Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 7: Creep (2014)
Mark Duplass has done just about everything in the realm of visual entertainment. He’s acted in numerous projects in front of the camera, and his lengthly directorial and production roles are quite impressive as well. You might know him from the drama The One I Love or, if you’re more of a television person, his starring role in the fantasy football comedy The League. When an actor has such a long resumé, it might be hard to pick out their best work. This isn’t the case with Duplass. If Creep isn’t at the top of the list, it’s pretty damn close.
Creep is a found footage film that takes place through the lens of a camera carried by Aaron (Patrick Brice, who also directs). After answering an online ad looking for a cameraman, he travels up to a woodland cabin where he meets Josef (Duplass). Josef explains that shortly after he and his wife conceived their first child, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. With his future uncertain, Josef wants Aaron’s help in filming a video that will memorialize Josef for his unborn child in case he dies before the child arrives.
This is a horror movie, so of course they don’t just film the video and go on their merry ways. The day starts well enough, with the two getting to know one another and going on a hike together. However, as the day drags on, Josef begins to behave increasingly erratically and starts to show obsessive tendencies towards Aaron. Potential holes begin to appear in Josef’s story even as he explains them away, and Aaron does his best to stick it out as things get weirder.
The found footage aspect of Creep is fantastic, to the point I don’t believe the movie would work without it. Outside of one brief phone conversation, Aaron and Josef are the only two characters we ever see or hear from. Operating with a handheld camera that changes hands several times allows us to see the world from both of their points of view creates an intimacy that makes our connections to the two that much stronger and the horror that much more potent.
In a psychological horror film like Creep, a key factor is the uncertainty. It’s not just the uncertainty of any unusual goings-on, but also the uncertainty that anything is wrong in the first place to sow doubt for the protagonist and the audience. As the suspense mounts through the beginning of Creep‘s short runtime, everything has a plausible explanation behind it. Josef’s penchant for jump scaring Aaron any chance he can? Chalk it up to a weird sense of humor. The wolf mask found in a guest room closet? A character that Josef’s father created to entertain his child that Josef will pass down to his baby. The radical shifts in behavior and demeanor that Josef goes through? Both the physical and emotional toll of the cancer growing inside his head. Neither the audience nor Aaron can determine at first whether Josef is just sick or if he’s dangerous.
With all due respect to Brice, who does an admirable job as Aaron, Creep is driven by the magnetism of Duplass as Josef. Duplass has always been phenomenal at playing the everyman, the slightly goofy guy you want to grab a beer with. As Josef, he uses that to draw both Aaron and us in, causing us to invest in his wellbeing. It’s incredible to watch him use that exact same proficiency as the film continues to turn Josef from lovable to unnerving. Duplass is not the most physically imposing guy around, but the changes to his inflection and mannerisms make for a suitably sinister presence in Creep.
If you’re looking for a short, intense, unnerving horror film, Creep is where you want to look. And with the just announced sequel dropping at the end of the month, this is the perfect time to watch. (NOTE: The linked trailer for Creep 2, by nature of being a trailer for a sequel, contains spoilers for Creep.) Be prepared to always be slightly freaked out by Mark Duplass after you’re done watching.