3.5 stars out of 5
Not rated, 80 minutes.
Available today on digital platforms.
If you haven’t seen the 2015 film Creep, it’s time you punched the letters of its title into your Netflix search bar and watch it. Not only is it a great horror film to cue up before Halloween, but it’s a great found footage movie — a style that has lost the interest of the masses since the Paranormal Activity franchise ran itself into the ground.
In Creep, co-writer and director Patrick Brice (The Overnight) plays Aaron, a videographer who answers a Craigslist ad for a job that will pay him $1,000 for a day’s work to capture a day in the life of Josef (a devilishly good Mark Duplass). After arriving at the remote shooting location, Aaron begins to question whether his safety is guaranteed.
The equally as great, if not better, Creep 2 finds our perspective in the hands of Sara (Desiree Akhavan), a host of a web series called Encounters in which she answers the most obscure personal ads she can find and films the results. While the setup sounds like a retread, the film completely turns that notion on its head when we learn that Josef (Duplass, reprising his role), now going by the name Aaron, seeks Sara’s help to film a documentary about his murderous lifestyle.
But don’t worry. He’ll let her go ... maybe.
Creep 2 so easily could have pulled from the routine sequel scheme of tossing another guinea pig in the mix to sweep in the dough. But Brice and Duplass (who is the other brainchild on both films) are mature filmmakers who want to challenge themselves as much as they want to challenge their audiences. The second entry conjures up a story that stems from the same twisted root as the original, but blossoms into something even more wicked than you could imagine.
“We came up with three or four different scenarios before landing on the idea that is Creep 2,” Brice said on a recent phone call to promote the film's digital release. “Those were the ones that didn’t feel right emotionally in terms of what we were capable of, or didn’t quite make sense with the first film. Just like Creep, our ignorance to the genre ended up helping us out with different options for the second installment.”
Brice said their continued story began with the characters. Most filmmakers might focus on driving the story forward with plot, but as you’ll quickly see, Brice and Duplass didn’t want to force their characters into a new scenario. It had to feel natural and organic. So they allowed the world to build around Aaron and Sara, which ultimately dictated the production style.
“I think with found footage movies, you need to justify why the camera is on at every given moment. The audience is there and ready to pick it apart,” Brice said.
The main challenge for Brice and Duplass was knowing that “the cat was out of the bag from the first movie” and that the tension from the original relied upon the question of whether or not Duplass’ character had malicious intentions.
“We answer that question by the end of Creep. So the big question for us was deciding where to go from that reveal. We needed to create a character, which we hopefully did with Akhavan’s character, Sara, that felt distinct and had a true motivation for not only being there with him but keeping the camera on.”
The intrigue for the audience begins at the film’s cold opening, where Aaron has drinks with a buddy (Karan Soni of Deadpool) and reveals his secrets. It’s the moment that sets the emotional course of action for the movie. But for Sara, she’s genuinely curious to know if Aaron is the serial killer he claims to be. Aaron piques her interest by saying no one has ever made a documentary with an undisclosed murderer, and he would give her an all-access pass.
Creep 2 may not stick the landing as well as its predecessor, but how it subverts expectations and expands upon the mystery of its titular character elevates it above the original’s ideas and most horror sequels these days. With his smartly written characters and committed performances from his two leads, Brice stages incredibly tense scares to make audiences squirm, jump and even laugh at the entertainment of it all.
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.
FEATURED IMAGE: Mark Duplass reprises his unnerving role in Creep 2. Photo courtesy of Blum House