18 07 2015

CreepNear the midway point of Patrick Brice’s found footage horror flick “Creep,” a lingering shot on Mark Duplass’ Aaron yields a moment of intense vulnerability capped with the line, “If I got to know you before you got to know me, I thought I would be less scared.” It’s one of the most incisive lines uttered on screen in recent memory, quickly alerting any smart viewer that this is far more than a standard-issue scare.

“Creep” is astutely attuned to the terror of the new generation of overzealous Internet commenters and predators, and Brice beats Lifetime to the punch on the concept.  (Just wait for it, we’ll see “The Tinder Killer” in no time at all.)  Duplass stars as Josef, a man who claims his life will soon be cut short by a malignant brain tumor and thus seeks a videographer to film some footage for the son he will leave behind.  In need of some cash, unwitting Aaron (played by Brice) answers the Internet posting and comes to Josef’s cabin to help.

Little does Aaron know that Josef is the kind of fanatical weirdo that makes every girl regret that swipe right on Tinder.  He has little regard for the personal space or feelings of others, constantly making ill-advised practical jokes and comments that make Aaron extremely uncomfortable.  Tellingly, Josef finds a kindred spirit in the wolf, a creature that he sees as loving deeply but also dangerously out of an undeveloped social instinct.

“Creep” proves so terrifying because Josef is not a pathologically ill menace, seeking to exact harm due to an unexplained chemical imbalance or traumatic childhood experience.  Our screen-addled, intimacy-phobic culture bred him.  It hardly seems like a coincidence that in the back half of the film, Josef delivers his threats to Aaron in a video message for playback on a DVD player.  Even when talking life and death, he feels safer behind the remove of a screen.

Unfortunately, Brice gives in far too often to the easy temptation of the jump out scare, but “Creep” nonetheless lingers in the memory with its chilling message.  Perhaps with the help of availability on Netflix’s streaming service, this film could become the next “Catfish,” only without any qualms over the blurry line between fiction and reality which plague that documentary.  “Creep,” wholly fictional, only has to stay true to its concept and internal logic – two things Brice pulls off expertly.  B+ / 3stars

REVIEW: The Overnight

8 07 2015

The OvernightSome films revel in pushing boundaries and norms to expose the ridiculousness of those limitations.  Others, like “The Overnight,” simply dance on these taboos to milk them for cheap laughs.

Writer/director Patrick Brice is far too amused by impressionistic paintings of anal orifices, marijuana-induced hazes, and exaggerated prosthetic penises to interrogate the shackles of monogamy and parenthood.  (You get the feeling that Brice probably laughs until it hurts at the final scene of “Boogie Nights.”)  As a night of friendship blooming between two adult couples slowly devolves into something resembling a swingers party, it’s hard not to feel as uncomfortable as the guests played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling.

The end does ultimately show that the evening is a bit of a fantasy, one that can only take place while the kids are safely tucked away in bed.  But if Brice wanted to take this angle on the story, why not go all out with “Hangover“-style antics?  Something feels disingenuous about a tale concerning the loss of inhibitions and release of pent-up desires that is itself holding back something.

Still, within the relatively uninspired chain of events, the cast finds ways to spruce up the proceedings.  Scott and Schilling make for a convincing everyman and woman, reacting like every sane person would to the escalating oddity of their hosts.  Jason Schwartzman, most widely recognized as the mouthpiece for quirky Wes Anderson dialogue, also adds a great deal of fun to “The Overnight” with his articulate, confident eccentricity.  Unlike the stilted, clearly scripted cadences of his most frequent collaborator, Brice gives Schwartzman dialogue that actually sounds like it could come from an actual human being.  And that makes his character all the more hilarious and exciting to watch.  C+2stars