The title says it all: Creep is creepy. Written, directed and starring Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass, this 2014 film is unexpectedly chilling. Aaron (Brice) is a freelance videographer and Josef (Duplass) is a Craigslist user who hires Aaron to film him for a day. I stumbled upon this movie myself while browsing Netflix and didn’t expect much, but was blown away by just how subtly unnerving this movie was. Creep is the underrated horror movie you need to see this Halloween season (Minor spoilers ahead).
One of the factors that makes this movie so unnerving is the “realness” of the plot and cinematography. The movie is filmed “found footage” style, which I admittedly tend to disregard occasionally, but the context provided makes this feel natural. This style of shooting also creates intimacy and empathy between the audience and Aaron. Right from the beginning, we feel uneasy with Josef’s behavior, unable to place exactly what makes him just so…creepy. We also begin to feel frustrated with Aaron’s apparent ignorance or willingness to accept all of these red flags. At the same time, we can understand that Aaron is just trying to complete a job, get paid, and go home (no matter how weird this guy is). We can tell that Josef poses some kind of threat to Aaron, but not even we can figure out exactly what it is or why. The movie is constantly giving us mixed signals, making us think we have this weirdo figured out just as he does something even stranger and more unexpected. There are also a ton of moments where you think you’ve figured out an action occurring off screen, only for the camera to pan and reveal that things are, again, not what they seem.
These “mixed signals” are produced by the abundance of subtlety in this film. The villain is a psychopath, but a discreet one (to a degree). Many times when we’re introduced to a psychopathic villain in a horror movie, it’s glaringly obvious that this person is supposed to be a “psycho killer”. They’re yelling, staring, violent, restrained, or have some other clear indication of danger and instability. The character of Josef is far more reserved in his initial presentation of psychotic behavior. We begin to feel largely uncomfortable with him, for example his odd behavior in the bathroom in the beginning of the film. This movie constantly has us in the position of Aaron, trying to determine if the actions of Josef are grounds for quitting the job. For example, Josef tries to jump out and scare Aaron a few times when Aaron first arrives at his house, which is unsettling but not exactly grounds for leaving. After all, Josef laughs and apologises each time. Later in the film, Josef pulls the same “prank”, but to a slightly worse degree, this time running into the woods and making Aaron follow him before jumping out. This is followed by some unsettling, vaguely threatening dialogue from Josef. This trend of actions (beginning innocent and becoming horrific) is presented several times, also appearing in symbols such as the wolf costume.
The camera angles were chosen carefully and the dialogue performed precisely to increase suspense and intensity. Yet, the cinematography and acting still feels incredibly natural. You get the sense that you’re watching something you shouldn’t be. Like you actually have found this footage and might be next. Creep provides intense and unexpected elements of paranoia that will leave you looking over your shoulder for days. ♦