I’m back with another horror movie; and the fact that I want to write about it should tell you that it’s worthwhile (if I wrote about all the terrible horror movies I see it would be a full-time job).
The title is pretty vague (and apparently shares it with a British movie from 2004), so it’s about a guy named Aaron and this is the thumbnail on Netflix that caught my attention.
Looks like a low budget werewolf movie, doesn’t it? Fact is, sometimes I’m down with those (check out Neil Marshall’s excellent Dog Soldiers to see why), and was actually fresh off another two-star Netflix offering that masqueraded as one but was a letdown (The Beast of Exmoor, not recommended).
Why do I waste my time with two-star movies, you might ask? Because people can be idiots and I find myself disagreeing with their opinions more often than not. Case in point: Creep.
(There will be spoilers but I’ll cordon them off at the end.)
The story couldn’t be simpler. Aaron is hired by Josef to film him for a day–he’s terminally ill and wants his unborn son to see what he was like. D’awww.
But things start to feel off (but this is a horror movie; we expect things to be off, unless this was misshelved in the rom-com section and you somehow missed the title and the menacing cover art (I might be dating myself talking about shelving movies. See kids, once upon a time, the world was full of Blockbuster Videos…)).
Things start to feel off, but never enough to make Aaron turn tail and run. This is thanks to an absolutely Oscar-worthy performance by Mark Duplass as Josef (also co-writer; the entire thing is all the work of the two guys on screen), who expertly walks the line between genuinely likeable guy and shady character with highly questionable motives.
He looks like this actor, who has the word “kind” right in his name and played Bing-Bong, for Pete’s sake. Bing-Bong would never throw you in a well and force you to put lotion on your skin, right?
But like I said, he walks the line like a pro and kept me riveted, especially when he introduced “Peachfuzz.”
He’s the werewolf from the thumbnail, and I would have preferred if he was a cheesy effect. I don’t want to spoil. I will say, knowing it’s just a guy in a mask isn’t much of a comfort in the context of the film.
The only other thing I’ll say is the ending isn’t a huge twist or anything (unless your resume of films isn’t as lengthy as mine), but as I said recently, not everything has to have a huge twist. And twist no longer equals good ending, necessarily, thanks to a hundred Shymalamadingdong wanna-bes. But it’s not a letdown either, and I think for two guys making a horror movie with zero budget or effects, that makes this film kind of extraordinary.
Alright, that’s the non-spoilery portion of the show. Read on for the meat and bones.
SPOILERS! LAST CHANCE! SPOILERS!
Okay. All that I just discussed is actually the first two-thirds of the film. Surprisingly, Aaron escapes Josef and goes home, but he’s not out of the woods yet. Josef starts stalking him in a full-on creepy, fatal attraction way (and the not-always-subtle homoerotic hints sprinkled throughout the film make it all the more unsettling. But refreshing not to have a female victim for once). Unfortunately this is where the maximum suspension of disbelief is required, and in fact the whole movie falls apart if you stubbornly refuse to abandon reality (in which case, stick to documentaries. I can count on one hand the number of horror movies that don’t have any big glaring flaws in logic).
How did Josef get Aaron’s address? (It’s stated early that Aaron travels a considerable distance to Josef’s place.) Why does Aaron throw away the gifts Josef mails him, which surely could be evidence for the police? Why does Aaron get so mad when the police can’t help him based on the only information he can give, the name Josef (which even he admits might be fake)? (And why does he forget about the hours of video he’s taken of Josef?) Why does Aaron feel at all safe having a glass front door? (A horror movie standard that I’ve never accepted: people thinking glass doors and windows will protect them.) And why, why doesn’t Aaron turn around??
Here’s the biggest spoiler of all: Josef kills Aaron, in full daylight in a semi-public place, even after Aaron takes precautions and puts 9-1-1 on speed dial and films the whole thing. So why does he sit with his back to the parking lot and never once look behind him?
Well, the film makers clearly noticed this too and tried to be clever by having Josef ask the now-dead Aaron in his own vlog. I guess each viewer has to decide for themselves if that fixes the problem.
What I DO like is the fact that Josef killing him comes as a tiny shock. Through the whole movie, Josef is constantly jumping out at Aaron (see “cheap jump scares” that every horror aficionado loathes), so as he elaborately stages himself directly behind Aaron (again, without Aaron ever shifting his gaze from straight ahead by so much as a millimeter) you think it’s just another scare tactic. But no, he goes ahead and sinks that axe straight into Aaron’s skull (who dies instantaneously. Would someone go down that quick? I’m skeptical). It actually did surprise me a little (as well as the mundanity of it without any music or atmospheric cues).
It’s almost like the movie was a film class assignment to figure out how to make jump scares serve the story. And I’d say, A+, boys. It also solves the “found footage” conundrum of “why are they still filming if they’re scared/about to be murdered?” Aaron is being paid to film Josef (at first), so the camera rolls even when things seem to be getting a bit freaky. That gets an A-, because the premise starts to wear a bit thin once he’s back home.
Final thoughts: Worth checking out. It didn’t terrify me (few movies do), but certainly kept me interested. And hey, it’s a week later and I’m still thinking about it. Terrible movies don’t stay with me like that. And THIS is why I don’t put much stock in star ratings. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one (not my words, I’m quoting). Doesn’t mean they’re all worth listening to.
4/5 psychologically scarring werewolf masks