The best word to describe Creep would be “unsettling.” This isn’t necessarily because its particular brand of scares are superlatively effective, although they are. No, it is mostly due to the towering performance from Mark Duplass, who plays Josef, an odd and reclusive man who offers $1,000 to Aaron (director Patrick Brice) for video services whom we quickly discover is the “creep” mentioned in the title. It is a very contained film (Brice and Duplass are the only two people we ever see for the duration), and Duplass is able to shine all the brighter for it.
Unlike with most found footage films, Brice doesn’t waste time with unnecessary “build up” of back story or atmosphere. We see him driving in his car, briefly explaining to us why he’s headed to this remote cabin in the hills for a day, and we then meet Josef immediately. After Aaron has tromped around the premises in search of his new client he returns to his car and is treated to a loud slap on the hood, with Duplass’ wide eyed, smiling face pressed up close to the window. Creep has this rare ability of deftly balancing horror and humor in such a way that heightens both, and truly unsettles. During a classic “victim searches for stalker, victim leaves living room, stalker appears in living room door magically” sequence we actually see it all play out thanks to Aaron’s ever-recording camera. The moment and the atmosphere are terrifying, and then Josef quickly ducks down to avoid Aaron’s gaze as he returns to the living area. Brice and Duplass often break up genuine terror with genuine (dark) humor throughout the 80 minutes, and the result was an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach of simultaneous elation and dread. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a horror/comedy like Creep, and that’s largely due to Duplass.
There’s real range, terror, and even inklings of warmth to his performance here never seen in found footage movies. He plays the obvious insanity of his character perfectly, revealing multiple facets that never quite feel like new skits, but different sides of the same entity. He gives absurd, awkward, hilarious, and scary scenes, such as being filmed in the bathtub stroking his not-yet-born son, the kind of conviction necessary for a film like Creep to work. This isn’t to say that Brice is slumming it as director. The camerawork is often very smart. As Aaron gives diary-like recounts of his paranoia Brice only fills up half the frame, with the rest eaten up by pitch black space. Brice had my imagination working so feverishly, and my gut so full of fear, that it took me a long while to realize that Aaron’s video diary monologue was absolutely hilarious. Creep is one of a kind, and gives me faith in a traditionally shaky subgenre.