Film

Mark Duplass Elevates Found-Footage Horror Flick ‘Creep’

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Superior found-footage horror film Creep tellingly loses steam after it stops being a rote but tense game of chicken between a normcore derangoid (he likes hikes, hugs, and pancakes) and his wary victim.

Creep falls apart after amateur filmmaker Aaron (co-writer/director Patrick Brice) stops passively taking orders from Josef (Mark Duplass), a disturbingly upbeat cancer patient who pays Aaron to make a video diary for his unborn son. Until then, Duplass’s fantastically unhinged performance establishes what Brice fails to convey through lame dialogue during the overheated finale: Josef’s spastic behavior may lead you to expect the worst from him, but his pathetic tics also humanize Josef enough to make you want to see what he’ll do next to Aaron.

As Josef, Duplass has a boyishly skittish quality that makes his character’s unwittingly desperate attempts to bond with Aaron that much more upsetting. You can anticipate that Josef’s about to pull some dopey prank on Aaron in a couple of scenes, like when Josef pounces on Aaron and then lectures him about having the kind of “near-death experience” that Josef has every day. But Duplass’s self-serious tone makes this unpredictable and exciting.

Duplass also messes with viewers’ expectations just by changing the pitch of his voice into an affect-less monotone when Aaron puts the lens cap on his camera, and records Josef telling a disturbing story about his wife Angela. It will be a great year for horror movies if another found-footage movie accomplishes as much in one scene as Duplass and Brice do with Josef’s disturbing monologue.

Creep

Directed by Patrick Brice

Opens September 2, Videology, Brooklyn