*Danger, Will Robinson: Affiliate Links Ahead! Read the disclosure policy for complete info.*
I don't like found footage horror and I seriously struggle with mumblecore (this is a thing, we'll discuss it). But I really think I like Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass's little aptly named creeper, Creep.
Mumblecore + Horror = MumbleGORE
Mumblecore, if you're unfamiliar (you must be old - #sorrynotsorry) is a genre movement within indie film that utilizes naturalistic acting, improv, and a general penchant for long silences and prolonged pauses. It can take some getting used to. It's also really effective at getting across the level of sheer discomfort and social awkwardness that is inherent in real life conversations. When it works it works. When it doesn't, it's painful AF.
Werner Herzog made a career out of making films with non-actors and naturalism. What the Duplass Brothers, Joe Swanberg, and Andrew Bujalski are doing isn't quite Even Drawfs Started Small, but it is equally unnatural in its quest toward naturalism. Usually, these guys have directed their interests at romantic comedies - a surefire place for awkward encounters between actors. And admittedly interesting territory for a bunch of dudes - aren't romantic comedies for women? I did a whole month on that myth.
So when they take over the horror genre, especially found footage, it's a definite exercise in patience. Watching Creep, you're going to wait a long, long time for any sort of pay off. But oddly, for someone who finds both sub genres excruciating to watch, it seems to makes both the point of view camera gimmick and the strung out social interactions work. Not only work, but make sense.
Perhaps Creep's great triumph is in creating characters who are uncomfortable around each other, untrustworthy in their silences, say bizarre things, and ultimately - are psychologically disturbed. Sounds like the perfect formula for great horror.
A Distinctly Millennial Type of Horror
Mumblegore, as they're calling it on Wikipedia, is if nothing else, horror for and about millennials. What's real for our generation? And moreover, what's not scary about what we're dealing with? How about:
- The insecurity of thegig economy
- Online dating
- Internet dependence
- etc, etc, etc.
Every one of those is addressed full on in Creep, just as it is in any other mumblecore relationship drama (add in college loans and usually craft beer drinking). Only here, Mark Duplass plays a sad and deeply troubled character who is... a little awkward, to say the least. His unsuspecting new "friend" and hired videographer Aaron is about to suffer the effects of that awkwardness directly - all thanks to his willingness to take a gig off a Craigslist job board.
And if that seems "stupid" to you - to take a job from someone you've never met up in a cabin in the woods - then congrats! You're not a millennial with money problems. This is how we do.
The Fragility of Male Friendships
Something this feminist enjoys is any film that chooses to address the deeply flawed nature of relationships between heterosexual men. If you've been up on the recent definition of locker room talk perhaps you'll appreciate this very different, far less macho look at male friendships.
In Creep, as in most mumblecore, our male lead is an insecure guy (I'd say largely due to his millennial experience and failings). Over the course of the film, Duplass's Josef suffers everything from social disconnect, body insecurity, emotionality and vulnerability, a fumbling nature - not things we typically associate with the most masculine of men. Especially scary, potentially threatening figures, which Josef absolutely is.
Aaron's connection with Josef is one of work, but oddly traverses into friendship territory. His feelings for Josef's unfortunate situation give him an attachment and a false sense of security. He's pulled in by the very thing that should keep him away - loneliness. Men, in this film (and I think in a lot of life right now) are a lonely sort.
What is a Creep?
In terms of the usual slasher film, a creep is a looming presence. A stalker. A strange man. Someone who won't leave you alone. A socially awkward, perhaps oddly introverted person. Someone who has outbursts at inappropriate times. A strange person. A psychopath. An untrustworthy person. Someone who might creep up from behind when you least expect it.
Mumblecore men, be they in a comedy or here in a horror film, are often these things. Unsure, insecure, poor communicators. In the comedies, they could be creeps, but they usually turn out to be nice, if not millennially challenged dudes. In Creep, that man turns out to be an actual creep. A real, hardcore, Michael Myers level stalker. But you know - with feelings, too.
The Fun Stuff
This is a film with a cast of two. Co-writer Duplass plays Josef, Co-writer/Director Brice plays Aaron. They shoot it on one camera in the woods. It's fun and intimate in the way Blair Witch was, and in a way I think most found footage since has been lacking.
The wolf mask is absurd. Initially it made me laugh out loud. It's bizarre and too silly. But much like anything you're forced to look at for way too long, it starts to morph a bit and take on a different shape. Like the words that turninto nonsense in Pontypool, the wolf mask does effectively become scary. Just takes a little while.
And that end scene - it's the whole film, really. So do wait for it.
If You Like It, Watch:
Baghead - One of the original mumblecore films, courtesy the Duplass Brothers, who write, direct, and star. This is a send up of traditional horror films where friends retreat to a secluded cabin in the woods. Starring the queen of mumble herself, Greta Gerwig. It has it's moments.
The Sacrament - I'm never sure what to think of Ti West: House of the Devil was an incredible exercise in suspense, yet The Innkeepers delivered nary a single scare (for me, anyway). But The Sacrament is part horror, part drama - a found footage trip into the midst of a Jim Jones-esque cult. Strange, unsettling, well worth the 90 minutes.
The Invitation - Karyn Kusama's latest (review here) isn't quite mumblecore and it isn't much like her last effort, Jennifer's Body. What it is though, is a strange dinner party full of odd and awkward interactions between "friends." Much like Creep, you're unsure who to trust, or what in the world it is you're waiting around for.
From Hell (Click for trailer)