“Creep” finds Mark Duplass (“Safety Not Guaranteed,” “The One I Love”) and buddy Patrick Brice with a spare weekend, a digital camera, and a scary premise. Okay, it wasn’t nearly that simple – Brice and Duplass worked on the film for over a year – but this fusion of found footage horror and mumblecore dialogue is as close as we could hope to get to seeing what a few talented filmmakers would cook up with a few weeks to spare between projects.
Duplass hooked up with Brice after seeing his short doc “Maurice” which examined the last operating porno theater in Paris. Together, the two wrote a ten-page outline on the story of Aaron (played by Brice), a videographer who agrees to shoot a vague, one-day project in a remote town for a welcoming but off-putting man (played by Duplass). They began shooting a few scenes at a time to test in front of audiences and found as they assembled the project that they were building a horror film.
And as a piece of found footage horror, “Creep” is refreshingly logical and features some of the most organic jump scares and sound logic since “The Blair Witch Project.” The title of the film puts a presumption in the audience’s head before they even buy their ticket. As the film is presented from the point of view of Aaron’s camera, we’re tightly linked to his emotional point of view. And with that title in the back of our heads, we question with Aaron whether entering a strange man’s cabin in the woods is a very good idea.
Before things get creepy, though, and even after they do, this thing is hilarious. This is my favorite Duplass performance yet and it’ll probably be yours, too. We meet his character as someone we’re familiar with – someone that makes sense for his real-life personality and look – and slowly teases whether everything he says and does is authentic. There’s just no looking at him the same way again.
Duplass worked in this space with 2008’s “Baghead,” but Brice, the film’s director, adds a more conventional momentum to the film and lends it broad appeal. Blumhouse Productions (“Paranormal Activity”) picked up “Creep” for U.S. distribution, but according to Duplass, by the time you see the first film, a full trilogy will be shot with all three films releasing in 2015.
The story could ultimately go to more interesting places in its final act, but if this is the new standard for found footage we’re in a far better place than we were this time last year. Stick around during the credits for an original song that sums up the mood of the whole film, and bring on “Creep 2.”
7 out of 10 pointsReturn to CIFF 2014 Coverage
Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass