Creep 2 Review: Duplass' Serial Killer Meets His Match

NOTE: This article is a contribution and do not necessarily represent the views of Player One.
Mark Duplass and Desiree Akhavan in Creep 2.
Mark Duplass and Desiree Akhavan in Creep 2. Blumhouse Productions

The first Creep depends upon a delicate, will-he-won’t-he game. We all know the outcome — telegraphed from the moment Aaron (Patrick Brice), our cameraman and POV, points out the axe waiting for him in the front yard — but it’s fascinating to watch Josef (Mark Duplass) slowly transgress social boundaries with his combination of charm and overbearing, well, creepiness. Creep weaponized social awkwardness, stringing out its viewers, teasing us again and again with the outbreak of violence we are certain is coming.

Creep 2 can’t have that. We know Josef isn’t just a vaguely menacing weirdo, but an incredibly prolific serial killer. But Sara (Desiree Akhavan) doesn’t. She’s just hoping to meet an interesting character for her failing web series. And this time, when Josef (now going by Aaron) hires yet another videographer from Craigslist, he’s straightforward: confessing right to the camera his serial-killing past. He doesn’t want to kill this time, he wants to purge himself, find something new.

Instead of the anticipation, the “is this going where I think it’s going?” that pervades Creep, Creep 2 is shaped most by the simple and striking dramatic irony of Sara’s situation. Even shown the end of the first Creep, Sara doesn’t believe Aaron’s a serial killer; it’s so much more likely he’s just another Craigslist oddball looking for attention in his own broken way. Only we know the truth, as Sara tries to tease out the most interesting footage from Aaron, playing along with his “Interview with the Serial Killer” framing.

It’s a multilayered and fun to watch conversational playing field, but there’s nothing frightening or tense about it. We already know what’s true and what’s false, when Aaron is being genuine and when he’s being manipulative. And though he promises not to kill Sara (at least, not for 24 hours), we know he’ll find a way to bring himself around to the only form of emotional expression he really cares about: violence.

Aaron expertly switches between manipulation of Sara’s expectations, genuine vulnerability and veiled menace. The conversational throughlines of Aaron’s long night with Sara are both intricate and played to expert effect. We see on Aaron’s face the inflection points, when he switches between genuinely hoping to share himself with Sara and retreating into another lie just when Sara’s reached the limit and looks tempted to escape.

This same tightrope walk was part of the first Creep too, but Sara probes far deeper into the killer’s psyche, occasionally even getting the upper hand. Like us, she’s fascinated by this confrontation with an honest-to-goodness sociopath and splays him out like an insect on a slide. Rising to his challenges, scaring him back (with a pretty hilarious scotch-tape mask) and putting the killer on the defensive adds surprising dimensions to the encounter. Creep 2 deftly exploits the gender divide as well, with Sara countering the many, many red flags — like Aaron almost immediately getting naked — to steer the killer in unexpected directions. Unlike his previous victim, a man, Aaron is less certain how to pry into Sara’s psyche, giving her a surprising edge.

Where Creep was just barely a horror movie, occasionally unsettling, Creep 2 is more like a mesmerizing character profile. Creep 2 isn’t even trying for scares this time. Which is fine, genre labels are largely illusory and creators should break free of those boundaries more often, just don’t expect it to hit those slasher or found footage horror marks, even in its bloodier parts. Rather than a horror movie, Creep 2 is like a twisted Errol Morris documentary, The Fog of War meets American Psycho, peeling back a monster’s vulnerability and layers of conversational shielding, only to find more snarling wolf beneath.

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