By: Hawk Ripjaw (A Toast) –
2014’s Creep was one of the biggest streaming surprises of that year. Patrick Brice’s found-footage serial killer movie was very unsettling, surprisingly funny, and utilized the handheld camera format in a way that felt personal more than gimmicky.
Creep 2 builds cleverly on the mythology of its killer as well as on the concept of found footage, this time focusing on a webseries called Encounters run by Sara (Desiree Akhavan). She responds to craigslist ads and records the interactions to find the vulnerabilities in these Internet characters and give them a voice. After several encounters but no viewers, she finds an ad posted by Aaron (Duplass), vaguely seeking someone to film him for 24 hours. Seeing a potential big break, she responds, and what follows is an entirely different killer-victim dynamic than in the original.
The most thrillingly effective element of Creep was Duplass, known for his indie comedies and for FX’s sitcom The League, his charm always front and center. He had that same charm in Creep, but that likability was married with a creepy unpredictability. What made his character so great was how he preyed on the kindness and common decency of others, a cruel move by the movie in how it makes you feel susceptible to punishment for showing compassion. There was definitely something wrong with him, but his weird mix of sadness and eccentricity made him fascinating.
Brilliantly, Creep 2 accepts the challenge of tackling a similar character piece that needs to still be surprising now that the cat’s out of the bag. There’s no longer the question of “is he crazy” (because the ending of the original and the opening of this make that very, very clear). Now the question is “how crazy is he,” something that’s far more engaging than any modern cinematic psychopath usually gets to be.
Now that Aaron’s modus operandi has been made clear a couple of times, Creep 2 has much more fun delving deeper into what makes this charming maniac tick. He’s given an excellent foil with Sara, as well: while the victim in the original film reacted with trepidation in almost every situation and spent most of the movie responding to Aaron with resistance, Sara is fascinated. She acknowledges the red flags, but wants to know more about Aaron and actually connect with him. This also fundamentally changes how the movie handles jump scares: the main characters’ responses to Aaron’s incessant desire to startle people is distinctly different between movies, so the way the audience gets to respond keeps Aaron’s control of the situation much less one-sided.
Duplass is even better in Creep 2 than he was in the original, describing the act of murder with the passion one might use to explain how a piece of music makes them feel. His dynamic with Sara, too, changes his demeanor in a way that makes him at once more magnetic and repulsive. His vulnerability has become less of a façade than an actual trait, so knowing that about him creates an awesome sense of dissonance between familiarity and repulsion. The fact that Duplass is still able to exude likable charisma is seriously impressive.
The original Creep slowly built dread as more was gradually revealed about an already-unsettling character. Creep 2 finds the same man becoming disillusioned with what he now considers the routine of luring and murdering malleable videographers. It pushes deeper into the psyche of a well-spoken but very dangerous man by allowing him this time to build a genuine two-sided friendship with his supposed latest victim and balancing it with the very real fear creators have of stagnating creativity—and how that changes their drive. It’s not as immediately frightening as the original, but the trade-off is a more vulnerable Aaron with a more involved look at who he is. That’s not only funnier, but also more unsettling on a deeper level. Brice’s confidence in his killer is shaping a fresh, interesting new horror franchise.
Creep 2 (2017) Movie Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone leaps out of nowhere
Take a Drink: whenever Aaron tells a story or anecdote
Do a Shot: whenever Sarah should probably run but doesn’t
Take a Drink: every time Aaron switches his demeanor