By: Loren Heubert-Aubry
Many horror films, particularly those of the found footage subgenre, rely heavily on a diverse cast of characters to fuel the plot, creating suspense and tension as they try to evade a cryptic or unseen threat and their personalities collide. The recent indie horror comedy debut Creep shakes up that formula by narrowing the cast down to two: the protagonist and the antagonist.
Released in 2014, Creep follows Aaron, an average guy who answers a Craigslist ad for a stranger named Joseph, who wants him to film a day in his life for his unborn son before he dies of cancer. Aaron proceeds to follow Joseph as he goes about his day, bonding with him in the process. As Joseph’s behavior becomes more erratic and disconcerting, however, it becomes clear that he is not all that he seems. Aaron plays the everyman, and although his own secrets are fleshed out as the story evolves, Joseph is the real star of the show. Played by Mark Duplass, Joseph is just eccentric and unpredictable enough to discomfort us, and his dead-eyed smile is the stuff of nightmares.
Free from the burdens of keeping track of a wide range of players in the story, the audience is able to focus on the two main characters instead, exploring their personalities in more depth than might typically be afforded with a larger cast. Throughout the film Aaron and Joseph hang out, chat, and share their lives with each other, giving them a very human feel. Though it may come as a surprise, the vast majority of the eighty-minute movie is improvised, following only a loose structure supplied by the roughly 15-page script.
The expanded depth is crucial, because unlike many horror antagonists, Joseph is almost constantly on full display. The only two people for miles, he and Aaron are rarely more than 20 feet away from each other, and each of them maintains a friendly attitude. As viewers observe Joseph’s increasingly dark behavior, we desperately want Aaron to cut his losses and leave.
Another of Creep’s subtle but effective tactics is through its cinematography. As previously mentioned, the whole film is shot in found footage format from Aaron’s camera. The camera’s purpose well-explained (for the purpose of the craigslist ad), as opposed to the sometimes flimsy excuses other movies have for featuring a random cameraperson. More importantly, however, while the style effectively captures that shaky, grainy, limiting viewpoint we’re familiar with, the film often subtly places it in positions that construct professional-level cinematography in scenes. This effectively pulls off an improvisational feel while still featuring some good-looking and outright chilling imagery. The shot shown below, which is also the film’s official poster, is a great example of this.
As one of the lesser-known horror titles of the last few years, Creep takes advantage of creative use of improv, cinematography, and character development to deliver a terrifying, if brief, experience. Any fan of horror owes it a viewing.