Film Review – Creep
So, I’ve written a little about found footage films in the past, but I think it’s time to address the controversy head on. (There’s not really any controversy other than some people hate them and other people just keep saying the form is dead. “Controversy” just sounds better than “something only a handful of people complain about a lot.”) I like them. I think it is a good way for filmmakers to explore an idea on the cheap, and I’ve seen some pretty good ones: The Blair Witch Project and The Bay are just two examples among many. Yes, found footage has been done a lot, but whatever; a good movie is a good movie. I will admit, however, that not all found footage movies are equal, and I would like to lay down some rules of things I like to see.
1) Keep the shaky cam to a minimum. I don’t care if it is not realistic; I will like your movie better if I don’t want to throw up.
2) The logic behind why someone has a camera in his or her hand at that moment should be sound.
3) If the footage looks edited, there should be a plausible reason why.
4) Don’t just rehash The Blair Witch Project. This should go without saying, but I just watched a recent found footage horror film by a reputable director that just did that. You can safely assume everybody has seen Blair Witch and will notice what you are doing. Originality matters (or should matter) in filmmaking in general, but it’s especially important here when the barrier to entry is so much lower than other types of films.
I’ll keep watching and enjoying found footage horror films as long as folks mostly obey the rules. And hell, I’ll take a rule-breaker if they give me something good and at least moderately scary. Anyway, the whole reason I am writing about this is because I watched – and enjoyed – a film just hitting Netflix directed by Patrick Brice called Creep that uses this format to create something really weird and more than just a little creepy.
Aaron (Patrick Brice) is a guy with a video camera who has answered a Craigslist ad to film Josef (Mark Duplass) for the day. Josef, it turns out, is a cancer survivor who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and would like to create a film for his unborn child in case he doesn’t make it. This seems pretty reasonable to Aaron, although he’s a little put off by Josef’s alternating manic energy and need for hugs. Things get weird right away though when Josef strips down to take a bath with an invisible child-to-be. Aaron is confused, but the money is good, so he does his best to put up with Josef as he gets weirder (and creepier) throughout the day. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. I knew almost nothing going into this, and I think not knowing where things were going was crucial to the enjoyment of the story.
This is a really weird little film. Both Brice and Duplass share the writing credit, and one of the producers is Jason Blum who produced the Paranormal Activity films. Duplass is known for his acting, but also for directing mumblecore movies with his brother. And yeah, this is kind of a mumblecore horror film, whatever that means. But what it comes down to is this is a film that manages to be both funny and really strange. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can just dive into making a horror film, but it’s not that easy. Pacing is crucial, because you need to build up tension throughout the entire film. You can’t just have 60 minutes of people hanging out and then 20 minutes of blood and gore. And it is especially complicated when you throw humor into the mix. The pacing works here, which is good because the film goes to some really awkward and weird places. I can see some people not buying into the premise because of the oddity of it all. Occasionally, I was more “What the hell is that?” than “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!” but for the most part, I let myself believe in this world.
There are a couple of things that work against it though. One is there was a regularly scheduled jump scare about every 10 minutes, and the nature of those scares was kind of silly. The creepiness of the film had nothing to do with that kind of rapid movement nonsense. Also, the logic behind why Aaron would pick up the camera at some moments was not clear. In one frame the camera would be on him and the next it would be in his hand without any clear idea of how it got there. It’s super distracting and happens a lot here. In general however, I found this to be a fun and enjoyably strange movie. Check it out if you are looking for something a little different than your standard horror fare.