“A video artist looking for work drives to a remote house in the forest to meet a man claiming to be a serial killer. But after agreeing to spend the day with him, she soon realizes that she made a deadly mistake.” — IMDb
Creep 2 is, of course, the sequel to 2014’s Creep (which I freaking LOVED). As I stated then, I will watch anything with Mark Duplass involved, and he not only stars in these films but he co-wrote them with director Patrick Brice. It has been announced that there will be a third Creep film coming, so this is the second in what is to be a trilogy of awesomeness.
This sequel follows Sara (Desiree Akhavan), a college student who does video work on the side to save up for grad school. She has started up a YouTube series called “Encounters” where she responds to unusual Craigslist ads and, in a journalistic style, tries to learn more about the people placing these ads while simultaneously trying to fulfill their requests. She is becoming discouraged with the low traffic to her show when she decides to film a dramatic finale, and Aaron’s (Mark Duplass) ad — for a one-day videographer gig — catches her eye…
** SPOILERS! **
I wasn’t sure how much this sequel would hold up considering part of the thrill of the first film was that we didn’t know Duplass’s character’s story for most of the viewing. But they managed to come up with a fresh enough take that twisted it just enough to make it unique and almost new again, to the point where, once again, I wanted to trust Duplass — an impressive feat since I saw what he was capable of in the first film.
A detail that I didn’t notice until I was reading my review of the first movie… he now goes by Aaron, the name of his victim in that film. Awesome. He says “here I am, a strange amalgamation of the 39 men and women that I’ve killed”, which apparently extends to at least occasionally taking on their names as well. A subtle but highly disturbing detail.
I thought the story in this second go was much more engaging than the first. There’s less mystery and more raw honesty and vulnerability. Aaron is completely upfront with Sara about his reason for making the documentary — he’s a serial killer who has lost his passion for the craft. You almost expect him to crack a smile and assure her that he’s joking when he first reveals this, but he doesn’t — he leaves it up to her to take it or leave it.
Akhavan was, overall, a much more competent partner than Brice was. Any movie that relies so heavily on the interactions of just two characters — there IS a third, technically, but he’s killed off within the first 5 minutes or so — needs to have a strong dynamic, which I thought was lacking in the first film. Brice is a fantastic director but as an actor he left much to be desired, and their interactions felt strained and dramatically one-sided. But Sara as a character not only impresses the audience but Aaron as well — he is consistently surprised by her, exclaiming how smart she is when she tells him to “think about what Francis Ford Coppola would do” during a frustrating filming moment, or admiringly commenting “tough nut to crack” when she barely flinches after he tries to scare her with a spontaneous scream. Whether the bulk of her motivation is to boost YouTube viewers or to actually get to know this complex, damaged man we aren’t sure (though I have a feeling it’s both), but it makes her determined and at least mostly assured. I also loved that they had a similar bizarre idea of fun — shown when she appears screaming with Scotch tape deforming the features of her face as he tries to sneak up on her in the shower, or during their game of hide-and-go-seek in the pitch blackness. There’s this bit of childlike playfulness in both of them.
I think one of the most impressive feats of both of these movies is that they really aren’t horror movies in any traditional sense. The bare bones of the plot indicates yes — a person going into the remote wilderness to meet a stranger who will later kill them — but the meat of the film is driven not by jump scares and gore but this raw, uncomfortable, sometimes even a little bit beautiful (like when Aaron shares what is possibly his first kiss with Sara, if anything he says can be truly believed) stripped-down dialogue and interaction. The scares are much, much more subtle.
A big part of my own fear while watching these movies is the idea that you never truly know who a person is. Duplass’s character — first Josef and now Aaron — has both this disarming enthusiasm and concerning spontaneity, with his excitement increasingly being interrupted with these dramatic dips into a valley of despondency. You want to both help him — a task that seems impossible — and run far, far away. He’s impossibly charming, in large part because of his willingness to open up and expose himself (sometimes literally), and yet it’s difficult to know what the truth is, even after he claims that he never lies. This is a huge testament to Duplass’s acting ability — he is 1000% believable, relatable, and even somehow likable despite watching him put an axe in someone’s head.
I thought the ending was pretty great. Again, I wanted to believe Aaron so badly that I really thought — despite it making no logical sense, both in the context of the film and the practicality of it being a movie with a third sequel — that maybe Sara would escape the experience intact. But then he gave her the locket — the same one he had given Aaron in the first film — and when he showed her the empty grave I felt the blood drain from my face. It managed a few more twists and turns before a chilling last scene… Aaron whistling his previous tune as Sara seems to recognize him with a numb horror on the subway. OOF.
Once again, an amazingly smart and calculated horror movie with no bells and whistles — I can’t wait for the third!
Rating: 8.5/10 | Director: Patrick Brice | Writer: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass | Music: Julian Wass | Cinematography: Patrick Brice, Desiree Akhavan | Starring: Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan, Karan Soni