PLOT: A videographer (Patrick Brice) answering a Craigslist ad is summoned to a remote cabin in the woods by Josef (Mark Duplass), who says he’s dying and wants to leave a video behind for his son. As they day goes on, Josef’s behavior gets stranger, but is he dangerous or merely an oddball?
REVIEW: Micro-budget can be both a blessing and a curse it seems. Since PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, producer Jason Blum has become a force to be reckoned with, with his low-budget genre films frequently generating large profits, enough to help finance larger-scaled movies like THE NORMAL HEART and more. The downside to this is that with a micro budget, very little is at stake, so if a film doesn’t turn out to be marketable, it winds up gathering dust on a shelf, a fate which seems common to a lot of Blum’s output (with Joe Johnson’s NOT SAFE FOR WORK and Joe Carnahan’s STRETCH being two notable examples).
However, as long as the budgets are kept low, Blum seems to grant his directors almost unlimited creative control, and CREEP is a good example of the kind of film that could only exist following this model. To work in the mainstream, it usually has to be apparent right from the get-go whether or not a film is in fact a “horror film.” CREEP, having been done on such a minuscule budget, is able to play with its audience much more, with us spending most of our running time not sure what genre CREEP’s eventually going to land in, although the end result probably won’t take any horror fanatic by surprise.
Like another Mark Duplass Fantasia entry, this is a two-hander, with Duplass (most of the time) being the only actor actually on-screen, while Brice (who also directed) is off-camera as the put-upon videographer, who’s not sure of what to make of his client. Duplass has a relatively charismatic screen presence, meaning that he’s able to keep Josef ambiguous a lot longer than someone else could. If an actor like Michael Shannon had played Josef, within seconds you would have figured-out he was nuts. Scenes where he dances around the house with a wolf mask he calls “Peachfuzz” or makes Brice shoot him taking a bath (‘tubby time’) would seem full-on mental. With Duplass, you know he’s not quite right, but is he a killer?
As nuanced as his performance is, it can’t help but keep CREEP from being predictable. Mumblecore fans may not figure out where this is going early on, but the seasoned horror vet won’t be fooled, no matter how funny Duplass is. Running a lean 75 minutes, CREEP is never boring, but it does feel mighty disposable, as if Duplass and Brice were just improvising with a DV camera, and calling it a movie. Only the final few scenes work cinematically, although – again – Duplass is always worth watching.
While not a bad movie, CREEP doesn’t quite justify the buzz it came off SXSW with – with Blum already planning a sequel – but it’s still fairly entertaining. Again though, this is probably more effective for the non-horror fan than someone who’s seen this genre done to death. While not especially original, it’s still an easy watch. Still, there are far more engaging and unconventional horror films out there deserving the buzz CREEP is generating.