Parenting is perpetual sacrifice. Or so says Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, the directing-writing duo behind poppy cult classic Juno, with their comeback collaboration Tully. A dramatic comedy or comedic drama, depending on how you want to look at it, Tully is a soaring success no matter what box you want to put it in; a well-meaning, deeply felt, irreverently mature exploration of growing pains and adulating. Charlize Theron is a knock-one in this deliriously enjoyable feature that has no short supply of wit, bite and verve with a shot of mindfuck mixed in to boot. Read More
While this summer has been thoroughly epic with the release of Jurassic World, Magic Mike: XXL and Mad Max: Fury Road, let us not forget our humble independent cinema either going straight to VOD or perhaps gracing arthouse cinemas this summer. It’s a strong season for independent film, with new releases from indie champs James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour) and Noah Baumbach (Mistress America) as well as a few directing debuts by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and Sarah Adina Smith (Midnight Swim). Get your fill of indie cinema below with a gateway guide. Read More
There are some movies that are actively bad and others that are actively nothing. The Lazarus Effect falls in the later category. The tripping-over-its-own-feet script from Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater is a hodgepodge of horror movie tropes that fails to deviate from the path most traveled. In following that oh-so-familiar road to nothingness, they prove they came prepared without anything new to say, much less add to the genre.
The characters within Lazarus are fine, more too-well-defined horror cliches, and are notably bolstered by a quartet of compelling actors including Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters and Danny Glover all giving the DOA material a faint jolt of life. As the bands research into coma patients and DMT begin to prove viable to reanimate animals from beyond the grave, the lazarus serum is born and a series of one-location events are set in motion.
Before long, the ragtag team of scientists – followed on camera by student documentarian Eva (Sarah Bolger) – are able to bring a pooch that had been put down back to life through the Frankensteinian power of electricity and potassium. Yay bananas. As its heart starts beating again, the dog’s aggression levels spike as does its ability to pull a Lucy and control 100% of its brain – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Psychic shit happens.
As you’ve probably gathered, the experiment goes even further awry and Olivia Wilde’s Zoe is killed by a surge of electricity because she (awwww) forgot to take off her engagement ring. Unable to resuscitate her, hubbie-to-be Frank (Duplass) slaps her on his science slab and demands the group assist in injecting her with their very much still-in-development serum. As one would anticipate from a mile away, his shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to science has some nasty, horror-moviesque implications when Zoe wakes up and doesn’t quite feel like herself.
Up to this point, The Lazarus Effect has only committed the horror cardinal sin of, well, not being very scary. It has a few thing-appears-out-of-nowhere moments to surprise the crowd into a yelp or two but absolutely nothing actually scary or even worthy of note. But as the movie continues, it’s as if it actively tries to disarm its own internal sense of spookiness. Themes of science and the divine are explored in the context of hell but that plot-thread is all but abandoned before anything of worth comes from it. As for the inevitable kills, there is nothing imaginative or memorable in the slightest of ways, just a series of underwhelming, ashen disposals seemingly at the hands of a real pacifist .
The PG-13 horror movie hasn’t had a hit in a long while and with the MPAA stamping The Conjuring with a R-rating simply because it was deemed “too scary”, these all audience entries into the horror genre such as The Lazarus Effect and last year’s much worse Ouija make me question whether it’s even truly possible to have an effective PG-13 horror flick. Because if the bloodless, scareless nature of The Lazarus Effect serves as any indication, it surely doesn’t seem like it.
In the annals of horror past, the greats stand out in large part because of their inventive spirit. Something that Lazarus has almost none of. It’s Hollow Man (Hollow Woman) means Reanimator (ReanimateHer) and if the film didn’t have the good fortune of Duplass, Wilde and co. working for it, it would be even more dismissible and dopey. David Gelb was able to do something truly special within the documentary world with Jiro Dreams of Sushi making it just that much more of a shame to see him fail so acutely with his dull attempt.
Exiting the theater, one man turned to another and said, “It was alright but I can’t imagine paying $10 to see it” and that pretty much hits the nail on the head. At only 83 minutes, The Lazarus Effect is filmic premature ejaculation embodied, suffering from creative ED and hardly able to justify even half of its theatre asking price. For the real h-buffs, there’s nothing here worth seeing on the big screen so if you’re inevitably going to gobble it up, make sure you do so at home.
Mark Duplass threw his hat into the entertainment mix as a founder of the mumblecore movement before joining up with FX‘s the surprise hit tv show, The League. Since then, he’s associated with filmmakers big and small, working on Oscar nominated films (Zero Dark Thirty) and indie gems (Safety Not Guaranteed) alike. This year, Duplass has been seen on the silver screen in Creep, Tammy, and The One I Love and on television in The League, The Mindy Project and Togetherness. If you’ve watched a screen at some point, it’s likely you’ve seen the man’s face. So why is he so worried about burning out or becoming irrelevant?
Join me as I talk with Mark in detail about Creep, The One I Love and The League about a gamut of what his career means and where he thinks it may be going.
One of the things I really like about the film was the concept really reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode from way back in the days. Mark, I was wondering when you are creating your characters for this, did you go about it thinking like, “Ok, these guys are both Ethan. There’s one more kind of normal version and then the more idyllic version” or did you approach it as if they were two entirely separate characters?
Mark Duplass: I don’t want to get too much into the specifics because we’re really trying not to spoil the plot- the fact that there are two characters. We watch people watch this movie- those who know that enjoy it a lot less than those who don’t know it. So we are going to try and hold that information, but I will say, as an actor this was a very new type of role for me. Part of this is something I’m very comfortable with and done a lot of, being in sort of like fumbley rom-com mode I feel good- I know what to do there. And then there’s another side of this that I’ve never really done before. So it was at once a little scary doing that but at the same time I did have one foot in the door that I understood.
Mark, you’re obviously used to seeing yourself on screen, but was it like a somewhat new experience being like, “That’s really weird- two of me up there!”
MD: Yeah. It’s interesting when you’re basically approaching a character that has all of these different facets to it. Essentially you are going to be playing something that is very much not like you, you know? Sometimes you approach a role and you’re like, “I’m going to play myself. I’m going to do a very good version of myself in this and I’ll do well.” And I always feel very comfortable watching myself do that. In a movie like “Creep”, which is also here at the festival, it’s uncomfortable for me to watch that. In a movie like “The One I Love,” there are things I do in the film that seem very strange to me- but it’s always interesting to watch.
Can you talk a little bit about what it was like working with Elizabeth and how you built your chemistry together?
MD: It is incredible how she can click in like that. We were a big group of collaborators. There was a core group: Mel Eslyn, our producer that lives in Seattle, and me and Charlie and Justin, our writer, and Lizzy. I would say we were probably the five core team of really getting the thing going; obviously the whole crew was important. Lizzy is first and foremost an actress and very much started that way, but then by day two, by day three, by day four- as we’re discussing character and improvising a lot of things – she started to turn much more into a filmmaker and started to become aware of the filmmaking process and became a co-filmmaker with us. I, on the other hand, I’m always half filmmaker, half actor, started to feel much more confident with Charlie, a first time director. By day one I was like, “Oh, he knows what he’s doing” so then I could start to recede a little bit more to become more clearly an actor in the movie.
Speaking of that confidence with Charlie, what was it about the project or the script or his pitch that gave you the confidence in him?
MD: There was no pitch. We built it together. Really the what it was, I just go on instinct, and sometimes I get screwed because of that, but I really liked him a lot personally, I thought he was really smart, I thought it was really sensitive, was right for this kind of material. We share a sense of humor. I find that those things normally tend to work out, but you don’t know until day one. I had a sense by watching how much he had prepped and seeing the storyboards and seeing things, I was like, “Oh, I think this is going to go well!” Still you don’t know. And our first day went well. “Alright, we’re good.”
That seems to be a similar through-line with your other work, say with Patrick Brice with “Creep”. I spoke with him briefly at SXSW and he was talking about how the two of you collaborated to build the story out. Can you juxtapose that process with this?
MD: Not completely dissimilar, though I would say this film, “The One I Love” was intensely prepped with storyboards. Charlie had every shot in his mind visually and knew how to tell that story. In “Creep”, Patrick and I basically stumbled out of a van stoned and tried to find a movie with an interesting idea and fell into something that was interesting but only half-baked. And then we kept going back and reshooting and testing and reshooting and testing and reshooting, and crafting this movie as we went along. “The One I Love” was built to be executed in a 15 day shoot. “Creep” was an arts and crafts project that evolved slowly through mistakes.
In that evolution process that was “Creep” — where did you tap into the character of Josef?
MD: He was always there. We always knew that at the end of the day, when you come to see “Creep” which is being called a “found-footage horror movie” you’re coming to see a different version of that— you’re coming to see a movie about a very odd Craigslist encounter. That is, a version of: what does it mean when you show up to buy a toaster oven from some stranger, and you walk into their house and you just trust that everything is going to be ok- and they start talking to you about their ex-wife and their physical space is a little bit close and things feel weird- but you don’t leave for some reason. We wanted to examine that very dynamic and take and wring it for everything that it was worth. The more we tested the movie, the more we shot, the more we really wanted to go down the wormhole. Everybody was saying, “Go down the wormhole- we want to see how far you can go.” And that’s what we did.
Was that a chronological process where the footage that we see at the beginning of the film- the idea wasn’t fully formed yet? You didn’t quite know where the shots were going?
MD: Each time we went up we would change the middle, we would change the ending, we would change the front. Because the found-footage form is so easy to shoot and so cheap and fun, you can afford to just keep throwing out footage- to keep making new footage because we’re a small, tight group.
You say easy to film. By easy I am assuming that you mean—
Yes, exactly, but what were some of the hardest things about having to be in that deep, creepy, eerie character and yet riffing for so long within that?
MD: When you watch “Creep” you’ll see. A lot of the movie is on me to try and keep the movie afloat and keep it buoyed, and that made me nervous— I was worried it would look indulgent. There’s also a big challenge to have credibility in a found-footage movie. To keep your conceit strong— “Why is this camera on?” We felt very strongly about keeping that airtight the whole time. From a purely macro-perspective, why does the world need another found-footage horror movie? There are so many, so I felt a responsibility to a certain degree to offer something new that has some genuine laughs and genuine different kinds of feelings inside of that movie. The way I describe it, it’s like every movement— this sounds pretentious but I’m going to try and make it not pretentious— every movement, whether it is art or music or something, it maxes itself out and then it has to reset. Right? You watch painting and it goes from crazy and then all of a sudden some guy is just putting a dot in the middle of the canvas and keeping it simple. “Creep” is an attempt to reset the bar on found-footage horror genre which has gotten so crazy with sound design and craziness— let’s just strip all of that away and go back to the basics. Unsettling human behavior. And that’s what we try to do.
Yeah, very effective. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed your performance within it, too—
MD: Thanks man!
—especially for something within a genre that’s not known for performance.
MD: I’m going to get an Oscar—
Oh, I’m fully expecting it. Speaking of potentially getting an Oscar, but obviously you have a lot on your plate. You’re doing writing, directing, producing, acting and not only within the films but also in the world of television. Which of those mediums do you think— I know that obviously you’d like to do all of them— but which do you think speaks most to your personal brand of creative process?
MD: I think feel most comfortable and confident curating a small group of people and going out to make a piece of art like “The Only I Love” and like “Creep”. It’s my comfort zone. It’s what I love. I love that Charlie was frustrated making the movie and then we get to do this awesome thing together. It’s his first movie, I could feel his excitement. It affects me and keeps me excited, so I win the most on that process. That being said, my HBO show has been one of the more creative filming processes I’ve had where someone’s given me money to make something and they’re not- they don’t have their hand up my ass the whole time. They’re really being supportive to make exactly the kind of art I want to make. That has been great and if they want to keep making seasons, I’m going to keep making them!
You’ve done a lot of small independent stuff but then you also dipped your toe into some more bigger budget things like “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Parkland” and yet you keep coming back to doing these smaller projects. Is that due to your proclivity for doing things in a small group and the freedom that independent film affords?
MD: Yeah, both actually. Part of it is the freedom but part of it is the impatience I have. I don’t want to write a script that costs 30 million dollars to make because I know it’s probably going to take me five years to get it made in order to get al l of those elements together. I would so much rather call Charlie and be like, “You got a window? Let’s throw something together. You’ve got three months, let’s go do it!” It’s impatient, but again, there is a vitality to it. I was a really rebellious kid, I hate authority, I always have- and this feeling that we’re doing it our own way in our renegade way, that keeps me vital. I’m terrified of burning out or becoming irrelevant. Some of my favorite filmmakers, they make great films for 10 years and then all of a sudden they are just gone. And I think staying around first time filmmakers, keeping it cheap, carrying lights— I think that kind of stuff keeps you relevant.
My readers would hate me if I didn’t bring up “The League.”
MD: Yes! Season 6! I start shooting in 4 weeks.
You guys also just locked down another season as well?
MD: We actually did five and six, the two together. Five already aired, six is our next one, the future beyond that? God knows what will happen.
In terms of that future, obviously you’ve had a bit of unexpected success—
MD: —totally! It’s the first time I ever did it!
And who doesn’t love that show? In terms of your chemistry with the other performers, can you talk a little bit about how that has changed over the season besides what we can obviously see on the screen?
MD: I’ll tell you what has been interesting— we’re all very, very close; we’re like cousins now, we’re like family. As we started to get closer, it made it harder for us to start to insult each other as we do on the show—
And yet you insult each other more and more—
MD: —but now season 4 clicked in, we really feel like family, the chemistry is—we know we like each other, nothing we can do or say can hurt it. So now we have the utmost freedom to just be despicable. So, it’s in the right spot right now.
If you did have the option to continue the show, if popularity stays where it is, and demand is up— do you see yourself wanting to continue doing this for years and years?
MD: I love going to work with those people. I love being able to improvise. And quite honestly that show affords me the ability to do what we do, making these little movies, so it is a great scenario in that realm. Will it be funny to watch me do that in my late 50’s? I can’t guarantee that. It might be a little sad, it might be great. Who knows. We’ll see.
Begin Again played with alcoholism; Tammy’s the kind of movie that’s alcoholic. The whole thing seems inebriated, like it was shot with a camera in one hand and a shot of booze in the other. Never mind that Susan Sarandon spends the film chugging whiskey and brews, or that Melissa McCarthy can’t seem to make it a mile without blowing something up. People you watched in movies back in the ‘80s and ‘90s keep popping up in random places as if you stepped into a bizarro Hollywood career rehab. Hey guys, wanna fit Dan Aykroyd in this movie? What about Gary Cole? Sure. Screw it.
Watching old people make whoopee isn’t fun for anyone. Neither is diabetes. Tammy has a lot of both, usually at the same time. There’s a lot of amusement mixed in with things you’d rather not think about: unemployment, aging, prison. If you want to watch someone crash a jet-ski, you might as well watch America’s Funniest Home Videos and skip Ben Falcone’s hour-and-a-half long road-trip comedy.
I went into Tammy expecting fat jokes and toilet humor. There are a lot of both, but they’re not as bad as you’d think. McCarthy turns a lot of nothing into something. The film opens with her crashing into a CGI deer. Nothing’s funny about it, but the film draws it out for a minute. She recovers: after getting fired from her job at KFC-esque “Topperjacks,” where everyone dresses like a rodeo clown in parachute jumpsuits, she throws a tantrum. As a glorified loser she plays up the moment, throwing burgers and insults. She heads home to find her husband (Nat Faxon) eating a romantic dinner with the next door neighbor (Toni Colette). You don’t want to feel bad for her, but she turns up the embarrassment. It’s sweaty comedy: she has to burn a lot of calories to get any laughs, but damn it does she try hard.
At first you don’t know what to think about Susan Sarandon as McCarthy’s drunken grandma. Sarandon’s made her career playing a mom—it’s difficult to imagine her suffering as a Grandma. When she heads out to road-trip to Niagara Falls with McCarthy and pulls out the liquor, you can still see the youth in her smile. Along the way they keep getting into crazier situations: jet-ski’s get Viking burials at an all-Lesbian 4th of July party, cars get blown up, the two end up in jail. At one point McCarthy holds up a Topperjacks with a paper bag on her head and a rolled up bag covering a finger gun—all this just to bail Sarandon out. The two go back—hostile paper bags on heads—to return the money.
Awkward romance finds itself in this film too. Sarandon hooks up with the aforementioned Gary Cole in the back of a car while McCarthy and Cole’s son (Mark Duplass) sit on the trunk. They move to a hotel room and McCarthy’s left to sleep outside. Amidst the old people fornicating, Duplass’s character falls for McCarthy’s wacky charm and somehow a relationship develops. This is awkward on many levels, and doesn’t really make any sense. McCarthy’s Tammy has absolutely nothing going for her, so why would Duplass’ character have any interest at all?
As much as it struggles with itself, Tammy is brutally honest. Though there’s a lot of heavy topics packed in, the film knows how to turn the discomfort into candid comedy. Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh play a lesbian couple with a passion for explosions. They make light of their struggle as a same-sex couple, and it’s genuinely funny even in its seriousness. Bates brings a lot to her role and delivers some touching moments. Sarandon’s alcoholism breeds some comedy within the sadness too.
Hidden in all the fat jokes and potty humor is a vulnerable McCarthy, who knows how to take it and when to give it out. Though there are a lot of dumb jokes you’d expect from an Adam McKay/Will Ferrell produced comedy, there are some gems too. Her robbery antics at the Topperjacks struggling to jump over the counter and stealing hot pies gets a giggle. Her dance to “Thrift Shop” collects a grin. McCarthy puts the belly in belly laugh.
Wickedly funny at points, there’s a lot of internal strife—you know where Tammy wants to go but it takes the long way there. Despite its simplicity, McCarthy and Sarandon are quirky and fun, though far from smart. Who figured Sarandon would have any sort of comic timing? They’re not the first pair you’d want to road trip with, but at least they’re something to laugh at. If anything, Tammy is a reminder that no matter how bad life gets, it can always get a lot worse.
At the premiere of his debut horror/thriller Creep, director and star Patrick Brice took to the stage to put some A’s to some Q’s and give some context for his found-footage creeper. But Brice’s film;s greatest accomplishment lies in the performance eeked from Mark Duplass. He’s magnetic, unpredictable and an absolute joy to watch. From our review,
“No matter how valiant his intentions sound on paper, Joseph (Duplass) is an unreliable character from the get go. From his startling first appearance to the unsavory wolf mask, ironically called Peach Fuzz, he keeps stuffed in his closet, he’s a hard guy to get a read on. But that’s half the fun. Throttling between waxing on his own mortality and jumping from behind a doorway to startle Patrick (and by extension us), one thing is for certain: Joseph’s a weird dude. He’s always quick on his toes to offer some soundbite explanation for his abnormal actions but his backstory is about as reliable and consistent as Heath Ledger‘s Joker.”
Revealing his long standing friendship with co-star Duplass, Brice talked stalker behavior, the colloborative nature of Creep and how he went from an artsy filmmaker to directing a found footage horror movie. Read on to hear all he had to say.
How did you get Mark involved in the film?
Patrick Brice: Mark Duplass and I are close friends. I just graduated from Cal Arts film school in 2011. He was kind of mentoring me and trying to figure out what the next project would be. We’d talked about working together on something. This project came out of those conversations. He just said, “Why don’t we go do something together?” So we went up to a cabin in the woods for five days and filmed an initial cut of this movie and ended up showing it to friends, doing some test screenings with filmmaker buddies – kind of refining it and toning it into the film that it is now. Eventually Jason Blum, from Blumhouse, watched the film, liked it, and agreed to kind of help us make it a little darker.
When you were writing it, was it tempting to turn it more into comedy and change the ending? Or did you know that you wanted it like this?
PB: We had no idea. There was like seven different versions of that ending. And I’m sorry I’m totally low blood sugar today. I’ve only eaten tacos for a meal. I can’t (EDITED FOR SPOILERS). I’m having an existential crisis. There was sort of a weird test, because we knew we wanted it to be funny and Mark’s insanely funny and gifted with improv. Jason saw it and was like, “You guys, this is teetering on the edge. Let’s bring this a little more into the realm of darkness.” It’s kind of a weird balance but hopefully it will work for some people.
Your movie reminds me of someone I know. I’m not even kidding.
PB: Mark and I, we love weird people and we love people that you can’t really get a serious beat on. We also are both the type of dudes who end up being friends with those people. This was kind of our exploration into that.
His behavior was kind of textbook stalker. How much research did you do on stalking behaviors and stuff like that?
PB: I didn’t do research whatsoever. One discussion we did have was talking about people we’ve known in our lives who are like pathological liars – just thinking about traits of those type of people and trying to express that.
I find it thrilling, because it’s clearly so stripped down and just like you have a great idea and a great story. You made it happen. I would love to hear what you shot on. Was it literally you and Mark? Did you have a small crew?
PB: We had a small crew and actually one of them is here, Chris Donlon, our editor. This guy’s a story genius and we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did, without him. We shot it on one of these Panasonic cameras that compresses to a small card. It was a great exercise for me. Coming out of film school, I was like, “I’m going to make very defined, formal films.” This was just like throwing that all by the wayside and saying, “Let’s just go run completely on instinct, and forget about aesthetic as much as we can and just try to make something that’s compelling and focused on characters.”
Were you holding the camera the whole time?
PB: Yeah. It was either me or Mark holding the camera the entire time.
How much of this do you guys do in tandem? Did you direct each other?
PB: Yeah. The film was a collaboration. When Mark was on screen, I was directing him and when I was on screen, he was directing me. Neither of us had any ego with that sort of thing. A lot of these takes were initially six or seven minute takes that have been cut up. So we would just run each take. We didn’t have a script. We had a ten page outline, we were just improvising all the dialogue, so we would run one of these takes, watch it, figure out camera placement and what we should say when, go back and do it over and over again. Because it was just a small group of us, we could do that.
Were you developing the characters as you went along?
PB: I had never acted before, so I was relying on Mark in terms of what was working and what was not. It’s super hard to be objective when you’re directing yourself. We kind of went scene by scene. It was a story we develop, in reaction to whatever nuances happened in the last thing we shot. We shot it all in continuity. But we still have that outline that was like, “This needs to happen within these parameters.”
All the paintings of the wolves, who did those?
PB: My best friend since I was 11 years old, his mom did all those. She just paints multiples of those wolves. That’s like what she does. I was so happy I got to include them. That’s something we used to always make fun of his mom about when we were kids. Now it’s like, “Jason, can I get like 50 of those paintings?”
I love how the end opens up all these side possibilities of what happens before and what happens after. One of the things I’m wondering about Mark Duplass’s character is: when you were developing a backstory for him, does he have a similar approach to all his victims? Does he take them all to the heart springs? Is this something you talked about at all?
PB: No. Not really. I think there’s a world of possibilities there. I don’t think he’s done this before. In my mind I like to think that he has something special for each person. Or maybe he doesn’t (SPOILER) everybody. Maybe it takes a special someone, to want to (SPOILER) them.
How did the concept for the movie come about?
PB: At first this movie was like a relationship movie, I guess. We weren’t necessarily thinking that it was going to go as far as it did, in terms of evil. We wanted it to be a balance between the two of us. I do think there’s something wrong with Aaron. Don’t do that.
Directed by Patrick Brice
Starring Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Comedy, Horror, Romance
Mark Duplass has had quite a run in the fledgling stages of his career. From small roles in the likes of Oscar baity films, such as Zero Dark Thirty and, le sigh, Parkland, to larger roles in unsung indie hits Humpday and Safety Not Guaranteed, and simply as the reliably affable straight man, Pete, on The League, it’s easy to admit that Duplass has got range. He dips his toes in the pools of all different genres and mediums, working as an accomplished dramatic actor and solid comedian to boot. It’s then such a surprise that perhaps the greatest work he’s done is in a found little footage horror movie called Creep.
Captured in what has become the oh so familiar first person POV framework, Patrick Brice takes on dual responsibility as the film’s lead and director. He is our window into the events to unfold, a fluctuating moral guide through a stew of character grays. Brice is Aaron, a videographer gun-for-hire who responds to a mysterious Craigslist ad claiming it will take one day of his time and pay a cool grand. Up in the mountains, he meets a Joseph, a man with claims of imminent death, making a farewell video for his unborn son.
No matter how valiant his intentions sound on paper, Joseph (Duplass) is an unreliable character from the get go. From his startling first appearance to the unsavory wolf mask, ironically called Peach Fuzz, he keeps stuffed in his closet, he’s a hard guy to get a read on. But that’s half the fun. Throttling between waxing on his own mortality and jumping from behind a doorway to startle Patrick (and by extension us), one thing is for certain: Joseph’s a weird dude. He’s always quick on his toes to offer some soundbite explanation for his abnormal actions but his backstory is about as reliable and consistent as Heath Ledger‘s Joker.
Brice and Duplass love playing with the idea of the unreliable narrator as they fill the film with palpable moments of transitioning allegiances. There are times when Duplass feels like the titular creep, other times when it’s Brice. There’s even some fleeting moments where we turn the mirror on ourselves to see if we’re the ones prescribing oddness to an otherwise savory and sweet situation. Could there actually be nothing wrong at all (save our unsavory expectations?) What am I talking about, this is a movie called Creep, of course some creeping is bound to go down. And go down it does.
When a film backs itself into a corner like Creep does about sixty minutes in, it usually becomes increasingly reliant on familiar tropes. The fringes of possibility become a picket fence and the audience is able to pick off the thread count like floating sheep. There are only so many ways to wrap things up in a horror movie and we usually know which of those endings will transpire when we’ve got about thirty minutes to go. But when Creep seems like its reaches the last track, it smartly changes things up, transforming from what may have dissolved into an unsatisfying slasher into a whole new type of paranoid tension machine.
From his backlit framing to the long, empty, awkward silences that fill the air like smog, Brice plants all the seeds of doubt required to make his audience want to stand up and shout “Don’t go in there!” at the screen. Thankfully, his characters are rarely dumb enough to go the way of the slasher victim. It may not subvert the horror genre, but at least it doesn’t sink down to its level. And though Brice does his fair share of leaning on genre mainstays to milk some frights, he remains true to his characters throughout and they’re what made it interesting in the first place.