Creep starts out innocently enough, as most terrifying life death-inviting life mistakes do. And the fact that it’s able to escalate to a conclusion that’s as straight as any line can be, but still somehow retain the element of surprise along the way, speaks volumes about the impressive give and take performers and co-writers Patrick Brice (who also directed) and Mark Duplass achieve here.
The whole thing kicks off when Aaron (Brice) replies to a craigslist ad placed by Josef (Duplass), the only requirements of which are a camera and a day’s time to spare. Initially Josef comes across as the sort of goofy oversharer who just isn’t quite cut out for normal societal mores. Then we discover the ostensible reason for this oversharing – Josef is dying of cancer and wants to record a video diary to give to his unborn son. You know, like Michael Keaton in My Life.
As Aaron spends the day with Josef, who immediately begins needling away at any concept of personal space or privacy, a few more elements of his life begin to seem… out of place. To be clear, this section of the film is very, very funny. Like an improv mumblecore From Dusk Till Dawn, you might find yourself having a great time but wondering where the proverbial beef is. Then sh*t, as they say, gets dark. The film never ceases to be funny, but it is incredibly adroit at slowly titrating down on the laughs while gradually ratcheting up the sickness at the heart of this transaction.
One of the more frightening things about the film is that we’ve all met someone like Josef. Maybe they’re not turned up as loud as he is, but we know them. There is no doubt in my mind that you will recognize a very specific person who has been a part – hopefully on the further fringes – of your life. Perhaps even more frightening? Most of us have been in the position of exacerbating this person’s behavior – again, hopefully to a lesser extent – like Aaron does with his passive enabling.
But, without spoiling anything, I would hope that none of us have experienced a turn of events that even remotely resembles what begins to happen in Creep around the halfway point (and keeps getting worse from there). That’s when the film’s tone effortlessly slides into something truly menacing. Duplass and Brice are excellent throughout, but they really elevate Creep to greatness levels with the work they do here.
To say anymore would be to spoil the day Josef has planned for you. My advice is simply to seek this Creep out. If he doesn’t get under your skin, something’s wrong with you.