What’s the next line in that song? Oh, yeah — “what the hell am I doing here?”
Spoiler alert : I kinda wondered that myself for the last two minutes or so of Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass’s 2014 indie horror (now streaming on Netflix even before it hits Blu-ray and DVD) Creep, but that was only after thoroughly digging the first 80-or-so minutes a lot more.
Yes, folks, we’re back on the “found footage” train here, and with a distinctly limited cast of characters, at that — in fact, just two. Brice (who co-wrote the script) stars as “millenial looking for a buck” freelance cameraman Aaron, while Duplass (who not only co-wrote, but directs here) is Josef, who has enticed him with a $1,000 cash offer to come to his cabin up north in order to , he says, document an average day in his life for his as-yet-unborn son or daughter to watch later —ya see, they won’t be around to watch their old man in action because he’ll be dead by the time they figure out how to work a television (which, I’m reliably informed, is at the age of about two).
Josef, even if it’s only by his own account, beat cancer once already, but the chemo has “given” him an inoperable brain tumor — which is doubly inconvenient when your wife’s pregnant, I guess — and now he finds himself with only a few months to live. Still, he’s determined to let his progeny get to know him (albeit by video proxy) even if he’ll never get to know them.
Sounds kinda touching, right? But when Josef strips naked for the camera and gets into the bathtub to re-enact something called “tubby time” that he apparently did with his own father as an infant, we get our first sign that things are gonna go off the rails here. And do they ever. Simply put, we get a pretty clear idea that Josef is one freaky customer with, by his own admission, “a fucked up sense of humor,” well before he introduces us to his lion-masked (at least I think it’s a lion — even if they’re not usually black) alter-ego, “Peachfuzz.”
Aaron survives the physically and mentally rigorous day-which-becomes-a-night (barely), but once he gets home and Josef tries to “make amends” for things going batshit crazy, well — they go even batshit crazier. A low-grade campaign of stalking ensues, that eventually wears down our protagonist to the point where he agrees to meet, one final time, with the guy who’s way too fucking desperate to be his “friend,” and — ah, but that would be telling.
Creep is definitely an unusual beast, to put it mildly, with no real violence (much less blood n’ guts) until the very end and barely even any swearing to speak of, but the bizarre homo-erotic undercurrents and profoundly, if quietly, disturbing psychodrama will be more than enough to disabuse you of the notion that you’ve turned on some cleverly-disguised “Christian horror” flick by accident. Most of the tension here — and there’s a lot of it — is very understated, but no less powerful for its low-key delivery. “Found footage” or “mockumentary” horror has its up and downs in general, of course, but here the immediacy and naturalism of the whole (admittedly overplayed) “shaky-cam” shtick work to the material’s advantage (producer Jason Blum, who released this under the auspices of his wretchedly-named “BlumHouse Tilt” sub-label, certainly having plenty of experience in the field) and you quickly come to realize why shooting this conventionally just wouldn’t work.
That ending, though — that just doesn’t/couldn’t work under any circumstances. It’s not the plot twist itself that I mind — that’s reasonably effective, even if a bit predictable in comparison to the rest of the film, which does a much better job of keeping you both guessing and consistently off-guard. But the suspension of disbelief required as Aaron sits there for an interminable length of time waiting for Josef to — ah, shit, spoilers again. Let’s just say that it really lets the side down and leave it at that.
All of which leaves your humble armchair critic here with a bit of a conundrum : did I enjoy this thing despite its ending, did I enjoy it except for its ending, or did I end up failing to enjoy it because of its ending?
That’s a question I really can’t answer right now. But I don’t think I’d be opposed to watching Creep again a few months down the road in order to form a more definitive opinion. And maybe that tells you something right there.