As a freelance entertainment professional, I absolutely love indie filmmakers, producers and writers. So, I naturally gravitate towards these films and love when I stumble on the likes of Creep, either via Netflix or Amazon.
Most freelancers can relate to searching the web, i.e., Craigslist, mandy.com or Upwork (formerly eLance), to earn a little extra cash. So, when videographer Aaron (Patrick Brice) sees a filming opportunity to earn a grand for the day (which isn’t bad at all, by the way), he jumps on it, especially since he’s low on dough.
Initially, Aaron hopes that the ad he’s responding to is for some hot and lonely cougar-MILF “for rub downs” or just “company.” But, he soon learns how mistaken he really is after driving to a remote cabin in the woods. Arriving at the cabin, he calls the number provided to him but there’s no answer. He knocks on the door, but once again, no one seems to be home. Looking around, he eyes an ax sticking out of a nearby tree trunk, and as if the foreshadowing is an uncomfortable clue of what lies ahead, Aaron proceeds to wait in his car.
Out of nowhere pops up Josef (Mark Duplass) at the driver’s side window, scaring the daylights out of Aaron. Josef then compliments Aaron saying that he’s got a “really nice, kind face,” and then says he wishes to “get this out of the way” and gives Aaron a nice, burly frontal hug. Now, this is an odd first meeting.
At first, Aaron tries to keep an open mind regarding the odd Josef because hey, cash is cash. Shot similarly to The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, Creep takes the audience on a simple two-character (minus an off-screen phone conversation), hand-held, moc-umentary journey in which Aaron and the audience undertake a schizophrenic journey that veers from off-beat to straight up creepy, as the title suggests.
Josef comes across as a heroic survivor, between showing Aaron weird hand-painted bear pictures hung on the wall; he confides that he’s a cancer survivor. Apparently, the cancer started in the liver and spread to the lungs. But of course after chemotherapy, he “knocked it out” as in beat the cancer into remission, and he then goes on to tell Aaron that his heroic journey of survival doesn’t end there.
He apparently started having dizzy spells, and doctors discovered a brain tumor (the size of a baseball) and that he supposedly only has two to three months left to live. Josef claims he hopes to beat it with “the power of positive thinking.” But in case he doesn’t, he wants to film a video diary for his soon-to-be-born son “Buddy,” taking a page from Michael Keaton’s character Bob Jones in My Life. When he’s stricken with cancer similarly only having a few months left to live. It’s truly laughable.
Creep has created its own genre, blending horror with comedy, a “horr-omedy,” if you will. I’ve watched the movie twice now, once for enjoyment and the second for the sake of this article, and it’s continuing to grow on me. Josef starts to really show his bizarreness about 10 minutes into the film when he strips naked and makes Aaron film him in the tub “air-bathing” with Buddy, his imaginary baby-to-be. In this one scene, Duplass hits a comedic stride only to turn on a dime and make it uncomfortably sinister when he holds his breath under water, claiming that he can kill himself at any time. Suddenly, he springs up out of the water laughing and claiming it was only a joke, and scaring the crap out of Aaron – and the audience – once again. Something’s just not right with this Josef guy.
We are then introduced to a scary looking wolf mask in the closet. Josef puts it on and starts dancing around the cabin. Definitely odd. You get the sense that the mask will be introduced later in the movie. Next, Aaron follows Josef through the woods on a fearful adventure in search of a fountain of youth to help cure Josef of his cancer. Josef starts to up the playful antics, running off out of Aaron’s line of site as they hike through the wilderness, all while Aaron continues to roll the camera, only to scare the crap out of him once again. Dangerously so, Josef climbs to the very edge of a cliff to point out a rock shaped out of a heart considering it a “miracle” and that “only the pure of hearts can be healed.” He then strangely draws a heart and then writes “J + A” inside the heart.
After their hike in the woods, they go to have lunch at a diner, where Josef convinces Aaron to confess his most shameful moment in his life. Aaron talks about how he used to constantly piss himself when he was a kid. When it’s his turn, Josef shows Aaron pictures he took of him when he initially tried to ring the door and no one would answer. Definitely signs of someone who could become a stalker. When asked, Josef said he didn’t know why he did it and that he only wanted to get to know Aaron better. This is when Aaron really wants to leave and Josef suckers him into drinking some whisky and goes on to morbidly talk about how he had raped his wife. Aaron suddenly is unable to find the keys to his car, so he’s forced to stay the night.
This is when things get even more interesting. I won’t say more because I don’t want to completely give away the story. Just know that I am highly impressed that Brice directed it and co-wrote the screenplay with Duplass. Creep is a mere 77 minutes in length with only six locations: the car, the cabin, the woods, the diner, Aaron’s apartment and a park. It’s genius in its simplicity. And the ending doesn’t disappoint, either.
I highly recommend it if you have Netflix or Amazon. The movie was simply yet professionally executed and the storyline was spot on despite the obvious low-budget. There wasn’t anything overly complex about the plot other than how it portrayed a mad man and how the movie merged horror and comedy in a unique and innovative way despite the cookie-cutter formulas that are currently so prevalent.