Sitges 2017 Review: CREEP 2 Surpasses The Original
If you haven’t seen the original CREEP from director Patrick Brice, do yourself a favor
and go check it out. It’s on Netflix. I’ll wait… Great, wasn’t it? Really fun found-footage horror, super low-budget, just two guys and a camera, but totally effective horror and dark comedy throughout. Now, for me to review the fantastic, surprising sequel, spoilers for the original are basically required. So, again, if you haven’t seen the first, stop reading this. Know that they’re both great films and the second is even better, but please don’t let me spoil the first film for you.
I was apprehensive, going into CREEP 2. I really loved the first film, but that ending
didn’t leave much room for an interesting sequel, in my mind. Not just because the protagonist of the first film is dead by the end of it, but because the tension of the first film relies so heavily on uncertainty. Throughout the majority of the film, you know something is off with Josef (played pitch-perfectly by Mark Duplass), but the extent of his issues are always obfuscated. Is he dangerous, or just an odd, lonely man? The tension and discomfort builds to the final reveal that yes, Josef is a killer. The ending delivers closure in every major sense you’d ask for, so it was difficult to imagine a sequel justifying itself. Especially considering that low-budget found-footage films haven’t aged especially well. Fortunately, all these concerns went out the window almost immediately.
CREEP 2 introduces Sara (Desiree Akhavan), a young video artist struggling to find a
niche for her web series. In her series, Encounters, she films herself responding to bizarre
Craig’s List posts from lonely strangers, interviewing them, humanizing them. Inspired loosely by the real-life work of artist Laurel Nakadate, Encounters is absolutely a series I would watch. Unfortunately, in the world of CREEP, Sara’s series is failing to reach any audience. Just as she’s considering calling it quits on the project, she sees a post from our titular creep, now calling himself Aaron, apparently having taken the name of Brice’s protagonist in the first film.
When she arrives, rather than what could easily have been a rehash of the events of the
first film, Aaron is completely upfront with her. He tells her immediately that he is a serial killer, boasting even that he is the most prolific in American history. He explains that he’s lost his passion for killing, for what he once considered his art, and that he wants to make a documentary about himself, in the hopes of recapturing whatever he’s lost. This conceit, having Aaron be completely straightforward from the first interaction, makes for a very different narrative that still somehow manages to capture all of what made the first film great.
The film does a great job making Sara feel believable, even while having to justify a
person’s decision to stay in a house with a man claiming to be a serial killer. She doesn’t believe his claims, at first, and instead sees opportunity. Aaron radiates the perfect amount of oddity and spectacle to make for the most compelling episode of Encounters she could ask for. As the story goes on, and Aaron shares more and more of himself, their interactions take an unexpected shape. Where Duplass’s killer was always clearly in control, in the first film, this time around those power dynamics are far more malleable.
Mark Duplass is magnetic, lending an undeniable charisma to an undeniably off-putting
character. He has the perfect push and pull of unnerving and charming to make you believe his victims would let him get close. But this time around, Desiree Akhavan’s Sara manages to command just as much attention. She draws something out of him, forcing a genuine
vulnerability to the surface. There are moments where, despite being within stabbing-distance of a profoundly dangerous person, she is utterly dominant. It is in these interactions, these shifting scales of control, that the film finds its central tension. The mystery no longer comes from whether or not this creep is dangerous. He announces it immediately. The mystery comes from honestly not knowing where this ride will take either of the fascinating, flawed individuals caught up in it. It is to CREEP 2’s credit that throughout its run time, every possible permutation of outcomes seemed equally likely.
CREEP 2 did what I’d not thought was possible, going in. It not only validated its
existence as a sequel, it proved to be better than the original. It remains a two-character, low- budget, found-footage horror film. It doesn’t go bigger, it doesn’t add spectacle, it simply finds the most intelligent way to recapture what made the first film great, then does it better. It even manages to leave off on a note that, I’ll say it, has me excited at the prospect of a third film.