Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Writers: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Director: Patrick Brice
Review by: Vincent Daemon
*Note: Currently, dear readers, VINCENT’S VILE VIDEO VAULT (and everything else) has been in the process of a move, so I do apologize for the appalling lack of recent reviews on my part. Once I’m fully moved-in and settled, over the next two weeks or so, expect to see a lot more here in the VAULT. I do thank you for your patience - - - now, onto the review, shall we?
It was after a long day of packing and running around, last week sometime, when I found myself with a couple of extra hours to burn under my belt. So I popped on the Netflix and started to search around, noticing they had added some new materials to their (often disappointing) streaming catalog. I was looking for something odd, a little different, and boy did I find it. One of the first films I saw under their “Recently Added Recommendations For Vincent” was something called CREEP (and not the entertainingly bizarre splatter film of the same name from 2004, starring the [then] stunningly attractive Franka Potente, as a self-absorbed socialite sporting platinum blonde hair, a bitchy attitude, gore stains, and plenty of general below-the-London-tubes-sewer-filth while being chased by the deformed, mad, and diseased “Craig” - - - a film I think I actually reviewed here at Gorehound Mike’s a couple of years back, and do recommend as well).
So upon noticing this film I got what I call “the Vibe”: I’d found what I was looking for. I’d never heard of it, and read Netflix’s typical, shatteringly inaccurate two sentence overview, and glanced at a couple of the company’s viewer reviews, mostly all one star reviews (and a boatload of dunderheads saying nothing more than “I didn’t get it” or “Iiiit stinks!” as though they were Jay Sherman - - - someone somewhere should get that, ‘specially round this neck o'the woods) - - - essentially a series of poorly grammared, rampant ADD-ism complaints. Apparently if a horror film isn’t packed wall to wall with shitty CGI gore, zombies, or explosions, not very many seem to the attention spans for something like this.
Something deep down told me I’d found my film. Also, I might add, it is a first-person p.o.v. film (ie: shaky cam/mockumentary), a genre that, as I’ve mentioned before, I really enjoy, when done right (screw you “Paranormal Activity” franchise, and even “Blair Witch Project,” for the record). I mention this now as a Caveat, of corpse, as I know there are a great number of people who do not like the genre - - - but to pass this film up you’d only be cheating yourself.
CREEP is the not-so-simple tale of a man in his mid 30’s or so, a hipster type named Aaron, direly in need of money, who answers a Craigslist ad (I do wonder if that was an odd homage or recognition of the 2004 cheeseball, yet still moderately unnerving gorefest I mentioned above, or just a fitting coincidence) to videograph a day in the life of Josef (performed in a seriously creepy, convincing manner by Mark Duplass), an individual Aaron knows nothing about, but to whom Josef has offered $1,000 for this seemingly simple job - - - a mere eight hours of his time.
As Aaron drives his piss-yellow VW Bug (similar to Ted Bundy’s, interestingly enough) to what seems the farthest reaches of the middle of nowhere, the deep woods, he films the the trip, himself babbling nonsense into his camera, hoping that it’s really a lonely hot broad in her mid 40’s, who wants to do nothing but give him money and body rubs while whispering sweet nothings in his ear. Upon reaching the mansion-esque cabin, he makes his way to the door, knocks, rings the bell, waits, calls Josef only to receive not even a voicemail. So he begins filming around the yard, from this high-hill deck porch view, and sees nothing but a very large axe buried deep in a tree stump. Unnerved, Aaron goes back to his car, figuring he’ll be more comfortable waiting there, but is expecting a no-show when BANG! Josef appears out of nowhere, slamming the car window and bellowing “Hey Buddy!” essentially scaring the everliving fuck out of Aaron. Apparently Josef was jogging and lost track of time. That’s his claim, anyway.
Their initial meeting is awkward, as Josef is a weirdly skittery “hugger,” demanding an instant hug, claiming it’ll be normal by the end of the day. So back up the hill they climb and into Josef’s cabin. Insisting they not waste a second of time, they start recording immediately. Josef quite casually explains how he was a severe-cancer survivor, after a long bout of chemo treatments. He then goes on to explain that after some time, he started to have dizzy spells and some “cognitive misfires,” which he giggles about. But then explains that he and his wife of six years, Angela, are expecting a child. However, Josef’s dizzy spells, he goes on to explain, are the return of the cancer, only this time in the brain. A tumor the size of a softball, he says, was recently found deep in his head, inoperable, and he’s only got 2-3 months to live. So this day is about making a video diary for his child (which he calls Buddy, and refers to as an “it”), Josef saying he got the idea from what he considers the greatest film ever made: “My Life,” wherein Michael Keaton plays a man who comes down with terminal cancer just as his wife becomes pregnant with their first child. Josef wants to do the same for his, since he is fairly certain he’ll be dead by the time his son is born. Now he’s won over Aaron almost completely.
Then Josef says he needs to grab a bath before they go for a hike. He then implores Aaron to come with him and film that as well. Aaron is obviously not entirely comfortable with the idea, but agrees to do so. From this point on, the film grows into an evermore uncomfortable rollercoaster ride into psychopathy and madness. Aaron has indeed taken a strange bait, and is one who has trouble saying “no,” regardless of what his gut tells him.
As Josef disrobes his strange spandex joggers suit (replete with a zip-up ass crack pocket) right before the camera quite shamelessly, he explains how he is going to re-enact something called “Tubby Time,” a “special bathtime” between he and his father from when he was a child. Mark Duplass hits heights of creepiness and sends tendrils of awkward right through the screen as he plays out this bizarrely arranged scene of infantilism. First he picks up an imaginary “Buddy,” and proceeds to play with the invisible baby. Odd allusions to much worse things hiding behind the rapidly cracking fissures in Josef’s Mask of Sanity begin sluicing out. Things like cannibalism, infant waterboarding (once he takes up the washrag as “Buddy”), and a sickly fascination with fire (the tub is surrounded with candles, and Josef makes a particularly eerie observation about fire to the “Buddy” rag). “Tubby Time” sounds awful, and the way it’s shot, performed, and even directed ( I do masses of improv here, and throughout the entire film in fact, done both randomly and successfully, something difficult to pull off), it will bother you.
Almost immediately after the hellish discomfort of “Tubby Time” (it really is that horrible), and a series of deliberate and effective “jump scares” (“Oh I’m sorry, I’m sorry, that’s just something I do” Josef incessantly, laughingly reminds Aaron, somehow making each one that much worse, the filmmakers obviously having a lot of surreal fun with the classically over and often ill used horror trope in the process - - - in fact using it not without an actual point, but I won’t give that away). I’ve actually watched this 3 times in the past week, shown it to two other friends who both loved it, one of which watched it their second time while I watched it my third. But I digress.
Before Josef takes Aaron for a “mystical” hike, he suggests that Aaron grab something warm from the closet, “as it get chilly up there.” Enter now Peachfuzz, introduced during another successful round of Josef’s back to back successions of random awkwardness and jump scares. What is Peachfuzz? Peachfuzz is an horrific werewolf mask, which Josef proceeds to don, and upon doing belts into a truly monstrous song about eating children. It’s yet another routine that Josef’s father used to subject this poor bastard to as a child. And once you hear the tune, it will never leave the echoey catacombs of your own psyche. It’s a truly disturbing little performance and jingle. Much like the film as a whole.
From this point on the film only increases in its slow burning tension as the humor slowly fades out into a genuinely nasty situation. In fact it crosswires slowly the downpay of the initial humor and quirkiness, into a viscous (yes, I wrote viscous, not vicious, though make no mistake, by the film’s end it manages to achieve an unease within the viewer that few films manage to achieve on this particular level), disorienting scenario of absolute, stark terror.
CREEP is a film that requires one’s full attention. Every detail needs to be noticed, every line of dialogue paid attention to quite carefully. I’ve checked some other reviews (after I initially watched the film) that did nothing but lambaste the flick for “being too slow.” It’s meant to be, that is deliberate. Aaron wants out of Josef’s world more than anything else, but keeps taking that strange bait. By the time the real ugliness begins to start it’s much later than the initial eight hour day Aaron was paid for. And he doesn’t want any more money, or the drink eventually forced upon him (even though Aaron does make every bad decision in the book, seemingly of his own free will, he’s actually caught in the derangement of Josef’s paradoxical double-speak, repeatedly wearing down this kind-hearted hipster doofus). Aaron thinks his quick appeasement to Josef’s whims for a final drink while the full moon is out will expediate the process of getting the hell out of there - - - but he is wrong - - - he just wants to go home. Once he realises that his car keys are suddenly AWOL, it occurs to him he is in a very, very bad situation.
The film even tricks you into believing it over on several different occasions. Once Aaron has managed escape from a horny, frightening, rampaging Peachfuzz, he can’t find safety or security, even in his own home. Grotesque nightmares plague him; DVD’s and other strange, cryptic packages arrive from Josef for Aaron, who even up until very close to the actual end of the film, being fully aware that Josef lied (and then some), pretty much about most likely everything, still manages to feel bad for the guy, and goes to meet him at an open park so Josef can have the closure he claims he needs. The lure of the psychopath.
This is Patrick Brice’s full length debut, and I think a hell of a strong one at that. With only the two actors, a very small smattering of locations, no musical accompaniment, and no sfx even really to speak of, Patrick Brice has managed to create something truly unique. I see a lot of promise in this feature, and hope Brice continues to deliver. As writers, it seems they did their homework on true psychopathy, as well as various other disorders, to create what is essentially a werewolf movie unlike any you’ve ever seen before. Psychologically, this treads in some deep, dark waters. And I’ve still barely told you anything about the film. CREEP comes with my highest recommendations. Catch it on Netflix, get it from a Red Box, or however you get your horror fix. No matter how you choose to do so, see this movie.
Thanks for reading.