I think it’s safe to say now that it’s 2016, we can finally stop arguing over the merits of found footage horror movies. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. The same can be said about zombie flicks, slashers, and every other subgenre.
So with that said, clear out a mere 77 minutes of your life for today’s found footage feature.
Quick Plot: Aaron is a young filmmaker who eagerly accepts a mysterious but financially savvy one-day job. His mission: drive to a secluded cabin and film a man named Josef's My Life-esque video message to his unborn child. Josef has a fatal brain tumor and doesn't expect to see his baby grow up, hence his fairly emotional state.
Still, isn't Josef just a little TOO friendly? The laid-back Aaron tries to take it in stride, but it doesn't take the full day to realize something just isn't quite right.
At just 77 minutes long, it's hard to say any more about Creep without giving a whole lot away. Directed by Patrick Brice (who also plays Aaron) and heavily improvised by indie king Mark Duplass, Creep is a minimalist two-man drama that doesn't wear out its brief welcome (at least for me). Duplass has such a strong confidence in talking directly to a camera that it's darn near impossible not to hang on his every word. To see him play so against type--or rather, like a long-lost and socially confused cousin of his quirky Mindy Project gynecologist character--is fascinating to behold.
That being said, Brice's Aaron isn't the most interesting of cameraholders, although in a subgenre that includes obnoxious messes like V/H/S and Crowsnest, he's certainly far from the worst. Still, for all its disciplined brevity, it's kind of frustrating to get so little out of our protagonist. For example, we gather that an independent filmmaker taking a mystery gig could probably use some cash, yet the brief glimpse of his home life seems to suggest he's living pretty decently. Similarly, we don't necessarily need to see him call his friends for advice, but considering how strange the situation gets, there's simply a missing link on our end to not see Aaron make any kind of effort for help (one quick police report aside). Would any sane adult agree to meet their stalker without dragging along at least one pal that owes a favor?
Creep doesn’t address these questions, probably because it’s just so much more interesting to put its energy into Duplass’s Josef. It makes perfect sense, but it also renders something about the film a little empty. Yes, I’d rather watch Josef over Aaron, but because we’re not ever fully put into Aaron’s shoes in a way that seems to fit, it’s hard to have the wollop hit as it should.
That being said, Creep is...neat. Duplass is just too good for it not to work, even if it doesn’t quite connect the way I was hoping. Still, it's more than worth a watch, particularly if you've always dreamed of watching Mark Duplass dress like a werewolf and dance.
As much as I do have issues with how Aaron's character is handled, I will say that it's oddly refreshing to see this kind of tale focused on two male characters. The film doesn't hammer away at its gender flip, but it's definitely a clear and deliberate choice that puts a familiar story in just enough different context to make you look at things with fresh eyes
Aforementioned frustrations with one half of the characters
As someone who lives on the 4th floor (plus an even bigger 1st floor stoop, so really, 5th floor) walkup, I can indeed back up Josef's claim that you just never get used to stairs
Turn around. Always, turn around
Every town has a diner known for its pancakes
Far from a masterpiece, Creep is still an enjoyable way to kill 80 minutes. The film plays with its familiar setup and style to deliver something much fresher than most of its brethren, and Duplass is just one of those artists who's always weirdly fascinating to watch. It’s something different grounded in the familiar.