The complexity of Mark Duplass’ performance is the beating heart of Creep (2014). The film might look formulaic on the surface, but there is depth to its sinister stalking topic. That’s what makes Creep (2014) work so well.
Films about shady guys, with dark thoughts and bad intentions, aren’t strangers to cinema. Usually, these antagonists are straightaway revealed to the audience, appointed to be repelling. But where Patrick Brice’s Creep (2015) comes from, this guys isn’t so obvious.
What is Creep (2014) about?
Josef (Mark Duplass) hires Aaron (Patrick Brice) to document a full day of his life. He invites the amateur documentarian to a remote cabin. Claiming to be a cancer survivor, Josef recently learned that the sickness is back. Given that fact, and that he’s about to be a father too, Josef wants to leave a gift tor his soon-to-be-born kiddo.
No matter how heart-warming that sounds, Mark Duplass skillfully conjures up a mysterious, untrustworthy quality of Josef. He also does that immediately after Aaron’s arrival. Josef welcomes Aaron by praising his ‘kind face’, and through an overtly enthusiastic, squeamish behavior, Josef reveals an unhinged profile pretty early. The audience knows there’s something wrong. Aaron senses it too. But the trick is what exactly is this guy’s ‘thing’.
That’s what differentiates Creep (2014) from a plethora of similar movies. Aaron acts confused, and rightfully so. On the one hand, Josef’s obviously off, yet who wouldn’t help a guy in such a desperate call? Frankly, this strange behavior could be explained by his brain tumor, depression kicking in, and several other reasons. Hence Aaron, despite the worrying signs, he wades on, deeper into the unknown waters.
The crooked mind of Josef in Creep (2014)
Besides, there is the psychological manipulation at play as well. Josef skews from being benevolent (he offers Aaron money, because he’s got ‘too much already’) to fawning. Like a sneaky spider that weaves his intricate web, Josef too examines his prey. And Mark Duplass sells this role brilliantly. The actor turns Josef into a menacing character without violence. On top of that, Duplass adds a silly, fooling-around quality to Josef too. It is also the details – such as a creepily-looking furry mask he wears – that complete the ominous aura surrounding him.
While Brice relies on Duplass, and the chemistry the two develop, it is also the script which amps the tension up. Brice doesn’t hold back when it comes to plot twists, and jump scares. By switching locations a few times, the director finds fresh ways to set the mood, and keep the story engaging for the audience.
I grew fond of Creep (2014) for the same reason I love independent cinema in general. Brice and Duplass design their story within obvious budget constraints. However, this is what pushes them towards creativity. The authenticity, with which the story unravels, pays off massively. In spite of just two actors and the shaky hand-held camera, Creep (2014) is thrilling, disturbing and bone-deep uncomfortable to watch.
Creep (2014) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
This is a short journey into a troubled mind, but thanks to Mark Duplass’ absorbing performance and various script tweaks, the payoff is satisfactory.
Director: Patrick Brice
Writers: Patrick Brice & Mark Duplass
Starring: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Cinematography: Patrick Brice
Music: Kyle Field & Eric Andrew Kuhn
Where to watch: Netflix