When Creep was released back in 2014, it was a surprise hit, garnering critical acclaim for its effectively straightforward narrative and fantastic performances from its leading actors, Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice. Talks of a sequel (and even a trilogy) were heard shortly after the film’s release, though nothing was officially announced until September 2016. But like any sequel, Creep 2 was met with some trepidation from fans of the original, concerned that it wouldn’t live up to the success of the first film. Thankfully, Creep 2 – released last month – is almost as powerful as Creep, and despite some flaws, moves the franchise forward in some interesting directions.
Feeling dissatisfied with her YouTube series ‘Encounters’ – in which she films herself meeting strangers from Craigslist – Sara (Desiree Akhavan) responds to a mysterious ad from a man needing a videographer. When she arrives at his house, Aaron (Mark Duplass) tells her that he is a serial killer, and after showing her his collection of snuff films, asks her to record a day-in-the-life style documentary, shedding light on his work and crimes. Sara stays with him against her better judgement, telling herself that Aaron is the perfect subject for her webseries. She attempts to psychoanalyse him on camera, asking him to reveal increasingly personal things about himself, but is unaware that Aaron is always one step ahead of her – even when he leads her out into the woods to record the bloody climax of her film.
The biggest problem with Creep 2 is that we already know what Aaron (named Josef in the first film) is capable of. We know the kinds of tactics he uses in order to kill his victims, and thanks to an opening scene that shows him murdering again, we see that he follows a similar pattern with all of them. Although the film differs from the original by having Aaron tell Sara immediately that he is a murderer, some of the scarier aspects are negated because we’ve seen them before. We know that Aaron is going to disappear and then jump out at the camera, and we know he will inevitably emerge wearing his wolf mask; but these moments were only effective because we had no idea what he wanted in the first film, or which of the things he said were true.
But that’s not to say that Creep 2 isn’t scary or effective. The relationship between Aaron and Sara is one of the most interesting aspects of the film, and the way they mirror each other (and eventually become dependent on one another) is even more gripping than the central relationship of the original. Similarly, Creep 2 also effectively plays with our expectations, twisting and subverting what we think is going to happen. The final scene – in which Aaron and Sara are in the moonlit woods – evolves into something frighteningly unexpected, even though it is foreshadowed earlier in the film. In the same way, the film is full of potential for dramatic irony, as we often know things about Aaron that the other characters do not. The film opens with Aaron revealing himself to his latest victim, the scene becoming gradually more and more tense as we recognise what Aaron is about to do, right up until the last second.
Mark Duplass, however, is really the star of the show, giving Aaron a sociopathic complexity that is equally gripping and terrifying. He is, by turns, cheerful, effusive, petulant and murderous – often within the same scene – and leaves us never quite sure what he is planning to do, even when telling us directly. Unfortunately, Desiree Akhavan is not nearly as magnetic, and it’s difficult to feel engaged with a character who makes the ridiculous choices she does throughout the film. Her motives are made clear from the beginning, but after watching all 39 of Aaron’s snuff films, the fact she still agrees to spend the night makes her difficult to sympathise with.
Creep 2, while perhaps lacking some of the shocking originality of its predecessor, is a strong, often inspired sequel, boasting another brilliant performance from Mark Duplass as Aaron. There are undoubtedly some missteps along the way, but Creep 2 shows there is still a lot of potential for the franchise, and fans of the first film will be glad to spend more time with Aaron – even if his victims might disagree.
This review was originally published at http://www.screamhorrormag.com