Having hawked his filmmaking skills on Craigslist, Aaron (cowriter/director Patrick Brice) arrives at a remote cabin in the woods to meet Josef (cowriter Mark Duplass, "The One I Love"), a man who is dying from an unspecified illness. He's hired Aaron to make a video diary for his unborn son, but soon Aaron will begin to question why he's really there, his client uncomfortably close to being a "Creep."
With his Sundance hit "The Overnight" opening in theaters, Patrick Brice's first film is being released the following week on iTunes. Those who enjoyed his second, a comedy, will be surprised to see how much of it exists in his first, a found footage horror film. It's as if Brice followed the same template in different genres and, remarkably, both work on their own merits.
As Aaron drives towards Josef's home in Crestline, he records the view as he talks to himself. Once he reaches the address, we discover no ordinary house (similarity number 2, the first being that he's paying a visit to someone who has what he wants/needs), a vacation retreat reached by an imposing, switchbacked staircase. No one appears to be home, so Aaron decides to wait in his car. Suddenly Josef appears right at his window, apparently from out of nowhere, startling him, a childish MO Josef will repeat throughout the day. Inside the home, Aaron notes paintings (similarity #3) of bears which Josef says he created with his dad.
The very first place Josef asks Aaron to film him is in the bathroom, where he casually disrobes (similarity #4) to enjoy a game of 'tubbies' with his imaginary child. Things continue to escalate, Josef, like the director himself, continually doing creepy things only to pull back with apologies and explanations. An oversized, snarling wolf's head mask which Josef calls Peachfuzz is the very embodiment of his behavior (as well as being an homage of sorts to Duplass's own early film "Baghead").
Josef asks Aaron to accompany him on a hike out to a secret, heart-shaped healing spring he's heard about from a Spanish woman and just when Aaron realizes neither has tracked their route, they find it. Tensions seem to subside but that heart will continue to bind them. But back at the house when Aaron attempts to leave, Josef's insistent that he stay (#5) for a celebratory whiskey. The drink appears to loosen Josef's tongue for yet another deeply uncomfortable confession. When Aaron, who cannot find his keys, answers the ringing phone on Josef's passed out body, all his fears will be confirmed.
Brice keeps his participation in front of the camera to a minimum, his conversational replies from behind it made in as few words as possible. He's our POV to the weirdness that is Josef and Duplass makes him a very disconcerting individual indeed, one who can terrify or alarm in one moment and engender sympathy in the next, his facial expression unchanged. The menace, or lack thereof, is all in his eyes.
Also like his second film, Brice creates numerous spaces with limited locations, two homes and a park. His third act again features a character who deems themselves an actor sharing his 'performance' via DVD. The only downside to all this is that "Creep 2" and "Creep 3" are listed on Brice's IMDB page as 'in development,' making us question how many ideas this economical and talented filmmaker has. If his first two films are evidence, he should surprise us.
Robin also gives "Creep" a B.
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