Fantasia 2014: ‘Creep’ is the weird fellow too desperate to be your friend

174928-creep-0-230-0-341-cropCreep

Written by Patrice Brice and Mark Duplass

Directed by Patrice Brice

U.S.A., 2014

Virtually everyone knows someone they would rather not know. Some are acquaintances that must be forged for professional reasons, other times to ease certain personal relationships with third parties. None of that changes the fact that deep down inside this one person is irksome. But what if that same person becomes aggressive in their attachment? What if said aggression grows into something else entirely more sinister despite the other’s attempts to politely cut ties? Aaron, played by writer-director Patrick Brice, is in way over his head in the latest entry in the long line of found-footage horror films Creep.

The movie opens with the aforementioned Aaron driving up to a cottage in the mountainous countryside where a certain Josef (Mark Duplass) awaits him. Having answered a strange add on Craigslist, Aaron, a documentarian of sorts, is to spend a day or so filming Josef as the latter talks to the camera, explaining his life to the unborn son he will never see due to a terminal illness. Josef proves an especially energetic, extrovert individual with a peculiar sense of humour to boot as typified by the poorly judged humour he extrapolates from a nightmarish wold mask baptized Peachfuzz (which was the film’s original title). Josef is hyper energetic, relishing the final few months he has left before expiring. The more time elapses however, the more Aaron begins to detect that Josef may not be telling the truth about himself or his family. When the filmmaker discovers that the woman his subject described as his wife is in fact his sister, he knows the situation is not what he bargained for.

There are few worse feelings than the alarming sensation that something is dangerously amiss in a given situation. A person who moments ago was in a state of comfort and tranquility is suddenly afflicted by the unnerving sense that what seemed rosy may in fact be a precarious set of circumstances. The possibility of increasing danger arises, setting off mental alarms in one’s mind. It is up to that individual to react accordingly but without full knowledge that becomes impossible. Herein lies many of the strengths of Patrick Brice’s Creep in that it withholds just enough information long enough to keep the audience guessing. In fact, some critical information about what Josef is after is kept in the shadows until the very final frame. Regardless of what pertinent tidbits are preserved under wraps for the better part of the picture, enough is divulged through Josef’s mannerisms to strongly suggest that he is not just an ordinary man wanting to document himself before his passing.

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Bluntly revealing information to the audience is one manner by which to increase the tension, another being the performance of a capable star. In the case of Creep that star shines very brightly on Mark Duplass. Having co-written the screenplay with director Patrick Brice Duplass was well positioned to understand where to take the character, how to behave and when to dial up the creepiness. The most inventive decision is to make Josef has compelling a character as he is through comedy. The titular creep does not wear malicious intentions on his sleeve. Quite the contrary in fact, he is a welcoming, rambunctious and positive minded fellow. The pervasive issue is that all of those qualities are intensified a wee bit too much for Josef to come across as completely genuine…or sane. How dangerous is he? Is he dangerous at all for that matter or is he but an odd fellow looking for a friend in the loneliness of the forest? Duplass plays the plays with an eerie comedic timing, which is fitting because Josef can be extraordinarily funny and disquieting all at once.

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Creep loses some of its spunk once the action moves away from the cottage in the woods to Aaron’s urban apartment. That’s not to say that the sequence is a miscalculated lull but the decision to remove the protagonist from the one location where he felt truly in danger does remove from the film some of its creepiness, no pun intended. The filmmakers try to re-inject some of it in ways that aim to recapture the balance humour and tension but end up being mostly comical alone.

Thankfully its climax is well worth the wait and the final scene puts a decidedly edgy spin on everything that came before. Credit the duo of Brice and Duplass for concocting such an infectious and entertaining story about one man’s quest to end a friendship while another tries to keep it alive. As Shakespeare would say: ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow.’ Apparently this rings more true for some than for others.

-Edgar Chaput

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