Wednesday 27 December 2017

From the archive: "Creep"

Creep, a superior, darkly comic late offshoot of the found-footage cycle, adds one distinctly 21st century element to the mix: Craigslist. The man holding the camera this time is Aaron (writer-director Patrick Brice), a videographer hired via that website to drive out to a small town and record the thoughts of the happily married Josef for an as yet unborn child in the event of his having a cancer relapse. This is, plainly, A Nice Thing to Do, yet we sense that something's a bit off when Josef starts raving about 1993's Michael Keaton tearjerker My Life as "a beautiful film"; also from the fact he's played by Mark Duplass as a habitually oversharing hugger, unduly keen to don a latex wolf's mask and lead the disconcerted Aaron out into the woods. He is, in short, the kind of character I'm told one might well meet on Craigslist in this day and age: possessed of the rough edges that can make somebody interesting to hang with but - in the worst case scenario - liable to poke your eyes out.

That aligns Creep not so much with the Blair Witch school, collating footage of easily harassed adults as it did, rather with those mumblecore experiments - in which Duplass has previously played such a part - geared towards scratching out a character or characters on the spot. What's crucial here isn't the relationship between the observed and some external force, but that between observer and observed, which builds from nervy circling to bro-ish camaraderie to something edgier as Josef inevitably crosses a line of intimacy; the genuinely surprising final act features the most effective what's-in-the-box moment since Se7en. I suspect this is how The Cable Guy and Chuck & Buck might have looked if they had emerged any later than 2000: what's being recorded, in the main, isn't aggression, rather the typical passive-aggression of men who'd rather talk to their equipment than deal with matters face-to-face. That's enough to make Brice's film a genuine novelty at this stage in the cycle: the bulk of Creep's footage isn't evidence of an atrocity - though, rest assured, there will be blood - but of a deeply awkward, entirely avoidable social situation.

(September 2016)

Creep is available on DVD through Kaleidoscope, and to stream on Netflix.

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