The engine that drives most fiction – be it drama, comedy, or horror – must surely be normality. To be more precise, at what point a character will react to what is not normal.
When something is off about a conversation, a person, or a situation, at what point does your own internal safety alarm override societal politeness and force you to get the hell out of there?
What Is Creep About?
So is the dilemma facing Aaron (Patrick Brice) as he drives deep into the mountains in response to an online ad to spend 8 hours filming Josef (Mark Duplass, The Morning Show) in exchange for $1,000.
Creep, released in 2014, takes this simple set-up and niggles away at Aaron’s commitment as his client’s behaviour treks further and further away from the path of normality.
Due to a terminal brain tumour diagnosis, Josef instructs Aaron that the job is to record his minute-by-minute actions for posterity for his as of yet unborn son. Aaron’s video camera presents the movie via the found footage method: a style that constantly lends itself so well to horror as a genre.
Large chunks focus on Josef as his behaviour skews further from centre, leaving both the unseen Aaron and ourselves to draw breath and try to process how to respond.
Brice, who also writes and directs, brings in his movie at a lean 77 minutes. As it is driven by conversations more than set pieces, Creep ensures that the awkward and off interactions drive forward your sense of unease as various ‘Chekhov’s gun’ clues are liberally sprinkled about the place.
Duplass excellently embodies those qualities that are less ‘red’ and more ‘yellow’ flag type behaviour: the kinds of things you can explain away in isolation.
He overshares, he is overly friendly, his jokes are all unwanted, he operates on the knowledge that it is easier to just go with it rather than challenge him. Duplass presents a difficult to argue with persona that will be familiar to all and sundry.
Is Creep Worth Watching?
Creep suffers a little from the typical found footage problem. You can’t help but ask yourself why Aaron continues filming in certain situations where a few lines of dialogue could have at least given an excuse.
The movie also hobbles its own pace in the last 20 minutes as the setting shifts and effectively resets the tension.
Brice mitigates such points with excellent use of lighting and shot composition throughout. Even with the simplified tools that found footage provides, he ensures that Duplass is lit in such a way as to subconsciously undercut the credibility of what he says and that the camera can spot things that Aaron doesn’t.
Thankfully he also imbues Creep with a believable conclusion despite a strong case of me shouting ‘DON’T DO THAT!’ at the screen.
Creep is a tight bite of a movie that plays on the simple fear of how to extricate yourself from an increasingly precarious situation.
It has little in the way of big scares or moments but instead creeps insidiously into your discomfort. At 77 minutes, it is worth the squirm.
Words by Mike Record