'Creep 2' film review: Fiendishly fun, engaging & unpredictable showdown
Almost by rule, most horror films are lazy torture porn exercises apparently intent only on racking up a body count - and their sequels typically somehow become even less dimensional. But "Creep 2" (available on demand starting Oct. 24) delights in turning just about every tired horror convention on its head: this sequel is a character driven battle of wills between an emotionally vulnerable murderer and his unflappable, stoic muse.
In short: Sara (Desiree Akhavan), a struggling video artist takes a gig for some video work from an online ad - she agrees to travel to a remote cabin where she meets Aaron (Mark Duplass), who claims to be a serial killer.
While this review will not include any "Creep 2" spoilers, it may spoil a few aspects of the first film for anyone who hasn't watched it yet. ("Creep" is streaming on Netflix.) The first film followed a trusting videographer hired by unassuming Aaron and lured out to the woods - it also hints at Aaron's prolific career as a serial killer. But that's where the similarities between the first film and "Creep 2" end - this sequel uses a few simple twists of the first film's formula to create something exciting, intimate and fun.
This film flat out reveals very early on that Aaron is a murderer with dozens of kills - but he's lost his love for his "work." Whereas the first film established Aaron as an emotionally needy and manipulative psychopath, "Creep 2" builds on that while revealing a whole new dimension to him: tortured killer. Having titular character plainly tell the only other character in the movie that he used to love killing people in the first act creates a bold new tension: how will these two characters interact now?
Director Patrick Brice and Duplass have crafted a compelling and engaging killer whose way-too polite demeanor is just as unsettling as his cold, detached persona. Aaron talks of his long career in homicide with such love that - were he talking about virtually anything else - he would come off as disingenuously saccharine. He sounds like a millennial who has become disenchanted with crossfit or going vegan ... except he's lamenting his lost passion for disemboweling and strangling.
The unsettling-with-a-smile Aaron meets the perfect foil for his serial-killer-in-a-funk plight in Sara, a failing YouTuber desperate to get clicks for her channel at any cost. Barely tens of people watch her nearly invisible "Encounters" vlog series - an exploitative show where she meets lonely weirdos from the internet and narrates their mundane meetings with a forced, cynical NPR vibe. Her deadpan perfectly counterbalances Aaron's emotional and enthusiastic flair. Rather than recoil from Aaron's admission of killing, she goes down the rabbit hole with him -- if only to get a better episode of "Encounters" out of him.
These two characters push each other further and further. He has to work overtime to throw Sara off balance - something that he clearly hasn't had to do before. If the first film was about how Aaron slowly (but steadily) unsettled that film's protagonist, "Creep 2" forces Aaron into the unfamiliar territory of being the one who is challenged and pushed to his limits. At its core, this film works because the characters are rich and the film is firmly rooted in their warped, codependent relationship. Aaron's free to do or say pretty much anything once he confesses his crimes to Sara - a simple character choice that opens up the film to go in almost any direction for both characters.
Final verdict: Founded firmly in a pair of dimensional characters, "Creep 2" is a darkly fun and unpredictable horror flick that defies every horror trope.
"Creep 2" is available on streaming services starting Oct. 24. This horror thriller is unrated and has a running time of 78 minutes.