by Rob Rector
Director Patrick Brice has been earning raves for his latest film, The Overnight, starring Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman, which has been playing in select theaters in a limited-run release. It has earned raves for its bold take on sexual politics, causing some reviewers to compare it to the Paul Mazursky film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, released way back in 1969. And while The Overnight isn’t slated for a wide release, viewers will get the opportunity to see the director’s stab at the thriller genre in Creep, a film released just last year that will get its premiere on Netflix on July 14.
In it, Brice plays Aaron, a videographer who accepts the opportunity to make a quick buck by answering ad placed by Josef (played by Mark Duplass), a man whose terminal illness led him to want to produce a video for his unborn son. It’s not long before Aaron arrives at a remote cabin to meet Josef that the filmmaker can tell that there is something a tad bit “eccentric” about his subject. As the day progresses, though, these little quirks of Josef take on a decidedly darker tone, which soon sends Aaron scrambling for the door by nightfall. And while the film is shot in “found footage” format, it manages to have fun with the genre, thanks in large part to the directorial talents of Brice, and to an even larger part to Duplass, who continues to demonstrate an ever-widening range of talent and scope of interest.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Mark Duplass is part of a brotherly duo of filmmakers who just inked a seven-picture deal with Orchard (two of those films as the aforementioned Overnight and Creep). His brother, Jay, stays predominantly behind the lens and as a writer for many of their projects. But Mark has starred (and at times, directed and written) some of the more notable independent film favorites in the last few years (The Puffy Chair, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Humpday, Jeff, Who Lives and Home, Your Sister’s Sister, Safety Not Guaranteed, as well as his television work as a regular on The Mindy Project and the long-running FX hit The League).
In Creep, his wings spread even further, playing an emotionally damaged man so in desperate need of a friend that he becomes terrifyingly needy. But Duplass has the comedy background to ingratiate himself to the audience, pulling off the shaggy, loveable loser who just likes to play pranks and is perhaps a tad too overzealous to find a new friend in Aaron.
The conversations that flow between Josef and Aaron feel grounded in reality (as it was largely improvised), but Josef’s increasing turn toward the darker side of a laugh (the introduction of a character from Josef’s past called Mr. Peachfuzz is decidedly unnerving) seems just as authentic to the audience as it does to Brice. They manage to create a sense of mounting dread much like the one built by James Caan and Kathy Bates in Misery. And while it can resort to some cheap scares here and there, the performance from Duplass keep the film immanently watchable to see just how loose his screw has become.
Creep does nothing ground-breaking with its premise, but its casual, unironed approach, likeable leads and zippy pace (78 minutes) make for an above-average night with the lights out, and a chance to see a talented team gain considerable traction in their art form.Share: