[SXSW '14 Interview] Mark Duplass And Patrick Brice On Mixing Comedy And Terror In ‘Creep’!

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Last night Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass (who directed Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives At Home with his brother Jay) unveiled their new film, Creep, to a packed house at the SXSW film festival in Austin. It’s not 100% a horror film, but it works remarkably well as one regardless (there is some truly disturbing and frightening stuff here). It also happens to be laugh-out-loud funny while possessing some legitimate insight into the truly troubled minds of its lead characters. I’ll have a full review up later – but this is definitely one to watch for if you like stretching your wings outside of the box a bit.

In the film produced by Jason Blum of Insidious and Sinister fame, “Looking for work, Aaron (Patrick Brice) comes across a cryptic online ad: ‘$1,000 for the day. Filming service. Discretion is appreciated.’

Low on cash and full of naiveté he drives to a cabin in a remote mountain town where he meets Josef (Mark Duplass), his cinematic subject for the day. Josef is sincere and the project seems heartfelt, so Aaron begins to film. But as the day goes on, it becomes clear that Josef may not be who he says.

Brice makes his directorial debut with the film in which he co-stars with his scripting partner Duplass. Check out our quick chat below!

When you’re approaching something that straddles the line between comedy and horror like this, do you just kind of make the character piece and let the end result dictate how you label it?

Duplass: That’s a great question. We set out to make something that was inspired and interesting and loose. We had very little endgame in mind, just the core interaction between these two people. So we put together an outline and shot for about a week. We came home and put some stuff together and looked at what we had. Then we went through this process of shooting a bit more, editing a bit more then showing it again. At some point – we noticed people were getting really fucking scared in there.

It’s this thing that’s similar to Misery, where you’re watching this nice, lovely person but something’s off. So at that point we thought it was time to go into the madness, and that’s when the movie started to take shape.

How is it playing someone like this? Someone who can very rarely have an honest moment.

Duplass: We were interested in the psychological profile of this very, very strange person. We were very interested in how you meet people and don’t quite understand what’s up, but you start to get signs. For us that was intense eye contact, lack of personal space, oversharing, maybe a little bit too much love here and there. But, for me, there’s something wrong with both of these guys. Deeply. This concept of, “who is the creep in this scenario?”

Patrick, you can’t say no to this guy.

Duplass: There’s such a thing as enabling.

Brice: There’s a bit of a compulsion going on for sure. And I’d never seen a movie that dealt with that type of human interaction, at the level we deal with it – the ability to almost discover the dynamic in real time.

Duplass: Patrick and I, in our daily lives [in the film industry] almost invite that kind of energy. We’re guilty of that. That’s where it all started. Some people find it really funny, others find it terrifying. It’s okay to experience one moment in completely different ways. We saw that in the theater last night where there were couples where one person would be screaming and her husband would be laughing and they would argue about it after the show. “How could you possibly laugh at that?” That’s great, that makes the film a success for us.

Patrick, you see a lot of found footage movies where it’s pretty clear the characters aren’t operating the camera. Here you are. How does that work as an extension of your performance?

Brice: We’re both wearing a lot of hats, You have to rely completely on your intuition. I was very aware of the genre and the fact that there has to be a justification for the camera being on at every moment.

Being a bit burned out on found footage, when the movie started I was worried. But it works.

Brice: Luckily I think Jason Blum was burned out too.

Duplass: Yeah. I’m friends with him and he had heard I was doing this thing and he was like, “I gotta look at it but I have to say I don’t want another found footage movie.” And then he called after watching it and said, “We have to do this. It’s the only one where it makes sense!” It was fun to partner up with him and see what we could do that was an in depth character piece that also obeyed he rules of the horror genre to some extent.

At this point do you feel that horror needs a bit less adherence to strict genre beats?

Duplass: Well that’s all we have to offer, that’s all we know. I think somewhere out there there is a true genre gorehound that can understand the state of the industry and find a way to make it new. But where we’re coming from is sort of stumbling into it ass backwards because our movie happened to have a more terrifying element. In many ways it’s fresh because of our ignorance.

Brice: We’re just happy to play in the sandbox.