People Are Strange: Brice’s Debut Retools Found Footage for Ordinary Madness
Available on demand at the same time as his Sundance darling sophomore feature The Overnight hits theaters, Patrick Brice’s directorial feature debut, Creep, belies a dark streak. Obviously interested in exploring the awkward social behaviors of humans, in situations at least superficially considered ordinary occurrences, this Duplass Bros. produced first outing seems ripped from the modern day headlines of many a Los Angeles film student’s nightmare.
Presumably, budgetary issues explains the rational for making this a found footage film, and it suffers from many of the same issues similarly plaguing strong narratives caught up in this frugal, exploited packaging. But Brice seems adept at making incredible use of limited resources, as well as a penchant for strong characterizations often absent from the familiar realms he’s thus far explored.
Aaron (Patrick Brice), a single loner, responds to a Craig’s list ad looking for a personal videographer. “1,000 for the day. Filming service. Discretion is appreciated.” Reluctant but apparently in need of the cash, Aaron drives out to a remote cabin and meets Josef (Mark Duplass), an awkward, manic individual asking to be filmed for eight hours because he has cancer and wants his unborn son to know his dad. Aaron takes the bait, and begins filming Josef, who wants to begin their odyssey in a bubble bath. Naked. Josef’s wild stories become uneven, but he eventually convinces Aaron to spend the night. Afraid, Aaron drugs Josef and a chance phone call allows him to speak with one of Josef’s relatives, who claims he’s a man with ‘problems.’ Escaping from the cabin, Aaron begins to receive weird correspondence from Josef at his him. He wants to meet up again.
Creep is indeed creepy, thanks mostly to Mark Duplass’ playful performance, a devious turnabout from his recent romantically inclined personifications across a variety of indie features. Though we can assume many people would immediately pick up on the numerous red flags here, Josef does seem initially harmless, and we’ve all experienced a soft hustle at some point in time at the hands of someone we pity or underrate.
The title is meant to be the first part of a planned trilogy, and it will be interesting to see how this develops, since Creep is reminiscent of a number of Craig’s list related news items, some with quite tragic endings (if the project continues to explore violence and criminality based on US events perhaps there will be an overarching similarly to Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin).
Brice, unfortunately, saddles himself with a thankless role, basically a cipher for the audience, and its eerie final sequence could have packed more of a wallop had Aaron been more than a mere (foolish) cameraman. Thanks to the critical success of the incredibly enjoyable The Overnight, perhaps the next two installments can divorce themselves from the same found footage trappings.