26th Aug2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘Creep’ Review

by Jack Kirby

 Stars: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass | Written by Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass | Directed by Patrick Brice


In selecting my films for Frightfest this year, I employed a special strategic choosing system that I think worked very well indeed. I would take the festival’s programme a read out one word at random from each line of the film’s introductory paragraph and if I liked the abstract little poem I ended up with, I went for the film. For example, with Coherence, I got ‘dinner; friends; discover; chilling; mind-bending; climax; questions‘, which was enough for me to check it out (glad I did, by the way). For The Babadook, my results were ‘Gruffalo; unresolved; entity; Sam; died; birthday; worsen; pop-up; Babadook‘ which did not float my boat.

In the interests of full disclosure, Creep‘s synopsis breakdown was ‘Craigslist; stranger; cancer; unborn; strange; naked; improvised; mumblecore; jump; you‘, which whilst perhaps not the strongest selection, was enough to pique my interest. It was however the association with actor/writer/producer Mark Duplass and in particular, his previous feature Safety Not Guaranteed that really caught my attention. If you haven’t seen Safety Not Guaranteed, then I strongly recommend you prioritise that shit. It’s fumbling work of offbeat sci-fi whimsy that you won’t regret spending a little quality time with.

Creep, however, is a markedly different beast. It’s a two hander, featuring Duplass and Patrick Brice (who incidentally worked on the music for Safety Not Guaranteed) and is presented as found footage, which as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m pretty bored with, but this makes a better attempt than most to integrate the format into the narrative, rather than just doing it because it’s cheap. Duplass plays a fella with cancer who hires a cameraman to film him for a day in order to provide a record of his life for his unborn child. The pair meet at Duplass’s cabin in the woods and things quickly escalate into weirdness, unpleasantness and then downright terror.

Key to the film’s success or failing is the handling of Duplass’s titular creep. Underplay it and the film has no tension, but overdo it and the film just looks ridiculous. Fortunately, Duplass gets it right – his character is abnormally wacky, but you understand that this is a fault in his psyche, not overacting. The sinisterly-quirky feel, indie-smarts and the growing sense of impending doom reminded me a lot of last year’s Cheap Thrills, which is most definitely a compliment. It’s impressive how such a foreboding atmosphere is built with so few elements – just two guys talking and a camera. Oh and a wolf mask. Watch out for that. It’s not nice.

Arguably, Creep follows a fairly predictable progression through to its conclusion. And whilst the characters are well drawn, we don’t particularly learn anything we weren’t necessarily expect from them. But the film’s true strength is in experimenting how much can be done with so little. Apparently the whole thing was improvised by its two leads from a ten page synopsis, and in retrospect, this makes its creativity and quality of performances all the more impressive. I was left unnerved, discomforted and a little relived it when it was all over. It’s by no means a game-changer or anything, but as a late night chiller, it works pretty damn well.

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