Found Footage movies always have that one problem for me, where I really have to suspend my disbelief because the character holding the camera is getting into some serious shit and, instead of running for the hills, they decide, “Okay, I have to keep filming this. No matter what, I have to make sure I don’t have access to my hands and will have an obstruction over my eye.” So, in order to overcome that bit of logical vacation, a Found Footage flick has to keep my brain distracted with some good acting or just unbelievable suspense, where I don’t have time to let my brain do any senseless thinking.
And, for the most part, this is true of just about any movie in any genre–as long as you keep the action going and it’s entertaining, it makes up for some of the most serious flaws that exist in plotting (no one notices that Indiana Jones hangs onto the outside of a submarine under water for a couple hundred miles in Raiders, because of good editing).
Creep keeps its flaws in logic and sometimes-requires suspension of disbelief in check by being very well-acted by its lead, Mark Duplass. He plays Josef, a man who may or may not be dying of cancer who may or may not have hired a cameraman to document a day in his life under false pretenses.
Patrick Brice, the director and co-writer, also stars as Aaron, the subject of unwanted attention by Duplass’s Josef. What begins with a quirky eccentric quickly devolves into something much more sinister as truths are exposed as merely half-truths and half-truths are exposed as downright lies. What ends up being the complete truth about Josef is never fully revealed, and the film is better off for it, because the essence of fear–that brilliant ingredient that so many people ignore–is mystery. To flat out say this or that about the creepy Josef is to strip him of his frightening power. What makes him such a remarkable, and scary, film presence, is that his insistence of politeness is so obviously manufactured. There’s something right underneath his surface which is palpable, but impossible to define. He could either hug you or stab you in the back (or, hell, do both at once), and you never know where you’re at with him.
Creep also had one of those endings that I’m a sucker for. I wouldn’t dare spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but it toys with the viewer’s expectations and you begin to question if the denouement is really heading in the direction you fully expect it to or not. It starts and stops and the complete finale reaches a point that’s simply a logical extension of the plot before it. It doesn’t subvert anything, it’s just good old fashioned story-telling to scare an audience and make them squirm.
It’s not without its faults, but Creep has the benefit or eschewing some of the dumber elements that could have sunk it rather quickly, favoring instead to keep the plot moving and keep the scares coming and coming. Had it spent too much time lingering in one scene too long, I think it probably would have been too much of a bore to handle, but Duplass and Brice were adept enough at the language of film to allow the movie to play out as an interesting and, well, creepy character study of a man unhinged–and wisely to keep it from being a study about the nature of evil, which wouldn’t have quite of worked in a film like this.
There are maybe one or two too many fake-out jump scares, but overall Creep is a good time if you’re in the mood for something to make you feel unnerved but never patronized and pandered to. It’s a skillfully-made movie that has fun with the Found Footage genre and makes us see what other kinds of stories, more subtle stories, are possible with that format. It plays as something like the Hannibal Lecter scenes of Silence of the Lambs or Norman Bates casually chatting it up with Marion in Psycho crossed with The Blair Witch Project.
Creep is currently available on Netflix streaming and you can watch it instantly. ‘Tis the season, so if you’re looking for something this Halloween season, check this out. And, at 82 minutes, even if you disagree with me vehemently and hate it, you’re in and out before you ever know it.