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I adore experimental movies. Adore is actually too soft a word. I ebullient experimental movies. I evanescent experimental movies. I giddy experimental movies. You get the idea.
Lots and lots of amazing can happen when you have a good idea, good writing, and a core group of friends to help you pull off your little tableau. I’ve talked and talked and talked about how the recent explosion of super heroes movies have deadened our senses for what really matters. Which is good characters. Good situations and ideas. Good writing. Marvel seems to think that McGuffins + CGI Explosions = Good Movie. But I couldn’t disagree more.
Which brings us to the most raw, most minimalist of tests to my opinion of what makes a good movie. Creep. I have loudly spoken out about my adoration for Mark Duplass and the Duplass brothers. My obsessive love affair with Mark started when I found “The One I Love“. And I would probably argue that The One I Love is my go to movie recommendation when people ask what THinc. is all about. “It’s about independent movies that make the audience think… a great example? Easy, The One I Love.” That conversation literally happens once a week. At the very least. Sure, I could drop in a million other movies we talk about here, but that one exudes a surety and aplombness about itself that others don’t have.
Well, I had thought I’d seen every Duplass movie. Until Tanya, a reader here, emailed me about… what? Personal Shopper I think. There’s a section in my review that is all jacked up, and I need to fix it. And she was kind enough to walk me through my mistake. Anyway, we ended up chatting about other cool/strange/creepy movies and alighted upon the Duplass brothers momentarily as these conversations usually do at one point or other. And then Tanya said this:
“Yes – I saw ‘The one I love’ – very interesting – I have to say – I do enjoy most of what the Duplass brothers offer – as in ‘Creep’ – that is a good one!”
And as I was reading the email my brain was like, yup, good one, ok moving on. Wha-WHAT? Creep? I’ve never heard of Creep before!?! And so, I spent 4 days downloading the movie in order to watch it last night. Yes, the interwebs at this particular location of Haiti are atrocious.
High Level Overview of Creep
The gist of this film is simple enough. Aaron responds to a Craig’s List ad from Josef, who is looking for a videographer for the day. Eight hours. Josef is apparently dying of brain tumor and would like to record some thoughts for his unborn child before he dies. But all is not as it seems here in Creep-ville…
How Was Creep Made?
I just have to get this off my chest really fast. This movie, literally is, Catfish. The ‘documentary’, ‘meta-mockumentary’?, movie about a budding romance on Facebook? You’ve heard of it right? I’ve told you about it already… don’t make me repeat myself people! The feel, the storyline, pretty much everything. I’d actually be shocked to to find out that Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice weren’t influenced by Catfish at least in some small way.
One of things that I absolutely adored about this movie was that Mark Duplass’ nanny’s husband is Patrick. And Patrick was a recent graduate of CalArts, I think it was anyway, and the two of them were just talking about possible movies. And what movie Patrick would make if here were to make his first. (Talk about an awesome in… and a serious bonus to have your Nanny-in-law be Mark Duplass?!? But I digress)
So they stumbled on this idea of a Craigslist encounter gone wrong, and Patrick had a cabin up in the woods (probably somewhere near Big Bear California I’d imagine? I grew up running through those woods) that they thought they could use. So they took a week out and improvised this movie off a five page treatment outline that they had created. Then the duo connected with Jason Blume (who only produced, Whiplash and Split, and a number of other movies you’d know if I fired them at you) and formed and shaped it into the movie we have today. And it is this level of guerrilla movie making that I adore and love.
High Level Walk Through of Creep
The movie kicks off with Aaron driving up to meet with Josef after having accepted a position off of Craigslist as a videographer. The job listing basically said that they were looking for an 8 hour videographer to video Josef for the day. Simple enough. Until, that is, Aaron gets up there and learns that Josef is a hot mess.
Apparently, Josef had been diagnosed with cancer in his lungs and liver but had beaten it. It was in remission. Until it came back and manifested itself as a baseball sized tumor in his brain. And so, he had hired Aaron to video his thoughts and feelings before he died, so he could leave the video for his to be born son.
I will admit right here, that one of the things that I was not a fan of was the obvious ad-libbing going on. It was almost as if there wasn’t enough content to go around, and so the guys were doing their best to push spread not enough paint across a too big of a canvass. Case in point number one… Tubby Time? The bathroom scene sort of wigged me out a little. Like, serious heebs. If this were real life… I would never, not in a million years, taken that camera into that bathroom. Nope. Not gonna do it. Not even with a buddy filming a movie. So all I was thinking about was these two friends doing this weird, awkward scene together that just was wrong. Like, weird and wrong. And yet, I guarantee you, I’ll get comments on this post saying, TUBBY TIME SOLD ME ON JOSEF. I just know it. Which is cool. I get it. But wow, suspension of reality for me was thrown out the window with that particular scene. Ok?
Regardless, their encounters range far and wide, from hiking, to having lunch, to wolf mask tales, to romping in the mountain stream. All the while, Aaron is videoing and capturing this encounter for Josef’s yet to be born son.
Later that night, after drinks, Josef wants to admit something to Aaron. So Aaron puts the camera down, but doesn’t stop recording. “Is the camera off?” “Yes, the camera is off.” We hear Aaron say. And there, with the covered up lens, we here Josef tell the ‘real’ story of the wolf mask. How he began to believe his wife was into animal porn. So one day he buys the wolf mask at the dollar store and sneaks into the house and ‘rapes’ his wife. Which, she loved apparently. And it’s right here, at about the half way point, that the story begins to turn. I have to admit, I thought it a bold choice to tell the audience a 3 minute story with the camera lens covered. So kudos to them for the realism there and the cleverness that amped up the story significantly at that point.
But when Aaron goes to leave his keys are gone. Josef convinces Aaron to stay through the night, and look for his keys in the morning. Well, obviously, Josef had taken the keys in order to get Aaron to stay longer. Long story short, Aaron eventually leaves, and their ‘relationship’ continues well after the video gig had ended. Which, I thought was a very clever play and really took the story to a new level. It was only after the scenes at the cabin that things really started to feel much more professional and extraordinarily good in my opinion.
So Aaron begins receiving packages in the mail from Josef. The first was just of Aaron digging in the woods… digging his grave apparently. And Aaron continues to video each of these encounters. And when he receives the knife, and the wolf stuffed animal, and the locket that was inside the wolf that Aaron decides to contact the police. But when he’s talking to the police he realizes he isn’t even sure if Josef is his real name, oh and by the way, he found out that Josef had just rented that cabin. So that isn’t Josef’s address. He knows nothing about this man.
One of my favorite scenes of the movie was definitely where Aaron is talking into the camera in the middle of the night. Then Aaron is startled out of bed by a large noise. He jumps up and gets a knife, and runs off to another part of the house. And there, standing in the door, is Josef. Aaron never sees Josef, but the camera sees him as clear as day. And then Aaron heads out to the side of the house to find his trash had been rummaged through. And it’s after this that Aaron’s camera spontaneously turns on and films him sleeping, and then proceeds to cut some of his hair off.
It’s at this point of the movie that Creep starts to take on a feeling of the movie Coherence, or better yet The Invitation! Hahah. If you haven’t seen those two movies, just stop reading this review and go find them, and then come back so we can talk. Please. Thanks.
When Aaron awakes, he finds a DVD inserted into the torn screen of his window. And on the video it says, “My Last Video”. And on the video Josef bemoans the fact that he found the previous video he had sent, as well as the heart necklace in Aaron’s trash can. “When I found those things in your trash can I had some inappropriate thoughts about what I wanted to do to you….. and to myself.” So yeah, while the first half of this movie is a little bit of a cheese-fest, the second half amps up the thrills. And it culminates in this spit-balled-ad-libbed monologue from Mark Duplass that is off the charts good. It is this single soliloquy that 100% makes this movie. Sells it. And hits it completely out of the park.
Basically in this final video from Josef, he says that while he was initially mad about Aaron’s throwing away his stuff, ultimately he understands why did it. “You don’t know me.” And he goes on to say that he wants to be honest and tell the truth for once in his life. And the truth is, he has no friends. The truth is he’s been to doctors for help, and there have been medications. But he’s alone and he wants someone to talk to about it. And so Josef invites Aaron up to the lake, in this public place to talk… tomorrow at eleven. “Because the truth is, I’m a lonely person… and a sad person.” Brilliant. Such a brilliant play.
And so like a complete and total idiot… Aaron heads back up to the park like Josef asked, and he sits on the park bench. Sets the camcorder to record from the car – and ends up getting hacked to death by the wolf that is Josef. As the seen freeze frames it cuts back to Josef watching and rewatching the murder. We see him place the DVD on a shelf with a pile of other videos he had captured before.
Thoughts and Theories about the Ending of Mark Duplass’ Creep
I would love to make a movie like this. Take a clever idea like this one (even if a Catfish remake) and let it fling into the wind. What makes this movie happen, what really brings this thing to life is that Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass have zero fear. They corn ball some dialogue with the faith that their idea and their story will hold it all together. And it really does. As I’ve said before, I wasn’t a huge fan of the beginning, but the story definitely gets better as the intensity ratchets up and up. Mark’s portrayal of Josef as an unwitting and clueless doofus actually works well here. Adds a layer of fear here that you don’t normally see in movies like this one.