Creep (2014) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween
Looking for work, Aaron comes across a cryptic online ad: “$1,000 for the day. Filming service. Discretion is appreciated.” Low on cash and full of naiveté, he decides to go for it. He drives to a cabin in a remote mountain town where he meets Josef, his cinematic subject for the day. Josef is sincere and the project seems heartfelt, so Aaron begins to film. But as the day goes on, it becomes clear that Josef is not who he says, and his intentions are not at all pure.
Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are deep into our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature now. The 31st is drawing ever closer and that means we are getting into our final run of reviews. Today we have another found footage horror movie for you with Patrick Brice’s fantastic Creep from 2014. Now I know what you must be thinking; that’s an awful lot of found footage for one 31 days of Halloween list. And you would be right.
It’s actually quite embarrassing just how many of these movies I enjoy. We have The Tunnel, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Grave Encounters, and now this as well. And we are only up to day 17. Does this speak more to my love of the much maligned horror sub genre or just how many watchable found footage movies are out there? I don’t know but Creep is one of the best ones.
Creepy Found Footage Horror
Creep follows the story of videographer Aaron (Patrick Brice) as he films the last dying wishes of Josef (Mark Duplass). Josef is a cancer sufferer and placed an ad for a person to spend a day with him to record his thoughts and feelings. Needing the cash, Aaron applied and was successful. It isn’t long, however, before he begins questioning the strange behaviour of the man and his motivations for placing the ad.
Much like a movie we reviewed earlier in the month, A Dark Song, Creep approaches horror in a rather unique way. Constructing a story that consists of only two people and building a narrative through their interactions. We have the eccentric Josef, played fantastically by Mark Duplass, and the rather more reserved Aaron. The contrasting personalities play off of each other to create an unending sense of tension and unease.
An Impressive Achievement
Josef seems sympathetic at first and it is easy to buy into his motivations for hiring Aaron. Aaron acts as something of an avatar for the viewer. Reacting as the viewer might and projecting the sense of unease that the viewer might feel. As the movie goes on, Josef’s behaviour becomes more bizarre and more unsettling. Further rattling Aaron and continually making him question just why Josef wanted him there in the first place.
The interactions are organic and consistently interesting. Which is made all the more impressive by the fact that the vast majority of Creep was improvised and unscripted. This is pretty common in found footage, with the brilliant Exhibit A being one of my favourite examples of retro scripting.
But in Creep it feels all the more impressive due to the limited characters and conversation based focus. Duplass and Price put this movie together with a five page outline before filming improvised scenes in Crestline, California and showing them to friends. The comedy focus of the story was pushed to the background and the psychological horror elements brought forward. The result is one of the most effective found footage horror movies in years.
Realistic and Unsettling
Price and Duplass go out of their way to make what happens here feel as realistic as possible. Despite Creep obviously not being real and not being based on a true story. The places the pair visit are real, including the amazing Heart Rock which is found on Heart Rock Trail in San Bernardino National Forest, their interactions are organic and the approach to horror is utterly believable. Acting is a serious cut above most found footage with Price and Duplass both doing a fantastic job, Duplass in particular.
It doesn’t go out of its way to scare you with outlandish silliness. Creep just keeps the feelings of unease going and scares you with entirely simple but completely effective set pieces. There are a couple of jump scares here that land fairly well but the real star of the show is Josef’s terrifying mask Peach Fuzz.
I don’t know how a simple prop purchased from a Halloween store manages to be so effective but it really is. The first appearance of Peach Fuzz is fairly timid. But when he makes a return later in the movie, it genuinely stays with you. It strikes that perfect note in your brain that makes you question what the hell is about to happen. In my opinion, it is one of the most unnerving scenes in found footage horror history; despite its relative innocuousness.
Probably Not For Everyone
Naturally the movie falls to some of the more typical Found Footage horror pitfalls. There are times that you are going to be wondering why the camera is even on in the first place. Some of the shots are a little awkward and a few interactions seem redundant. But Creep manages to rise above many of these issues.
It could be argued that there is a lot of build up to limited pay off here. The end result might be disappointing to some and Josef might not prove to be as fascinating a character as you might initially think. Despite an incredibly affecting final scene, Creep doesn’t quite live up to what it hints at. Something that a lot of found footage movies are guilty of, even the good ones.
To play devil’s advocate. My fiancee really doesn’t like this movie; it is one of the few horror films we disagree on. She finds Josef to be a less than compelling character, disagrees with me squarely on how creepy Peach Fuzz is and thinks the movie has a lot of build up for little payoff. She is, typically, a fan of slow build horror but finds Creep to not have enough substance to justify the glacial pace. Proof that the movie won’t land with everyone.
Final Thoughts and Score
Creep is a slow moving, realistic, and oftentimes quite comical psychological horror movie. Duplass and Price have created a truly iconic character in Josef and Peach Fuzz is nightmare fuel; at least for me anyway. It’s not going to land for everyone and it falls victim to some of the usual found footage pitfalls. But if you are looking for intense, character driven horror with amazing performances and a completely unique plot. Creep should be up there on your October Halloween horror viewing list.