Rating: ★★ out of 5
Like so many horror films before it, Creep starts off strong and eventually succumbs to a weak script, mediocre performances, and a complete oversaturation of the titular villain. It was written and directed by Christopher Smith, who, in 2006, brought us Severance, a somewhat flawed, but nonetheless superior horror-comedy film about a group of coworkers lost out in the wilderness on a business retreat gone awry. While Severance benefited from its ensemble cast, Creep was held back its lack of interesting characters.
The film centers on Kate, played by Franka Potente, who, at the beginning of the film, leaves one party to go to another. She ends up falling asleep at the subway station, missing what is supposed to be the final train of the night. When she wakes up, she finds that the station doors have been locked, trapping her inside for the night. An empty train comes by and she boards, only to have the train stop and the lights turn off. A friend of hers from the party, Guy (played by Jeremy Sheffield) attacks and attempts to rape Kate, only to be dragged off and gravely injured by some unseen assailent. Kate spends the remainder of the night trying to find a way out of the subway tunnels while being pursued by the “creep” who stalks the empty passageways.
If this sounds like a promising and frightening premise, you’re right. If you think that the filmmakers took this premise and did anything remotely interesting with it, you’re wrong. But first, I will address the positives. Creep is a technically proficient film. It is well shot, with clever lighting and camera work. The use of an abandoned London subway station was a brilliant choice for the setting. It is both visually striking (with flickering lights and dancing shadows) and claustrophobic for the audience and characters alike. And again, the plot starts off strong, but unfortunately it simply does not deliver. Potente gives a bland, two-dimensional performance (even though she is clearly capable of holding a movie up on her own, re: Run Lola Run), and the plot quickly devolves into bored horror tropes involving character’s making laughably bad decisions that keep them in danger until the very end.
However, the one element of this film that hurts it the most is the “monster.” The problem with the “creep” is that we see far too much of him. Once he is officially introduced, he becomes a central character in the film. We see his every move, and once the mystery is gone, so too is the horror. He ceases to be horrific, and, at times, he even becomes ridiculous. Strangely, even though we see far too much of him, the filmmakers can’t seem to decide if they want us to learn his backstory or not. The film hints at the origins of the creep, without really telling the audience anything subsantial, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering if we missed something along the way.
To be fair, there were times that Creep was an entertaining and even scary film. It coincided with the height of the torture porn genre, and therefore leans a bit more heavily on gore, which, given the lack of credible plot in the second act, works to its advantage. However, it fails to carry its own story to the end, leaving us with a handful of good ideas, scary moments, and not much else.