Friday, August 14, 2015
Creep (2014) Movie Thoughts
Driving up a mountainous road, looking forward to a quick 1,000 dollars based on an ad, videographer, Aaron finds the lonely cabin, and quickly is surprised to meet the instantly quirky, Josef. Upon the first few minutes of meeting the uncommonly friendly host, it's established that the day's work will consist of following him as he wishes to create a parting video for his unborn son. You see, Josef discloses that after a long battle with cancer, this latest onslaught seems terminal, and to leave something for his wife and child to remember him by is the order of the day. Only, as the day grows on, Josef's behavior becomes increasingly strange, and the clearly unsettled Aaron finds himself (and the audience) captive to not only the most primal of fears, but possibly even his own conscience. Part Duplass Brothers comedy, part found footage freak-fest, Creep plays like a mostly well-executed prank complete with some of the most disquieting moments in horror I have experienced in a spell.
True to these statements, the piece feels like an examination of not only this pair of characters as motivations are questioned, but of the line between uncomfortable comedy and deep disturbance. As we assume the role of the constantly filming Aaron, we are witness to Josef's strange, often friendly sounding attempts to maintain a facade, and it becomes a game of when that final show will drop like a block of lead. Early on, we are introduced to a wolf motif that will find itself echoing throughout as if the film is completely willing to let us all in on the gag. As in just about all found-footage pieces, we become voyeur, and find ourselves at the mercy of the cameraperson's own demeanor. And in the case of Creep, it is of a lead that is clearly in this situation out of his control. Expectations are played with like a dangling mouse in a cat's claw, as Aaron begins making decisions that border on forcing the story, but it's also hard to completely blame him as the story unfolding exposes that perhaps he too harbors skeletons that render him an ideal counterpoint to Josef's increasingly erratic actions. At some points it becomes hard to tell who is being more deceptive.
One of Creep's biggest arrows in its quiver though, is the intimate casting and performances between Duplass and Brice, who apparently improvised the entire film. There is a constant thread of unreliable storytelling between the two men, that it becomes unbearable with how much the truth seems desperate to get out(even if perhaps we don't really want to know). Duplass' Josef, is something of a revelation here, as a man who clearly is suffering from something beyond the tumor he speaks of. He never wavers in his ability to get beneath the skin, and stay there. And Brice's straight man aura becomes an effective barometer for each scene he tries desperately to get out, paycheck be damned.
For a film of even this format, it is easily one of the most minimal outside of the original Paranormal Activity, where there is so very little to see, but the dread thickens to a handsome degree. And while the film clocks in at an incredibly lean 82 minutes, the balancing act between laughter and jitters almost hits an imbalance during the last third. Even so, the performances and sheer minimalism of the whole makes for one of the more effective uses of the verité format in some time. Brice does a fairly sharp job of making it all feel very much in the real world for a great majority. And as the often clueless Aaron, he makes for a mostly understandable worm on a hook. And as such, one can easily conjure mental images of festival audiences taking some real theater escape route scanning during screenings. When one isn't giggling at the absurd eerieness, one couldn't be blamed if they felt compelled to run out of the theater a few times. One would be hard pressed to not have experienced this at least once in their lives.