Despite the infinite variety of human experience and the limitless potential of the imagination, it is remarkably difficult to have a truly original idea. Many creatives thus operate as alchemists, combining the base elements of previously-worked-out tropes in hope of transmuting them into gold. In horror, this can involve the distillation of esoteric ingredients like obscure mythology or the rediscovery of old monsters in a new light; it can even throw any pretense of “originality” to the wayside, if it does so with enough arch self-aware humor (thus the success of The Cabin in the Woods).
Creep and Creep 2 are a pair of found-footage horror films written and directed by Patrick Bice (and co-written by and starring the mesmerizing Mark Duplass). While they don’t attempt any of these tricks, the two films pull off a feat much more valuable and rare than a re-imagining: they tell what I consider to be a truly original serial killer story (something I wasn’t sure existed any more). While the Creep films could be considered in one sense a commentary on technological change and the shifting nature of privacy, ala 13 Cameras or The Rental, at its core Creep draws on something more rare and elemental than a clever look at changing mores: a truly memorable and charismatic villain who successfully carries the whole enterprise on his weirdly attractive shoulders.
And there’s plenty of “weird” to go around, by the way. Without giving anything away, these are films that explore everything from paraphilic infantilism to Airbnb to rubber werewolf masks Craigslist to the ancient art of woodcutting. It’s a wild ride with a cast of (in the case of each movie) exactly two and a budget lower than one would think feasible, even in a genre as famously cheap to shoot as horror. Creep gets a hell of a lot of mileage out of remarkably little that couldn’t be found in a reasonably well-stocked storage unit picked at random, or the attic of one of the filmmaker’s mothers, perhaps. The fact that banality plays such a central and disturbing role in the menace captured by Duplass lends every shoddy-looking aspect of the film a cryptic, secretive malignancy; welcome to the rummage sale of a murderer’s psyche, where the past is ever-shifting, the present is blurry at best, and the future looks very bleak indeed.
Creep was a film I had to re-watch as soon as I finished it. You don’t necessarily need to replicate this experience yourself, but should you choose to do so, you’ll be surprised at the amount of clever foreshadowing and the subtlety of character development packed into a film that was written on the fly and at least partially improvised. I cracked Creep 2 with the same trepidation I brought to the table with V / H / S’ sequels, certain each time (and correct, in the case of the V / H / S films) that the sequel couldn’t possibly stand up to the original. I was delighted to discover that I was wrong! If anything, Creep 2 adds layers of psychosexual drama and a framing story (not to spoil anything) that may be an improvement on the original – although, this is the rare sequel where it really does help to have seen the first film to get everything out of the second one.
There are rumors out there that there will be a third film in the works, although it so far has no working title or release date. I look forward to watching how Patrick Bice and Mark Duplass close the saga out (or keep it going).
And I know that Peachfuzz the Werewolf is ready for more friendship – that party animal is always looking for a friend to play with.