Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Rated R for Brief Violence and Language
There's no better marketing tool than positive word of mouth. Big budget movies used to use it a lot, but now they've turned to brand names and franchises. Little films like "Creep" depend on it. So I'm doing everything that I can to say that this is a good movie.
Aaron (Brice) is a videographer answering an ad he found on Craigslist. A wealthy man named Josef (Duplass) is dying of cancer and wants Aaron to film a memento to his unborn child. Josef is a bit of an odd duck, such as having an affinity for disappearing then jumping out at Aaron to scare him. But he's amiable enough. However, Aaron soon realizes that Josef is not who he seems, and he is totally unaware of what he has walked into.
I love movies that only slowly reveal themselves. "Creep" continuously evolves into something other than it starts out as, with no obvious foreshadowing or storytelling tricks. We know that something is off about Josef, but his personality is revealed bit by bit.
This is the second movie I've seen Jay Duplass in. The other one was "The Lazarus Effect," which is best ignored since it's going to come on my Bottom 10 list this year. He was dull beyond words there, but with this earlier flick he's found a role that fits him like a glove. Josef is pleasant, but strange. He believes his relationship with Aaron is stronger than it actually is, and he talks about things that are too personal for someone you've just met. He's unsettling because you never know what he's going to say or do next. By the nature of the film, his co-star Patrick Brice remains behind the camera, but we get a sense of who he is. Josef creeps him out, but he's too much of a doormat to get up and leave when he probably should. Brice is good in the role, and he and Duplass work well together.
Perhaps the film's greatest success is its melding of scares and laughs. It's not like "Scream," where it's a self-aware movie that pokes fun at itself. It's funny in the sense that there are jokes and instances of humor, but they're tweaked in a way that makes them sinister. That kind of balance is hard to achieve, and gives the film a distinct identity.
Unfortunately the film is dealt a series of blows by making Aaron do amazingly stupid things for the sake of the plot. This is almost a tradition in horror movies, but the first half of "Creep" is so smart and well-balanced that resorting to this feels lazy and sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, there are a couple of neat twists that I wasn't expecting, and one shock that made me gasp in horror.
"Creep" doesn't boast big stars, big budgets or lots of blood and gore (in fact, it's not violent save for one scene). But it is creepy and effective, which is just what you want as we near October 31.