Admittedly anxious for the upcoming slew of indie horror films I’ll be screening at the Spooky Movie Horror Film Festival next month (Oct. 8-17 at AFI Silver), I was overjoyed to discover a scary little gem that had somehow, under my radar, worked its way from a great reception at last year’s SXSW fest, through various VOD platforms and finally onto Netflix, where I found it nestled inconspicuously in the “new releases” lineup. Most exciting about “Creep” is that it was co-written by Mark Duplass (star of “Safety Not Guaranteed” and half of the sibling team responsible for directing “Jeff, Who Lives at Home”, two of my favorite films of 2012), with co-scribe Patrick Brice making his directorial debut.
The two also serve as the only stars of the film. Brice plays Aaron, a freelance videographer who responds to an ad that simply requires him to film some guy’s day-to-day activities. The client is Josef, Duplass’s so-friendly-he’s creepy character, who lives in a remote cabin in the woods (of course). Josef explains to Aaron that he’s dying of cancer and wants to document something for his unborn son, since they will likely never meet; a catharsis surely awaits Aaron’s camera.
But we know better. Things get strange when Josef insists on stripping down and taking a bath — or “tubby”, as he calls it — with an imaginary baby, ostensibly to capture these father/son moments that will likely never get a chance to happen. He’s either in line for posthumous Father of the Year, or something far more unsettling is unfolding on camera. Increasingly disturbing behaviors support the latter theory, as Josef repeatedly jumps out of hiding to startle Aaron like a manic child. Oh, and then there’s “Peachfuzz”, the terrifying wolf mask that he keeps in the closet, supposedly a remnant of his childhood.
Aaron finds his stay with Josef unexpectedly extended long into the evening hours, after a long day’s hike provides more evidence of Josef’s instability. It culminates in a series of scenes that made my skin crawl. Did I mention that “Creep” is a found-footage movie, produced by — you guessed it — Blumhouse? Not only does it transcend what we’ve come to associate with this style of shooting (and, perhaps, the studio), but it’s one of the best horror/thrillers I’ve seen this year. Known largely for his comedy, Duplass has dabbled in this genre before (the existential “The One I Love” and more conventional “The Lazarus Effect”), but after this one, it’ll be hard, at least for a while, to look at him the same way when watching “The League”. Do yourself a favor and add “Creep” to your Netflix queue for the upcoming Halloween season.
— Michael Parsons
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