Creep is an independent found footage horror film directed by Patrick Brice, based on a story written by Brice and Mark Duplass. Most of the film is improvised and the two actors followed a very bare-bones script. The film was originally intended to be a black comedy film, but, based on their peers’ reactions to the improvised footage they filmed, Brice and Duplass decided it would work better as a straight-up horror film.
The plot summary below comes from the IMDB page for Creep:
Aaron, a freelance videographer, is driving to the home of a person who has hired him to do eight hours of work. He arrives at a house in the wilderness with a long stretch of stairs leading to the front door. Aaron knocks but no one answers so he decides to wait in his car. He turns the camera to focus on an axe lying on the ground. Suddenly, Josef appears and greets Aaron with a hug. They make their way into the house that Josef says he’s spent many summers in with his family. Josef explains that he wanted to hire Aaron to make a video of him for his unborn son. He explains that he has an inoperable brain tumor and wants his son to have something to remember him by. Aaron agrees to film him.
Josef leads Aaron to the upstairs bathroom where he proceeds to run the bathtub and undress. Aaron is uncomfortable but Josef assures him this is important and not in any way inappropriate. With the camera rolling, Josef proceeds to explain to his future son what “tubby time” is and mimes giving a child a bath. Josef begins to become morose and asks Aaron if he should just end it all. He sinks beneath the water until Aaron approaches him and then pops back up to give him a scare. Josef insists he’s just joking and asks Aaron if he wants to go for a hike. Aaron agrees.
Josef suggests Aaron grab something warm clothes from the closet for their hike and Aaron opens the closet door to find a terrifying wolf mask on a shelf. Josef calls the mask “Peachfuzz” and puts it on while he sings a song he says his dad would sing while wearing the mask. Both men get into Josef’s car and head for the hiking trail that Josef explains will lead to a spring that supposedly has healing powers.
While hiking through the woods, Josef’s behavior begins to get even stranger. He darts away from Aaron and continues to try to scare him by popping up out of no where. He also happily admits he has no idea where they’re going despite Aaron’s obvious discomfort. They finally find the heart-shaped spring and wade into it. Josef grabs Aaron for another hug and suggests they go to his favorite local diner for pancakes.
When they get to the diner, Josef says “Let’s see what’s good here”. When Aaron expresses confusion, stating that he thought Josef was familiar with the place, Josef says they changed the menu. Josef asks Aaron how he felt about seeing the axe in the yard and rattles him by asking if Aaron thought he was going to kill him with it. Aaron jokes that he did at first but now he knows him better. Josef asks Aaron to tell him about a time he felt ashamed. Aaron tells a story about wetting his pants when he was little. Josef shows Aaron some pictures he took on his phone. The pictures are of Aaron when he first pulled up to the house and was knocking at the door. Josef tells him he thought that if he got to know Aaron before Aaron got to know him then he’d be less nervous. Aaron admits he thinks what Josef did was creepy but he forgives him.
When they get back to the house it’s dark out and Aaron, obviously still unnerved by Josef’s confession at the diner, tells Josef he’s going to head home. Josef insists Aaron come in for one more drink and Aaron agrees. They do shots of whiskey and Aaron begins to head out again. Josef protests and asks Aaron if he could confess something he’s never told anyone. Aaron agrees but doesn’t turn the camera off like Josef requests. Instead, he leaves the microphone on and we hear Josef confess to raping his wife. He tells Aaron he found porn involving beastiality on his computer and knew his wife was watching it. Josef tells Aaron that he and his wife came to the vacation house and then Josef pretended to have to leave for work. Instead, he went and bought the Peachfuzz mask, came back to the house and proceeded to wear the mask while having sex with his wife after tying her up. He says he knew she enjoyed it but never realized it was him and never confessed to him what had happened.
Aaron tells Josef he’s going to go but then can’t find his keys. Josef insists Aaron stay the night since it’s dark and he’s been drinking. Aaron is shaken but agrees to stay. He mixes them both a drink and slips Benadryl into Josef’s drink to make him sleepy. When Josef falls asleep next to the fireplace, Aaron tries to go through his pockets. Suddenly, Josef’s cell phone rings and Aaron answers it while hiding in the bathroom. It’s Josef’s wife asking who Aaron is and where Josef is. Aaron explains he’s in the house and Josef has taken his keys. The woman tells Aaron to simply leave the house and keep walking because her brother isn’t well. Aaron panics as he realizes Josef has been lying to him the whole time, using his sister’s name as his “wife’s”. Aaron asks if he’s in danger but the signal drops. When Aaron leaves the bathroom, Josef is missing. Aaron finds him crying on the porch and Josef tells him he doesn’t want to die. When Aaron reveals he knows that Josef has been lying, Josef bolts down the hall toward the front door. When Aaron descends the stairs to the front door, Josef is standing in front of it with the Peachfuzz mask on, growling and gyrating. Aaron tells him that he’s afraid and wants Josef to let him go. Suddenly, Josef launches at him and the camera goes black.
The camera turns back on to a video of Josef dragging two garbage bags into the woods and burying them. Aaron turns the camera around to reveal he’s alright but terribly disturbed. After Josef launched himself at Aaron, he ran off, leaving Aaron to get towed home. Aaron interprets the video as a threat. He’s also very worried that Josef now knows his address. Aaron awakens in the night and turns on the camera to describe a dream he just had where he and Josef are back at the spring wearing Peachfuzz masks and bathing in blood.
Not long after, a box is delivered to Aaron. When he opens it, there’s another DVD along with a knife and a stuffed wolf. He turns the DVD on to reveal Josef making a confession of love and threatening Aaron. He tells Aaron to cut open the stuffed wolf. Aaron does and finds a heart locket with pictures of Josef and him inside. He calls the police who are unable to help since Aaron doesn’t know Josef’s real name or where he lives (the house he went to was just a rental). He hangs up in frustration. Aaron throws the DVD and locket into the trash.
Aaron awakes that night, again from another bad dream. He hears a sudden noise and turns all his lights on. As he searches his apartment, Josef appears just outside his doorway. He disappears just as Aaron peeks toward the door. Aaron takes the camera to search outside and finds his trashcans overturned.
The camera turns on to reveal Josef watching a sleeping Aaron and cutting off a lock of his hair. The next day, Aaron finds another DVD inside his window. When he plays it, Josef is outraged that Aaron would throw the locket away. He insists he loves Aaron and apologizes for lying to him. He tells Aaron that he’s been sad and lonely for a long time and no doctors have been able to help him. He begs Aaron to come meet him in a public park so he can apologize and have closure. Aaron watches the video and begins to feel very sorry for Josef.
The next day, Aaron goes to the park. He begins filming the spot where Josef told him to meet. He also tells the camera that he has 911 on speed dial. Aaron sits on a bench in the distance and looks out at the lake. Josef appears behind him and pulls the Peachfuzz mask out of his coat. As Aaron continues to stare off into the distance, Josef puts the mask on and pulls the axe from under his coat. Aaron doesn’t notice him and Josef buries the axe in the top of Aaron’s head.
Josef turns on the camera to make a final confession to the now dead Aaron. He asks why Aaron would agree to meet him at all considering how deceitful he had been. He admires that Aaron filmed their last encounter and had 911 on speed dial but wonders as to why Aaron wouldn’t be looking around in paranoia. Josef says he knows it’s because Aaron is a genuinely good person, and that’s why he’s his favorite of all.
Josef talks on the phone with another videographer as he adds Aaron’s video to his collection of DVDs. Josef tells the person on the phone he looks forward to meeting him.
Notes & Quotes
- There are some ecogothic elements, including the trip through the woods to the heart-shaped spring, as well as the isolated location of Josef’s home. Also, Josef seems to love the thrill of being a wolf/predator while intimidating and killing his prey. There’s not much backstory given about Josef (at least not much that we know for sure is true), so I wonder why he is so centered on animalistic hierarchies, violence, and sex. The home is also decorated completely with pictures and miniature statues of predators, including wolves and bears.
- Aaron accepts the job despite it being sketchy because he needs the money. This is a great example of the precarity of contractual labor, as well as the lack of protections or rights Aaron has as Josef’s camera man. Josef seems to flaunt this fact and delight in the idea that Aaron is desperate for money. It’s like Josef purchased a new toy rather than a camera man.
- In the sequel, Josef laments the fact that he’s hit a blockage in his career of serial killing. He just doesn’t love it as much as he used to and he desperately seeks to rekindle that passion through the creation of a documentary. He even tells the camera woman of the sequel straight up that he is a serial killer and that the focus of the film will be his life as a mid-career serial killer. She is a struggling Youtube content creator who also feels her passion dying. He promises to give her her greatest film yet and he delivers.
- It’s also helpful to consider who the editor of the film is… I think it must be Josef. I’m interested in what he might have cut or edited, as well as what he chose to include. Who is his audience? Is it just meant for him? Is this part of his trophy collection?
Creep (2014) by Caitlin Duffy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.