'Creep 2': Film Review

Courtesy of The Orchard
Very effective follow-up offers more laughs and new kinds of awkwardness.

Mark Duplass is a serial killer facing a midlife crisis in Patrick Brice's sequel.

In 2014's under-the-radar Creep, Mark Duplass played a weirdo toying with a stranger he met through Craigslist, leaving the man (and, crucially, the audience) wondering for a painfully long time just what kind of mess he has stumbled into.

Having finally let the cat out of the bag in the pic's violent climax, director/co-writer Patrick Brice has a different job in Creep 2: Since viewers know Duplass (Brice's co-writer) is a psychopathic killer, how does he recreate the first film's atmosphere of nervous-laughter uncertainty? Not only finding a successful answer to that but wringing some surprising laughs out along the way, the sequel will impress any fan of the original. It's fresher than most of the low-budget thrillers gracing theaters lately, making fans wonder why this, like its predecessor, is a VOD-only affair.

Even serial killers can get the mid-career blahs, it seems. The story opens with Duplass' Aaron at the tail end of his latest stalker/slayer project, one in which he all but apologizes to his victim that, since turning 40, he's had a hard time finding inspiration. Oh, well: Guess it'll just be a quick knife-to-the-jugular, then, and back to the drawing board.

Cut to a different kind of creative malaise: Sara (Desiree Akhavan), creator of a meet-weirdos-online documentary web series called Encounters, realizes that she's no good at mining misfits' quirks for pageviews. She decides to do one more episode and call it quits. Fortunately or not, depending on your perspective, Aaron's latest Craigslist ad is her final selection. When they meet — we witness everything, found-footage style, through her camera — he is strangely candid about the nature of the videography job she's applying for: "I am what is commonly known as a serial killer," he says ("I don't love that nomenclature," he continues), and, if she can handle such an extreme subject, he would like to open up to her on camera about his life.

The bulk of the film observes as Sara, who thinks Aaron is putting her on, attempts to get his strange delusions on film while deflecting his attempts to freak her out. One of those attempts is coincidentally topical: He 'Weinsteins' her, walking into the room dressed only in a towel and then dropping it for an extended full-frontal shot. Later, there's some cathartic massage as well. But sexual violence is fairly low on the list of high-stakes dangers here: We're mostly wondering if Aaron is serious about taking a time-out from killing ("it was my religion ... now it's like a job," he sighs), or if this is just his latest pre-carnage tease.

The character Duplass and Brice have created fascinates and amuses consistently here. Full of himself one moment, disarmingly self-critical the next, and afflicted by neuroses he may or may not be explaining honestly, Aaron is both funny and unsettling. Akhavan's Sara is an unexpected foil, calm in the face of his strangest provocations despite the fear she admits to her camera when he's not around. Their chemistry is such that, when Aaron all but declares his love for her near the end, we're fairly sure he means it.

Whether that means she's safe or not is another question.

Production company: Blumhouse Productions
Distributor: The Orchard
Cast: Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan
Director: Patrick Brice
Screenwriters: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Producer: Carolyn Craddock
Executive producers: Jason Blum, Josh Braun, Chris Donlan, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn
Directors of photography: Desiree Akhavan, Patrick Brice
Production designer: Angel Herrera
Editor: Christopher Donlan
Composer: Julian Wass

79 minutes