Creep (2005)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 10/14/05 23:22:54

"The next horror icon, if those are still a big deal."
3 stars (Just Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2005 BOSTON FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL: Stephen King once said, and I'm heavily paraphrasing, that terror is the finest, most exquisite of human emotions, and what he aims to create in his writing - but, when he can't attain that, he'll go for the gross-out. Christopher Smith, the writer/director of "Creep", may not have had that exact plan in mind, but it's the path he winds up following.

After an opening with two public works inspectors finding a previously unknown tunnel (and something sinister within), we're introduced to Kate (Franka Potente), a German lass living in London, leaving one party for another by way of the Underground. She rests her eyes for a moment on the platform, and when she wakes up she finds herself locked in until morning. She's not alone, though, which is a rather mixed blessing - the homeless couple is alright, even if they're junkies and not particularly helpful, but the co-worker who seems to have followed her (Jeremy Sheffield) intends rape and the deformed thing on a killing spree (Sean Harris) is even worse.

The Underground and its connected service areas form a good setting for a horror movie - plenty of corners to be backed into and hidden passages to allow escape, and less-than-ideal lighting conditions. It's an area that, if it's not exactly thought of as safe, is at least familiar enough to offer a false sense of security to someone trapped there. The film could perhaps play on that more, rather than spending so much of its time chasing Kate through dark, dirty sewage tunnels. Being attacked by a monster there isn't quite expected, but it's somewhat less of a surprise than when it happens in a familiar public space.

Another problem is that we never really get much of a handle on Kate. Our introduction to her establishes her as kind of well-paid and snobby, and of course never having had to worry about moment-to-moment survival until now, but that's kind of a given for this kind of movie. We're told she's German (although her speech is unaccented enough that we likely wouldn't guess), but really don't learn enough about her background to know whether she's particularly well- or ill-suited to this kind of adventure, or which kinds of threats she can handle better than others. She's pleasant enough, and as the film goes on ultimately fairly capable, but despite her being the protagonist, it seems like even the characters who die in the sequence that introduces them have more individuality.

Those coming to the movie looking to fill a quota of violent death will get their money's worth. It's a short-ish film - a few minutes under an hour and a half - but does offer up a dead body about every ten minutes or so, along with some other disturbing or off-putting images. It's fairly unglamorized violence, much taking place off-screen, and some of it is really unpleasant, which can be looked at a number of different ways. It is legitimately disgusting/horrifying, and thus, arguably, successful for a horror movie, but when's something grisly enough, the audience may wind up just wanting out, looking away rather than not being able to. The movie was right at that line with me, which means some folks just aren't going to take it. The kills themselves are brutal but not especially creative, and while I'm uncomfortable when people laugh or whoop at the taking of a human life, there should be some excitement at the ingenuity or staging of it. I didn't get that so much here; it was mostly throat-slittings.

Which is not to say that The Creep is a bad villain. It is, in fact, a worthy addition to the pantheon of slashers: The thing is pasty from its subterranean existence, deformed, and vicious in how it uses the tools and infrastructure of civilization with utterly sociopathic malice. Pretty much all of Sean Harris's lines are inarticulate shrieks, but his body language is expressive, even as it's rather alien. He's frighteningly savage, even if the film's got no ambitions for its monster beyond killing a few people locked into the London Underground at night.

But, I'm sure, that will come. The horror movie industry is an industry, and Creep seems rather ripe for exploitation. The monster is exactly the sort of thing that Todd MacFarlane makes action figures out of, what drabs of backstory there are could form the basis for a licensed comic from IDW and there's material for sequels, theatrical or direct to video, without needing to bring any of the original cast back. It's the new horror movie life cycle, and even if Creep wasn't designed with the intent to follow that pattern, it likely will.

And that may please you, or leave you cold. "Creep" is passable horror product, but not much more.

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