Every week, the folks at iTunes find a movie they like and make it available to rent for the low, low price of $0.99. I’m here to tell you whether that film is worth your hard earned dollar.
This week, iTunes takes you on a trip through space and time in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic, Interstellar, one of my favorite films last year. Standing among the great sci-fi films in history, it was also reviewed by Geek Insider just a couple of weeks ago. Interstellar is an absolute steal at $0.99 and you’re a sucker if you don’t check it out…even if it’s a second or third screening.
Now, if you’re in the mood for something a little more earthbound, iTunes also offers up a little seen indie for the same low price of $0.99. This week features Creep, an edgy found-footage thriller that pits the wits of a cameraman-for-hire against that of a pathological lunatic. Warning to viewers: take your Dramamine before watching this one-trick mood fest.
Discretion Is Appreciated
Creep opens with that cameraman, Aaron (Co-writer/Director Patrick Brice), in transit to a videography gig he booked online. The ambiguous booking comes with the ominous disclaimer, “discretion is appreciated.” It’s shady as hell, but it pays $1,000. The struggling artist is happy to dwell in ambiguity at that price. He even constructs an intricate fantasy where he becomes the willing slave to a lovely, lonely middle-aged woman. Of course, fantasies are usually too good to be true.
Aaron faces his first dilemma when he arrives at his location…a cabin in the woods. Yep, this is all gonna be just fine. The slightly jovial mood that opens Creep shifts into murkier territory as Aaron gazes at a shiny axe sticking out of a tree stump (note: foreshadowing is only fun if you don’t chop the viewers head off with it). Aaron’s gaze is broken when he meets Josef (Mark Duplass who is just turning up in everything lately), the man behind the ad. But it may not be as bad as it seems. Suffering from terminal cancer, Josef only wants Aaron to film him for the day so he can pass some life-lessons on to his unborn son. Just like Michael Keaton in My Life (1993). It doesn’t exactly hurt that Josef pays up front.
The day turns with Josef’s erratic behavior and shifting moods. Secrets, lies, and one seriously freaky wolf-mask abound as Creep powers through a taut, frustratingly unfocused 82 minute runtime. The refreshingly simple setup (and occasionally clever storytelling) rapidly devolves into a silly story rife with evil-mugging and preposterously poor decision making.
This Is Going to Be a Great Day
Originally conceived as a comedy, Brice and Duplass didn’t realize how creepy their setup was until after they started shooting. Creep may have been more effective as a comedy. Duplass has always possessed a natural charm and crackerjack comedic timing. His Josef commands the shaky, handheld camera with ease and at times, he’s really funny. When he’s not being all dark and mysterious. Along with Josef, Creep shifts from fun to creepy to downright ridiculous at a pace that will make your head spin.
Sometimes that spinning almost works. You can’t help but laugh a little as Josef asks Aaron to film his “tubby time” (where he gives his unborn son a bath). The chuckles subside quickly as the scene veers into un-watchably eerie territory. But then it’s right back to funny and that eerie mood is tragically wasted. This happens all throughout Creep. Brice and Duplass build to a handful of unnervingly vivid moments but waste them with even stranger bouts of humor. The lack of focus keeps you at arms length, even when you find yourself wanting to settle into the twisty story. And that’s what makes Creep so frustrating. It’s just weird enough and Duplass is just charming enough that I found myself wanting to like it. But then I couldn’t.
I Don’t Know Exactly What I’m Going to Do
With Creep and his recent film The Overnight (2015), Brice has shown potential as a director. As an actor, he brings absolutely nothing to the table. His performance is as boring as it is unmotivated and may go down as the least engaging in cinema history. Brice’s lack of charisma is where Creep is undone. It’s a found-footage film and Aaron is the cameraman. The entire story is seen through the lens of his character. If there’s an emotional investment in Creep, it needs to be in him. We learn that Aaron has an ex-girlfriend, but that means nothing. We learn he used to wet his pants, but that means nothing. Brice hints at more, but it all adds up to zero. In the end, we just don’t have any reason to care what happens to the guy.
It’s hardly fair to pin so much of Creep‘s failure on a single performance. Its biggest foe may be its own found-footage style. The barebones nature of the genre should lend itself to engrossing human drama. Short of the occasional gem like Cloverfield (2008) or Troll Hunter (2010), this never happens. Too often, found-footage films dissolve into over-stylized disasters. Story becomes irrelevant and characters become caricatures. Unfortunately, that’s the case for Creep. All style and no substance…or common sense for that matter. The ending of Creep is so implausible that I cannot imagine a real-world scenario where it would actually happen. It’s that ridiculous…even if the scene itself is devastating in effect.
Sadly, no. Creep is not worth your $0.99. It’s not even worth pulling up on Netflix (where it is currently available to stream). Skip this one altogether. If you’re in the market for something kooky and creepy, check out a little film called Baghead (2008). Co-Directed by Duplass with his brother Jay (and featuring the fabulous Greta Gerwig), Baghead is a delightfully unsettling little film that flawlessly blends real horror with real laughs. It’s everything Creep wants to be…and you can rent it for just $3.99