Creep (2014)

Creep is a movie that was written by, directed by, and starring two guys. It’s an ultra-low budget found footage movie. The movie stars Mark Duplass as the titular creep, and Patrick Brice as his unwilling playmate. Check out the trailer below, and then continue on down to check out our review of the thing, but not if you’re worried about spoilers, because we do that.

 

 
 

Don't feel like reading our long and rambling review? Try our long and rambling podcast instead!


Jake: Creep. Not you, Jack. Not this time. But the little indie movie that for some reason goes by your nickname. Other than that, what were your reasons for picking this to receive the full review treatment?

Jack: Well, jerk, I saw this movie about a year ago on Netflix, and told you to watch it so we could discuss, but you didn’t (again, jerk). I still wanted to talk to you about it, so I forced you to watch it by choosing it to review for the site. How do you like them apples?

Jake: I can’t even find a budget on the thing but I’m guessing it had to be relatively non-existent. What you have here is a horror flick that boils everything down to its most basic. It’s just two guys interacting for the duration of its 80 minute runtime. Because of the inherent simplicity, want to give a brief plot summary before we get into the deep, dark recesses of our psyche and the myriad ways this made us squirm?

Jack: Sure man, I’ll give it a shot. Josef (Mark Duplass) has hired Aaron (Patrick Brice) to film him in his remote mountain house as he records a video diary for his unborn son. Josef explains that he’s dying of cancer, and he wants his son to have some way to know him. Things get weird pretty quickly, as Josef gets more and more personal, and weirder and weirder. Eventually Aaron wants to leave, but Josef won’t let him. Aaron speaks to Josef’s sister on the phone, and she warns him that he’s in great danger. Aaron barely manages to escape, and that’s where the tone of the movie takes an abrupt turn; it really feels like 2 distinct movies, with that confrontation being the clear marker. The second half of this movie is all Josef stalking Aaron in his home and sending him various creepy items and videos, until eventually Josef axes Aaron right in the fucking head.

Jake: The two really interesting things you touched on were:

  1. The general conceit of the film: Craigslist is a fucking weird place where weird people can and do engage in some strange shit. It’s a hilarious place to browse (we really wasted our college years, man), but I’ve always had a hard time actually using it as a service. After watching this movie, I can say I’m no more likely to start.

  2. Feeling like 2 films: It definitely gives that vibe. Because the whole movie is really just two guys talking, it demands a lot from both. Add in the found footage/documentarian aspect, and it creates an interesting split where Aaron films Josef for half of it, and when Aaron leaves the mountains he becomes the subject. It’s pretty interesting.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the first half of the movie. What stood out to you here?

Jack: Peachfuzz buddy. Peachfuzz stood out. That’s the name Joseph gives to the purple wolf mask that he dons and gyrates weirdly as things start to go south. It’s a pretty freaky mask, and the way Mark Duplass uses it is pretty great. I have legitimately had nightmares about that scene where he’s in the hallway rubbing his ass against the door with the peachfuzz mask on. Horrifying.

Who me? No, don't mind this, this is normal.

Who me? No, don't mind this, this is normal.

Jake: Peachfuzz was both hilarious and terrifying. And I think it’s a good pick simply because those aforementioned feelings really describe my viewing experience of the whole damn movie. Most of the interactions between Josef and Aaron make you really uncomfortable, and it’s a testament to Duplass and Brice as actors. Everything they did was improv, so there is a natural element to the delivery of each conversation that is very, very unsettling.

Jack: Absolutely. Duplass’s performance, especially, was incredible. The movie lives and dies by his performance, and he nailed it.

Jake: For me, the real standout from the first half of the movie is very early on. It’s the tubbie scene. Holy fuck, that felt icky. Brice and Duplass knew the way they wanted to introduce Josef, and they sure as shit turned him up to 11. When you name your film ‘Creep’, the audience goes in ready for one of the characters to be a creep, so it’s really smart that the first interaction the two guys have after Josef explains the gig is for Josef to strip naked and get in a candle-lit bathtub while giving an imaginary baby a bath and making very, very strange comments.

Jack: Jesus, that tub scene. “Icky” is the right word. It’s outrageous. He’s first kind of happy, but weirdly so, then gets really depressed and things get even weirder. The whole thing is quite fucked up.

Jake: Aaron must be really down on his luck if he’s willing to stick it out after Josef’s disgusting display in the bathroom, but the real kicker is that Duplass throws just enough emotion and plausibility to his story to make feel legitimate. Granted, you damn well know it is not going to end well, but it’s the uncertainty of where Josef falls on the insane spectrum that keeps you on the edge of your seat. What else stood out to you from this part of the movie, Jack?

Jack: The whiskeys scene was pretty good. “Just a couple of guys, enjoying the evening, drinking whiskeys.” It’s weird to call Duplass’s performance subtle, but it is. Like the way he’s talking about the whiskey. It’s not overtly bizarre, but just feels off. Apart from that, we can’t move on without talking about the scene where Josef tells Aaron that he raped his wife while wearing the peachfuzz mask because he caught her looking at beastiality porn . . . So that’s a thing. And it’s made all the weirder because Aaron is surreptitiously filming at this point, so it’s just pitch black, and all we get is the sound.

Jake: So this is a dark one. Clearly, we’ve been able to establish that Josef is not a trustworthy dude but this...this is something entirely different. Let’s think ahead to the how things ultimately pan out for a second, ok? Josef gets off on toying with people and ultimately killing them. He rented this house for that purpose, so when they found the mask, it was a surprise to him as well, right? Goddamn he (Josef) has great acting chops to be able to think on his feet and build that story over the course of the night. He willingly inserts distrust into the situation in an effort to humanize himself in a really fucked up way. It’s like he’s running an advanced class on the D.E.N.N.I.S. System. Only instead of bangin’ hot chicks he’s murdering men…

 
 

Jack: Is that really that far off from what the D.E.N.N.I.S. system is about? Let’s not pretend that Dennis didn’t kill that guy and take his Phillies tickets.

Jake: With all that bullshit getting thrown around by Josef, it’s a miracle Aaron hung around as long as he did but after he’s able to escape, the movie shifts. Enter part 2, featuring Aaron documenting himself. This is the shorter, and I’d have to say weaker half of the film. With the interaction removed, we’re left with a stalker Josef sending Aaron DVD’s and creeping around like… well, like a creep.

Jack: Yeah, I completely agree that this is the weaker half of the film. It’s got some home invasion elements, but the movie’s kind of just on rails at this point: Josef is escalating and sending him weirder things, i.e. a box containing another DVD and a wolf stuffed animal and a knife which is to be used to open the wolf which in turn contained a love locket with Josef’s and Aaron’s pictures. This part also contains some stuff I didn’t like: I didn’t buy the police reaction to Aaron’s call, and Aaron makes some very stupid decisions.

Jake: I think the most remarkable part of this segment of the film is that, despite Josef being a very unstable and dangerous stalker, he still carries a genuine quality to his character that is engrossing. Each video correspondence is both deeply unsettling and kind of sad. By the time he delivers his “last video”, it’s almost heartbreaking. Duplass delivers a several minute monologue that is relatively level-headed and acknowledging of his insanity. He discusses his battles with his interpersonal issues, how he doesn't know how to solve them but wants help, and pleads with Aaron to be a friend or at least someone willing to extend a helping hand to get him some assistance as a sick and lonely man. He even offers a perfectly plausible situation to meet up. I did not expect to movie to pack that sort of situation in, especially after giving so many reasons for Aaron to not help him. It was more of a gut punch than I was expecting. So I have a question for you, Jack. Would you have gone to meet him?

Jack: I think I would have, but not in the way that Aaron does.

Jake: I would not have gone. No way. Waaaay too unstable for me to risk anything with that. But I would have felt bad for the guy.

Jack: Fair enough. I think not going’s probably the right call. But Aaron didn’t even call the fucking cops to tell them (he just claimed to “have 9-11 on speed dial”) or bring anything with which to defend himself. What the fuck? He just shows up, sets up his camera, and then sits on a park bench and doesn’t look around him even at all. To the point where Josef “sneaks” up to 3 feet behind Aaron, pulls the peachfuzz mask out of his pocket and puts it on, and then removes an axe from his trenchcoat, all without Aaron moving.

Jake: Completely agree with all that. Maybe he just has the shockingly common syndrome where he is deaf to things immediately behind him?

Jack: Sure. That’s probably it. Bottom line, these decisions by Aaron strained credulity.

Jake: It’s an idiot decision, for sure. But I have to say I was enough of a sucker for Josef’s last video to not expect him to show up with 3 foot axe and take a full swing to Aaron’s skull. I mean, it’s broad daylight in a public park in California with houses and cars all around. I guarantee there would have been a witness, and can also assure you that parking lot would have been under surveillance. So… yeah. I don’t know how Josef has managed to kill what looks like hundreds, nay thousands of men given that display. Poor showing.

Jack: Poor showing indeed. Though I did love the last jumpscare the movie tosses us. That was excellent.

Jake: Ratings?

Jack: Ratings!


RATINGS

For 1, think of how Lloyd Dobler would rate becoming a cog in the corporate machine:

 
 

For 10, think of how Qui Gon would rate Anakin’s midichlorian count:

 
 

STORY:

Jack:  7 - It’s a good story. It’s a simple story. It’s pretty unique, and doesn’t try to do too much. It’s even more minimalist because all the dialog was improv’ed, but it’s still terrific. Some minor issues with reactions to things toward the end, but still quite good.

Jake: 7.5 - Simplicity’s the name of the game here. The Craigslist conceit is a smart one because that shit is a treasure trove for potential situations just like the one Aaron gets into.

WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Jack: 8 - I got sucked into this one. You can’t take your eyes off of Duplass throughout it. I felt the creepiness coming off the screen. Top notch.

Jake: 7.5 - Duplass is fucking engrossing in this movie. He is such a believable psychopath that I may just have issues seeing him the same way ever again. The improv he and Brice chose to go with undeniably helped the believability of the interactions and the clever two-part approach to the film was a good touch. I was really enveloped in what was going on throughout.

SCARE-FACTOR:

Jack: 6 - This movie is creepy. It’s gnarly. You feel all of that, constantly. Add to that a few well-timed jumpscares (lazy though they may be), and you’ve got yourself a pretty scary movie.

Jake: 7 - I used this word earlier (and in the podcast - go listen. Do it.) to describe how this movie made me feel, and it’s still the best descriptor I’ve got. ICKY. While it’s not necessarily a terrifying movie in a traditional sense, it will make you so uncomfortable you will find yourself squirming at times. The balance of humorous (on the surface) scenarios and the dark ways in which they play out is genius because it creates a weird confusion in your brain. You aren’t sure whether to laugh or hide your eyes, and that level of discomfort is where this exceeds to an incredible degree.

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Jack: 5 - Firmly middle of the road. There’s very few actual effects, and that’s clearly because of the nearly non-existent budget. They make do pretty well with what they had, but hard to give them too many props in this department.

Jake: 4 - This is firmly in the judicious lack thereof camp, and as such, there’s really a cap for how high you can go in rating it. I’ve said it before, but there is a proper level effects for every movie/budget. Being about as low budget and indie as they come, the effects were rightly few and far between. For 95% of the film, the only real effects were the Peachfuzz prop. I take issue with the final, lingering axe scene simply because there could have been some sort of blood pool effect used. That drops this a bit from a more middling score, but the effects are just not that important in this movie.

OVERALL:

Jack: 7 - This is a good movie. Go watch it. Duplass is terrific. I really don’t have much else to say for this one. It’s good.

Jake: 7 - This movie preys on the limitless nature of a dude’s fuckedupedness in the head. And it’s a glorious descent into levels of discomfort I have not felt in quite some time. The biggest props I can give a movie after watching it is to stay that I find myself still thinking about it. After the credits rolled on Creep, I went to Youtube just to watch Duplass in other things because my brain was stuck on Josef=Duplass. It was a weird sensation and it speaks volumes about the quality of the overall product, even though it had its issues here and there. Definitely worth a watch if you’re in the mood to be skeeved out of your gourd.