Anyone who has read this site for any length of time will know I am an absolute sucker for a good high concept horror flick. In fact I am willing to forgive a lot of a film’s flaws if the starting point is something truly creative and ambitious.
All that probably explains why the Mark Duplass starring, Patrick Brice directed Creep (2014) was the first film I chose to see at MIFF. The concept sees a cameraman answering an ad for a day’s work. A day’s filming for a thousand bucks. To give away any more than that would ruin things, but needless to say, shit goes pear shaped pretty quickly and at times pretty frighteningly. Also on occasions pretty hilariously too as the film traverses the three genres of thriller, horror and comedy in a fun pulp style. Although for much of the second half of the film that comedic tone is replaced by some really well crafted tension. In my packed screening the film got a great response as well with huge laughs and a fair few gasps at the right times too. The main reason to watch this film is that it features a totally, delightfully, unleashed Mark Duplass. In a creepy role, he is clearly happy to be going big, not having to worry about conveying any angst or particular depth of emotion. I was a fan of his before this film, but here his charisma just totally lifts the film up.
All this sounds great and all would be great if it were not for the film’s one major, overwhelming flaw. The handheld shooting style is nigh on unwatchable, especially in the first half of the film. I know that so called ‘shaky cam’ really bothers some people, but I am generally not one of them and like quite a lot of films that employ the approach. I would go as far as saying that this is comfortably the most infuriated I have ever been at the utilisation of handheld cameras. And it is actually the first time that I have felt nauseous because of the way the camera is used. In horror films too, I often find the device to be a cheap one. It is easy to artificially create tension and fear if you are just arbitrarily cutting off the side of the shot and not showing all of what would traditionally be shown in a scene. This film is definitely guilty of repeatedly using that approach. The shame of this failed approach is amplified by the pretty awesome ending in which a stationary wide shot is utilised really creatively to deliver a great high point to end on. The fact that the most shocking shot is the one where the camera is not being used to obscure parts of the frame, makes all those other instances where it is so much more frustrating. In the end though, this stylistic choice made for acceptable narrative reasons, overshadows all that is good and fun about the film.
If a high concept horror-comedy with a bit of a hipster vibe sounds like your kind of thing, then Creep is quite possibly the film for you. Be warned though, even as someone who is almost never bothered by the use of handheld cameras, the first half is almost nauseating. Which is a bummer because, especially in the second half, the film does a heap right.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught