Patrick Brice directs, writes and stars in the 2014 horror film Creep. He wrote the screenplay with Mark Duplass, who also stars in what amounts to a two-man show. There’s a lot to like about this lean and mean found footage thriller, but it also drags in places.
The concept of Creep pulls together well in the end, particularly as the final frames make things perfectly clear. It actually renders the genre trappings compelling and moves from the psychological to the instinctive without collapsing under the weight of clichés.
Brice is Aaron, a videographer who has responded to an ad to work for Josef (Duplass). He discovers that the assignment is to film the man through the course of an average day. The catch is that Josef has terminal cancer and wants to set up a My Life-style scenario, sans Nicole Kidman.
Josef drags Aaron around from the bathtub to the middle of nowhere to a pancake restaurant. They end up back at Josef’s place and they drink whiskey. The camera is turned off (the audio is left on thanks to Aaron’s suspicion) and Josef makes an odd confession. And things only get worse from there.
Aaron begins to develop a bad feeling about Josef pretty early in the game and so does the audience, but the puzzle becomes about what exactly is going on. There is deception and there are some pretty shrewd if predictable twists and turns, with a wolf mask playing a crucial role.
The relationship between the two men forms the crux of Creep, at least at first. Aaron needs the money and that’s apparent to Josef because it takes a certain kind of individual to answer such an ad. He tries to ply the videographer with more cash.
This puts Aaron in a position of greater susceptibility, like he needs it, and represents the movie’s bent toward the psychological. There are indirect moments of manipulation between the two characters, like how Josef gets Aaron to confess something he’s ashamed of on camera.
Jump scares are used and lampooned, with Josef’s penchant for bounding into the frame sending up the genre’s go-to scare procedure. And Aaron falls for it, his kneejerk reactions creating even more unrest between employer and employee.
Unfortunately, Brice stretches things too far and Creep blows through a handful of addendum-type scenes. The strain of one terrifying evening turns into a case of stalking and the found footage conceit requires more excuses, including a roaring one in the final moments that even causes Duplass’ character to recoil in warped admiration.
But there is life at the end of the bitter highway. The closing revelation leaves the door wide open for alarming possibilities and there’s a lot to like about the sinister attitude of the whole thing.
And the performances work, with Duplass and Brice playing off the ingenuousness of two men seeking substance in a world of wolf masks, bathtubs and pancakes. Creep has a lot of the tools for an unnervingly effective psychological horror film and it generally succeeds as a piece of restless abnormality.