The found footage sub-genre has developed a pretty poor reputation over the years, which is somewhat unfair to the gimmick. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the filmmaking style that is the problem, but rather the fact that most filmmakers are using it to tell the same generic stories. Creep, exclusively available for instant streaming on Netflix this week, is anything but the same old story.
Directed by Patrick Brice, Creep stars Brice himself as Aaron, a cash-strapped videographer who agrees to film a stranger by the name of Josef for one full day. Josef tells Aaron that he’s dying of cancer and wants to be filmed so that his unborn child can someday learn about his dad – like that Michael Keaton movie – though it quickly becomes clear that Josef isn’t quite who he pretends to be. But is he dangerous, or simply a strange creep?
Though there are two characters in Creep, calling it a one-man-show wouldn’t be in the least bit out of line. While Patrick Brice is mostly behind the camera as Aaron, it’s Mark Duplass in front of it as Josef, and the film is almost completely reliant on Duplass’ performance. It’s rare that a film puts that much weight on the shoulders of one actor, and the good news is that Duplass knocks it out of the park.
Josef is one of the most riveting characters you’re likely to ever find in a found footage film, and Duplass is both endearing and unsettling as the strange but oddly likeable individual. Full of intricate lies and just a tad bit too eager to connect with Aaron in a way that’s not quite organic, Josef is undeniably bizarre in a very realistic way, as he’s sure to remind you of someone you’ve crossed paths with in your own life.
It’s Josef’s unclear motivations that serve to make Creep as engaging as he is, and the film takes you on a ride that makes you feel like you’re the one behind the camera. Like Aaron, we’re never quite sure whether Josef is an axe murderer or a lonely dude who just wants a friend, and though the fact that Creep is a horror film will likely answer that question long before the big reveal, this one is all about the journey.
Creep is not the sort of horror movie that’s for everyone, but rather it’s one that caters almost exclusively to viewers fascinated by strange human behavior. While some may find the slow burn film to be a bore, a complaint I would completely understand, those with a deep curiosity about the things going on inside the minds of seemingly ordinary human beings will surely be glued to the screen throughout.
As a found footage affair, Creep is one of the rare films of that sub-genre that actually benefits from the gimmick, and in fact it’s the sort of movie that quite frankly couldn’t have been made any other way. The fact that Aaron is documenting everything actually make sense from scene to scene, and Brice has a good deal of fun playing around with certain expectations inherent to the filmmaking style.
Written by Brice and Duplass, Creep‘s story is constantly amping up the tension, as each scene almost threatens to reveal Josef’s true mental state but only ever provides teases and clues. Though the proceedings do get suitably tense and at times quite creepy, there’s also a whole lot of humor present, and it often comes at the most unexpected times. The film is always strange, and always just as fascinating.
If you’re looking for a straight up horror film or one that reinvents the found footage wheel, you won’t quite find either of those qualities in Creep. What you will find, however, is a riveting and consistently engaging portrait of a man who isn’t right in the head, as well as one of a man who is far too interested in the story’s end to ever put forth much effort to look and/or run away from the obviously dangerous situation.
Thanks in large part to a commanding lead performance from Mark Duplass, Creep is one found footage movie that is well worth 80 minutes of your time. Deceptively simple and deeply committed to holding your interest despite the destination being clear, the film succeeds admirably as a refreshing and fascinating entry into the sub-genre. It’s a reminder that ‘POV horror’ isn’t the problem – lazy filmmaking is.
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