Killer "Creep" Strikes Found Footage Gold

Thanks to the success of 1999 chiller “The Blair Witch Project,” movie theaters have been housing junky found footage horror movies for more than a decade now. With teens and old-guard horror fans starved for quality scares, the subgenre has proved big business, no matter how stale the product. So in its own twisted way, the fate of Patrick Brice’s brilliant “Creep” makes perfect sense.

The no-budget screamer starring indie favorite Mark Duplass (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) is funny and scary and surprising and everything found footage horror should be. And it’s been rewarded with an unceremonious dump to Netflix. Streaming video might be the future, but in 2015 theatrical runs remain vital to generating buzz. So it’s no wonder that “Creep” chatter has been surprisingly slight, even online.

But to hell with distribution models. Patrick Brice’s film could be projected in low resolution on the side of a tent in the middle of nowhere and it’d still be fantastic. (Actually, that might be the ideal viewing experience.)

Its set-up is beyond simple. Aaron (played by Brice himself) is a struggling videographer who accepts a one-off job from a stranger. Josef (Duplass) is that stranger, a dying cancer patient seeking a cameraman to help make a video for his unborn child.

The only thing that’s clear from the get-go is that Josef is weird. Socially awkward. Vaguely troubled. The rest of the pic’s brief 80-minute running time is spent only with Aaron and Josef as the two get to know each other, with the largely improvised screenplay slowly teasing out Josef’s idiosyncrasies. Is he just odd or is he disturbed? Brice keeps us guessing until the very end, employing tried-and-true jump scare tactics effectively and getting tons of a mileage from a pretty ordinary animal mask.

Like all of the best horror films, “Creep” finds terror in the mundane, anxiety in the unknown, with Brice wielding his camera like a pro (when, in fact, this is his first movie). Certain passages are admittedly uneventful, but they’re always paid off – and the found footage angle actually makes sense!

Duplass ditches his normal guy persona for something very different here, showing that’s he’s not only interested in growing as a performer but delightedly confounding his fans. With the right word of mouth, his character could go down as one of the genre’s great antagonists – an unlikely thought for Duplass fans that haven’t seen the film. It’s a perception changing performance, one that signals the arrival of an actor we didn’t know we had.

To dwell on “Creep” any further would be to spoil it, but horror fans interested in suspense and genuine scares – as opposed to gore – should find themselves enamored. If it’s not the most fiendishly thrilling film of the found footage era, it’s damn close. Recommended.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★★★ out of ★★★★★ (Very Good)

Release Date: July 14, 2015 (Netflix)
Studio: Blumhouse Productions
Director: Patrick Brice
Screenwriter: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
MPAA Rating: R (for brief violence and language)