This time of year, it’s not out of the ordinary to see found footage horror movies from genre heavyweight Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions. But at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, the producer known for such films as ‘Paranormal Activity,’ ‘Sinister,’ ‘The Purge.’ and ‘Insidious’ brought in a very interesting bedfellow for his latest project, ‘Creep’ by mumblecore maestro and star of ‘The League’ Mark Duplass.
Debuting at South By Southwest 2014 and originally known as ‘Peachfuzz,’ the film was co-written and co-stars Duplass alongside director Patrick Brice. It follows Aaron, a videographer who responds to an online ad looking for filming service for a day. When he drives out to a cabin in the woods to meet Josef, the person who placed the ad that is looking to create a heartfelt memento for his family. But as the day goes on, it becomes clear that things aren’t as they seem.
Whenever I’ve been asked about this movie, I can’t even think of a better word than “creepy.” It’s billed as a horror-comedy, but the laughter is mostly that uncomfortable kind when you’re not sure what else to do. But that being said, I feel like that’s really what the filmmakers were really going for. By having Duplass’ welcoming visage and sincere demeanor as the face of this film, audiences let their guards down, but then are quickly surprised by the eccentricities of his character that get more and more intense as the story progresses. Josef is definitely unlike any character Duplass has played before, so it’s really cool to see him go to places that he’s never gone before.
The style of filmmaking was very interesting to me as well. I wonder if first time director Brice took a mumblecore approach to the project because there seemed to be heavy influences throughout the movie. Like Blum’s most famous films, the subgenre is defined by low production values, naturalistic dialogue, and the idea that the story could happen anywhere, which are all definitely present in ‘Creep’. If not explicitly mumblecore, the film certainly took a unique approach to the found footage genre because I don’t recall too many taking the same approach as seen here. And if there have been others, then maybe they didn’t succeed as well as this did in making me feel uneasy.
Finally, I have to mention that it does take a while to get to the true horror aspects of the film. It’s a really slow burn to get to that sort of thing because there aren’t necessarily scares around every turn, but it certainly plays with your head. Josef (and ‘Creep’ as a whole) works cerebrally and plants these ideas in your mind to freak you out. This is truly an ‘American Horror Story’ because it could be happening in America anywhere at this very minute and that might be the scariest part. I could easily see this becoming a new Blumhouse franchise, not only because of how cheap it is to produce, but I could see there being a sizeable audience for something like this. Overall, it might have been one of the best horror films that I saw at PFF23, so hopefully a wider audience will see it sooner rather than later.