There’s something so fundamentally flawed about found-footage movies. I think most people know it, and if they don’t know it, they feel it. I’m not talking about the unthinking surface-level criticisms of “it’s dumb” or “it gave me motion sickness!”, I’m talking about the phoniness of the actual technique. I happen to think The Blair Witch Project is one of the greatest horror movies ever made – being as it is also one of the earliest popular examples of the technique, it stands to reason it doesn’t show much of the fatal flaw throughout the later ones, but it exists. The flaw I’m talking about is the persistence of recording. There comes a point where you realize that either nobody in their right mind would continue to hold the camera up to an unfolding event if one’s life was in grave danger – at that point, audience immersion has ended, and you become annoyed. Then there’s unnatural battery length, where, as in Cloverfield, the recording device lasts way past the point where it would have run out of juice. Then you have, as in the excellent Chronicle, no real reason for the technique to have been used in the first place, because the narrative does not depend on it.
In Creep, you have two out of three of the above, and it all adds up to an uninvolving, gimmicky movie. The premise is pretty simple: young guy looking for some spare cash answers a personals ad seeking a videographer. That’s it. The opening scenes are decent, and the protagonist is a likeable, polite guy. I think many critics of this movie will see the first half and think, “No way I’d stay through that shit.”, but it’s presented in such a naturalistic format I found that maybe most people actually would go along with it, just out of common human foibles. The movie starts to fall apart when Josef (played by Mark Duplass) invites Aaron up for a drink at the end of the day’s filming. This is the point where any normal person would say, “No thanks, I’m outta here.” The fact that the entire rest of the movie (and the movie’s big reveal hinges on this decision) is just indicative of the problems with this script. In terms of the Josef character, I couldn’t commit to buying into Duplass’s portrayal here. I get that his everyman type face works for someone you wouldn’t want your protagonist to walk away from at the get go, but why not make him a creepy looking guy, instead of your mortgage processor, or bank teller? Why make him so anonymous, when you’ve already given the protagonist a real financial need to go through with the whole thing? Why not go big or go home? This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but I think they could have had a better creep by strengthening Aaron’s need to stay and see it through, rather than just be a polite, naïve man?
From this point on, the movie morphs from creepy guy on the other end of my camera to creepy guy outside of my house, and I can buy into the concept, until I realized pretty early on that this part of the story can’t really exist in the real world, because within the narrative of the movie, Aaron, who cannot be described as any kind of shut-in, appears to have no friends or family he can draw on. When he fears for his life and the cops tell him they can’t act with the tiny amount of information they have, Aaron doesn’t turn to his friends or family for help, he simply continues to document an increasingly bizarre and dangerous situation as though he is completely without any other human interaction. It’s the kind of situational convenience-based plotting that we see so often in big budget movies, where once you start to ask questions, there are simply no answers. By this point, I was already out of the movie and my head was full of these questions.
Sometimes, it pains me to not give spoilers, because in Creep, the end is nothing short of dreadful – an overwritten, ludicrous reveal that relies on the utter foolishness and isolation of the Aaron character, (who, in the course of the movie went from a fairly well-realized character to dumb horror movie victim) but also …
… and to say more would be crappy on my part. Suffice it to say that if you end up watching it, you might have the same thoughts as me, then again, you might be taken in by it. 95% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes can’t be wrong, surely?
© Andrew Hope, 2016