Creep 2 is the Patrick Brice-directed follow up to 2014’s Creep, the mumblegore sensation starring Brice and Mark Duplass. In that film, written by the two but perhaps mostly just ad-libbed on the day by them, Duplass plays Josef, a man who hires a cameraman to make a film for Josef’s unborn son.
Of course, there is much more to it than that.
In Creep 2, Duplass is back, and his deranged character goes by Aaron this time around. Aaron hires Sara (Desiree Akhavan), the host and one-woman crew of the webseries “Encounters.” With her Youtube series utterly failing, she is willing to travel to Aaron’s home without really knowing anything about him, thinking that maybe that will give her material that is more noteworthy and attention-grabbing.
In terms of horror movie protagonist motivations, this is an A-plus start. From here, this grade holds strong, as in the very next scene Aaron explains to Sara quite candidly that he is a serial killer.
The only thing that wavers this grade at this point in the film is the immediate comparison to the meta-horror mockumentary Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Both have similar premises that are tinged with humor and self-reflexiveness. Both are found footage films. Both use the documentary style to make adequate excuse for this found footage format. And both have cult followings (well, the first Creep has a cult following, but judging on early reviews of this sequel the pair will probably share this following).
The comparisons between the two films essentially end there, but it is a useful juxtaposition. The self-awareness is key to the success of both. But in the case of the two Creep films, the intent is a macabre character study. One would think that having the reveal of Creep gone, Creep 2 would have nowhere to go. But what is inviting about both films, Creep 2 in particular, is the unreliability of our narrative voices.
We know that Duplass is playing a killer. Even if you didn’t see the first film, you find out pretty quick what he is up to. We remain interested in him after gaining this knowledge because his speechifying and grand vision can never be taken at face value. In the first film, it doesn’t take long before we realize he is lying some, if not all, of the time.
In this sequel, nothing out of his mouth can be taken for granted. His speechifying feels falsified, but even his moments of seemingly real passion are questionable. Duplass plays him dubious to a fault.
The strangest thing about watching Creep 2 is that you are not drawn in by Duplass’ aware false jump scares or creepy killer vibe. Instead, you are more likely to be endeared by the DIY bootleg filmmaking energy of the characters. Aaron has so much energy to this pet project, whether he actually cares about the documentary or not, that it is impossible not to get entertained by his first attempt at filming a perfect scene in a riverbed.
Creep is a mumblegore film because it is a horror film but much more subdued. Creep 2 isn’t even that. It’s a straight up mumblecore film, with that mix of heartfelt lovable loserism and awkward humor and self-reflexive cinephilia. It just happens to have a serial killer as its second lead.
Somehow, without the dread and suspense and mystery of the first film, Creep 2 comes out better for it. Its climax has less impact as a result—it is the film’s weakest point. Sill, Creep 2 is less conventional and more emotionally satisfying than the original, if only because its sociopathic use of emotion is more unexpected here.
Creep 2 is as satisfying an experience as a horror sequel can be. It expands without overdoing anything, it complicates without ruining the integrity of the previous installment, and it stands on its own.
Creep 2: B+
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)