In 2014, Blumhouse Productions brought Creep into the world and proved just how good the found footage genre can be when each aspect takes a measured approach.
Found footage horror has a tendency to rely on shaky camera work, jump scares, and minimalistic aspects. Movies like Paranormal Activity, which was also produced by Blumhouse, made a killing on its “less is more” approach and showed that a stagnant angle of a bedroom could build tension and keep the audience on edge. Creep, starring Mark Duplass, took a different approach. Director Patrick Brice decided to showcase the human condition in his slow-burn tale of a man named Aaron (Brice) who is hired by a man named Josef (Duplass) to do work for him as a videographer.
Though Josef’s intentions seem harmless at first, Aaron quickly discovers that the ad he answers might not be what it seems, and the man he’s been getting to know is far more dangerous than his placid exterior suggests. The premise might seem more like an episode of Criminal Minds, but as a found footage film, Creep really works.
For Creep, Mark Duplass – who also co-wrote the script – was inspired by character-driven tales like Misery and Fatal Attraction. Both of these films also rely on simplicity and strong acting, which isn’t commonly seen in found footage horror films. Typically, found footage is more about what the audience can see through the camera lens and allows viewers to experience the environment through a secondary angle and focus on the background. In films like Cloverfield, it’s meant to build tension and heighten the chaos of a city being invaded by a monster in a more personal way, as opposed to high-action movies like Godzilla, which showcases the theme differently.
Found footage movies that take a more paranormal theme, such as The Blair Witch Project, employ jump scares and shocking imagery that lingers just slightly out of frame, forcing the audience to look closely before the camera is descended upon by who – or what- poses the primary threat to the movie’s characters. Creep plays out like a more personal narrative; it’s a video diary, of sorts, as this is Josef’s intention to hire Aaron. In the beginning of the film, Josef explains that he has cancer and wants to record a video for his unborn son so he’ll have something to remember his father by. It’s endearing, and almost adds a sympathetic aspect to a man who becomes increasingly strange and odd, particularly in the way he behaves with Aaron, which makes the plot become all the more unsettling as more is revealed.
Creep takes an untraditional route for found footage that doesn’t rely on anything supernatural, doesn’t lean on jump scares, and instead wraps the audience up in a good story which leaves them helpless when things take a turn for the worse. Like Misery, its focus on characterization and realism makes the brutality and terror even more unsettling because a ‘normal’ person is the film’s real threat. Currently, Creep has an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and sparked a sequel in 2017, Creep 2. The sequel managed what many other horror sequels can’t, and improved on the original, earning a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Patrick Brice announced in 2017 that a third installment was in the works.
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