Creep 2 (2017)
★ / ★★★★
The original “Creep” may not be groundbreaking independent horror cinema, but at least the audience did not know what to expect. We wondered whether Aaron (Mark Duplass) really was a serial killer or just some lonely creep who decided to post an online ad in order to see who would bite. But in “Creep 2,” also directed by Patrick Brice, the novelty—and the mystery—has worn off. I found it to be nearly intolerable—not because it is not scary since the predecessor is not about scares but establishing an overall feeling of dread—precisely because it fails to offer anything new or exciting. Sure, the dialogue is stronger than the original but the script fails to move the material beyond what we already know about the murderer.
At least the picture begins with great promise. Desiree Akhavan plays Sara, an artist who is attempting to reach an audience for an online web series called “Encounters.” For her project, she answer online ads—especially those with strange requests like a man asking to be treated like an infant—with the hope of finding genuine connections and understanding a feeling we all have from time to time: loneliness. We get the impression that the character is smart, determined, and not easily scared by bizarre human longings and behavior. It establishes that she is a protagonist worth following because she might serve as an equal to Aaron’s sick games and psychotic behavior.
Funny confessions like Aaron claiming that he has lost his purpose for killing people because he is about to turn forty are present and often have bite. As in “Creep,” this work is further evidence that Duplass is perfect for the role; when he looks directly to camera and talks about murdering his victims as if he were reciting a recipe is chilling and effective. However, these amusing moments wear out their welcome because only minimal tension is gathered. It is a miscalculation, I think, for the screenplay to establish a sort of romantic connection between Aaron and Sara—even a one-sided attraction—because it softens our anticipation of bloody violence. And for long stretches nothing of great interest happens.
The more interesting avenue worth exploring is the question of whether we can or will choose to believe a person who has confessed to serial killing when this individual looks as normal as Average Joe: friendly, smiles a lot, and minds his own business. I thought the material would take off in an interesting direction when Sara is shown a video of Aaron, wearing a wolf mask, driving an ax into a stranger’s head in broad daylight. Sara has reason to doubt the video’s authenticity, but the idea is never explored in such a way that makes us feel uncomfortable both in terms of content and for Sara’s safety. Instead, the material moves on to another instance when Aaron acts like a drama queen.
I found not one thing that is especially clever in “Creep 2.” Cringe-inducing moments are aplenty, but I demand more from a material with a wonderful potential to entertain and terrify. Although an average picture, “Creep” has laid the foundation quite successfully. So it is expected for the sequel to take off from that foundation and do something new or original. Instead, it seems content in rehashing old tricks with a slightly stronger script. More discerning viewers will readily see through its pretenses.