The problem with the found footage filmmaking style, so many years after films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity wrote the book, isn’t that the sub-genre has ceased to be an interesting way to tell horror stories, but rather that interesting stories presented in the POV format just haven’t really been told in recent years. But amid the glut of tired found footage knockoffs, Patrick Brice gave us a true sub-genre gem back in 2015.
I’m of course referring to Creep, which stars Mark Duplass as a man who calls himself Josef. Brice himself plays Aaron, a videographer who arrives at Josef’s house on a mission to document, as he’s told by Josef, his new friend’s final days. Of course, Aaron quickly begins to realize that Josef isn’t who he says he is. He’s an insane crazy person.
And he makes Aaron his next victim.
The success of Creep, no doubt fueled by Duplass’ captivating performance as one of the most magnetic, awkward and disturbed serial killers to ever grace the screen, paved the way for Creep 2, released this week across VOD outlets. Brice again directed Duplass in the sequel, which sees the title character masquerading around as… Aaron.
Desiree Akhavan co-stars as Sara, a YouTuber who isn’t having much success with her channel. Her contribution to the web? She answers bizarre personal ads and films her subjects, exploring the lives and kinks of the world’s most interesting humans. As if by fate, Sara and “Aaron” come together… and you might be surprised where things go from there.
The most interesting element of Creep was that we weren’t quite sure what Josef’s motives were until literally the final scene, so you may be wondering if a sequel could possibly manage to be as compelling as the first film. After all, we know precisely who Josef/Aaron is at this point, so can we really be as invested in his whole act the second time around? Remarkably, Brice and Duplass make Creep 2 feel like a fresh new experience, thanks in large part to a vastly different dynamic between Josef and his new friend.
Rather than simply serving up another unwitting victim for Duplass’ character to play around with before killing, Creep 2 flips the script with Sara, a fascinating woman in her own right who’s maybe as interested in toying around with her latest subject as Aaron himself is. Hungry to achieve viral success with her web series, Sara is unafraid to put herself in harm’s way to get the footage she craves, making her the perfect friend for Aaron and he the perfect friend for her.
And Aaron has different goals this time around, cutting the act not long after meeting Sara and laying all his cards out on the table. He flat out tells Sara that he’s a prolific serial killer, asking her to film a documentary in the hopes that he can regain his passion for his “job” – this makes Creep 2 feel a bit like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which sure isn’t a bad thing. To his surprise, Sara is so on board with all of his madness (mostly because she doesn’t believe his stories, partly because she kinda loves this dude) that Aaron may genuinely be falling for her – or maybe he’s just buttering her up for the inevitable.
We know who Aaron is but we still have no idea what he’s going to do next. Or, for that matter, how his latest victim is going to react to any of it – Aaron’s cards may be laid out on the table, but Sara is a total mystery to us. And that’s the brilliance of Creep 2, which manages to be as mysterious, surprising and wholly unpredictable as the first film. That’s also the brilliance of Duplass’ performance; once again, he’s so charming that even though you’ve seen him slay two people, you can’t help but want to be his friend.
As horror fans, we often lament that new icons just aren’t being created here in the present day, but Creep and now Creep 2 make a pretty damn good, one-two punch case for Mark Duplass’ “creep” being a brand new horror icon for a brand new generation. He may not be a burnt up dream demon or an undead monster in a hockey mask, but “Josef/Aaron” may actually be the most downright interesting and altogether fascinating horror villain to ever get his own franchise. And Creep 2 is sure to leave you hungry for so much more of his particular brand of insanity.
Horror sequels are rarely this enjoyable.