual razzle-dazzle; just two quietly compelling characters, a simple yet compelling premise, and a slow, gradual escalation of suspense that pays off in subtle yet satisfying fashion. That’s pretty much the long and the short of Patrick Brice’s Creep: simple, straightforward, and unexpectedly effective.
Presented (yes) in “found footage” style (deal with it!), Creep centers on Aaron (Brice), a young filmmaker who (unwisely) accepts a job as videographer for a dying, isolated man named Josef (Mark Duplass). At first Josef comes off as amiably weird (if just a little unhinged); but as the day goes on, we start to see little cracks in Josef’s pleasant demeanor. Unfortunately for Aaron, he does not. Things get exponentially weirder as day passes into night – and the depths of Josef’s lunacy become wildly apparent – and then the movie takes a sharp left turn that you’ll have to discover for yourself. (I thought I had it figured out, and it turns out I was only half-right.)
What’s most impressive about Creep is not how it tosses a dash of legitimacy into the “found footage” stew (although it does), but how it pulls so much calm suspense out of two characters, two locations, and a very simple premise. Both Brice and Duplass provide excellent performances, which really helps because they’re the only two people in the whole darn film. (It’s also interesting to note that Brice and Duplass are credited with “story,” yet nobody is credited as “screenwriter.” That’s some good improv, fellas.) That the viewer is consistently one step ahead of Aaron is how Creep lays an early foundation of low-key suspense, but it’s Josef’s progressively weirder behavior that sets the stage for a third act that’s rather enjoyably unpredictable.
And even if you do figure out precisely where Creep is headed, hey, good for you. It’s still worth it just to watch it all play out. Love it or hate it, Creep (and several low-budget indies just like it) are proof positive that you don’t need a whole lot of money, glitz, or gore to make a cool horror film. All you need is a good idea, an interesting presentation, and a handful of talented friends. (OK, and some cameras.) Creep is certainly not the most kinetic or flashy indie horror film you’ll see this year, but it definitely hits the mark it’s aiming for, and that’s always a good thing.
Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)
CREEP is on VOD in the US now.