Creep: SXSW Review

Creep SXSW Still - H 2014

Creep SXSW Still - H 2014

Funny quasi-horror pic keeps viewers guessing.

Mark Duplass plays a man who hires a stranger to make a video but may have ulterior motives.

AUSTIN – A perfectly titled picture that takes its time letting viewers decide whether they're watching a horror film or not, Patrick Brice's Creep stars Mark Duplass as a man who hires a stranger to film him for the day and proceeds to make that day very uncomfortable. Knowing and funny without straining to be clever, the found-footage-style pic works better than the Duplass Brothers' 2008 Baghead, with which it has some elements in common, and has stronger chances with indie-friendly genre fans.

Duplass plays Joseph, who has recruited Aaron (Brice) to travel to a mountainside vacation home without revealing the exact nature of the gig. Joseph is dying of a brain tumor, he soon explains, and wants to leave a day-in-the-life video for his unborn son. (We see all the film's action through Aaron's camera.) Fair enough, but the day's first chapter -- "tubby time," in which Daddy pantomimes giving his invisible child a bath -- gets things off to an unsettling start.

Though Joseph is certainly friendly -- if anything, he's overly intimate with his new friend -- he's also fond of scaring Aaron, as when he leads a hike into remote woods and leaps up from behind a boulder as if he were a bear. As day fades into whiskey-tinged evening, it gets harder to tell practical jokes from serious emotional revelations. A long story involving sexual secrets and a fictional wolf named Peachfuzz, told off camera lest the unborn child be psychologically scarred, starts to confirm Aaron's suspicions that he has stumbled into a scene from which he needs to escape.

Brice and co-screenwriter Duplass don't limit their story to this one day. Though extending the self-shot conceit further tests our credulity (as in most found-footage films, we see things no sane person would have brought a camera along to film), it certainly works in terms of heating up Aaron's concerns. The director fits the role well, spending his few minutes on camera in a state of should-I-be-freaking-out agitation; Duplass shows restraint at the eponymous creep, letting dialogue and staging plant questions he's in no hurry to answer.

Production Company: Blumhouse Productions

Cast: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice

Director: Patrick Brice

Screenwriters: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass

Producers: Mark Duplass, Jason Blum

Production designer: Lynsay Richardson Brice

Music: Eric Kuhn, Kyle Field, Sonny Smith

Editor: Christopher Donlon

No rating, 77 minutes