Beyond being a sequel, Patrick Brice’s Creep 2 — his third film in as many years — feels quite familiar. The director’s first feature was this film’s predecessor, with Mark Duplass playing a peculiar but friendly man named Josef. The character hires a videographer (played by Brice) to film him for a series of videos. The productions are meant to be posthumous letters to Josef’s unborn son that he may not live to see due to a brain tumor. Josef’s behavior becomes erratic and volatile, and the film’s tension relies on Aaron feeling pity and empathy for a stranger that may be awkward only because he’s lonely and dying. This all turns out to be a ruse, of course, and Aaron joins an apparently long list of people who befriended Josef, only to wind up dead.
Brice’s second feature, The Overnight — a comedy starring Adam Scott and Piper Schilling — has similar overtones, but with different results. In the film, Scott and Schilling play a couple of milquetoast parents who are new to the neighborhood. Jason Schwartzman plays an overly friendly and open dad who invites the two over for dinner, after seeing how well their kids play together. Once the kids go to sleep, the night takes a turn for the hedonistic, with Schwartzman and his wife, played by Judith Godrèche, pushing their potential new friends’ boundaries. Here, the comedy is built on how far will Schilling and Scott go to fit in, despite every alarm in their mind going off. Like Creep, Brice expresses how difficult American society’s increasing cynicism and its puritanical roots make trusting strangers difficult.
So, after having seen these two films, Creep 2 comes off as a a bit of a mash-up. Depending on what you’re seeking, that can either be its strength or its detriment. Duplass reprises his role, now going by the name Aaron, a character at the crossroads. Killing used to fill him with so much joy, but now that he’s approaching mid-life, it’s become less fun and “more like a job.” In an effort to shake things up, he hires another videographer to film him — but this time, he’s totally upfront and honest that he’s a murderer. His goal is not to kill, but to tell his life’s story. The unlucky documentarian is an aspiring webseries director named Sara (Desiree Akhavan), who answers Craigslist ads in order to film strange and lonely people. Despite Aaron telling her in the first 10 minutes of their meeting that he’s murdered 39 other people, Sara sticks it out — not because she wants the story, but because she doesn’t believe it. Sara believes Aaron is just as harmless and lonely as her other subjects, and the consequences are not in her favor.
Because Brice and company decide to move in this more “meta” direction, the film comes off less like The Blair Witch and more like What We Do in the Shadows. The echoes of The Overnight become even louder with this higher ratio of awkward comedy — in fact, some scenes feel like they could’ve been in either film. When Aaron decides that he and the documentarian should see each other naked (to dispel some the uncomfortable tension), the moment feels particularly familiar.
This isn’t to say Creep 2 isn’t entertaining. Mark Duplass has created a memorable character, and Desiree Akhavan is rather effective at counterbalancing his energy. She chooses not to fall into cliched actor traps, with Sara being more empathetic than weary (rather than a naive victim, desperate for a story). The chemistry really holds the film together and the characters’ relationship is certainly worth a deeper analysis after more viewings. When it comes to any film with the number 2 in its title, there’s also an inherent promise of more of the same, and Patrick Brice certainly fulfills that. With that said, horror fans may need to adjust their expectations if they’re looking for more frights than laughs.
Jae K. Renfrow (@jaekrenfrow)is a Chicago actor, writer and director His first short film, Amore Divino e Profano, is being edited right now. He works with his wife Gail, and you can read his writing and see some of their video essays at jaeetgail.com.