Monday, April 23, 2007

Movies: 'Cause I'm weirdo. What the hell am I doing here?

Creep is the poor man's Descent, which is kinda a good thing – insomuch as Descent is a pretty good movie – and kinda a bad thing – insomuch as you can't watch Creep without constantly comparing it to that superior flick.

The plot of Creep is, like the plot of most great horror flicks, effectively simple. Kate, a German ex-pat living in London (played by the chick from Run, Lola, Run), leaves a fancy party to take the tube (that's what London-type Britishers call their subway system) to a party where she plans to seduce George Clooney. To spare the budget strain of having to hire Clooney, the filmmakers have Lola pass out a bit on the tube platform. She wakes up to find herself trapped in the now empty station. Shortly after establishing that she's stuck as stuck can be, a mutated mole person begins to stalk Lola through empty stations, the occasional train, and numerous gothic tunnel structures designed by the more unbalanced members of London's civil engineering community.

There's much to recommend Creep. Despite hand cam work and what appears to be digital video shooting, the film looks quite nice. The stations have a sort of lifeless, sterile gleam. The tunnels and other subterranean locales are meticulously filthy and decayed. I imagine one scene, involving an abandoned underground medical facility, slick and begrimed with mud and blood and lit with a weak yellow wash that makes everything seem jaundiced, would be enough to give neat freaks the willies for weeks.

The characterizations are so good as to boarder on being wasted. Lola is a great example of this. For all the acting she does, it does not really change the fact that she's not required to do much but scream and run and pant. The Morlock is another great example. Under all that make-up is Sean Harris, or, if you prefer, Ian Curtis from 24 Hour Party People. Harris, who is criminally under-used because of his atypical looks, is a truly remarkable Method actor and his C.H.U.D. character is fabulously over the top. From the animal-like sounds Harris emits to his bizarre physical ticks, he a joy to watch. But again, not even he can make the viewer forget some glaring gaps in narrative and logic. All the cast members make a game effort to push what is a fine and perfect serviceable horror flick into the realm of classic. Ultimately, however, they just don't have enough to work with.

There are two flaws that prevent Creep from truly becoming a classic. The first is a weak narrative. Watching the flick, one can't shake the feeling that the writer/director had scenes he knew he wanted to hit, and just tied them together in a convenient, if not very logical or sensible, way. In the bonus features (and it is still a good enough flick that I was curious enough to check out the bonus features), he director claims that he was not intimidated helming his first picture because he loves cinema and, when in a pinch, he just thinks about what previous directors have done. While this seems quite pragmatic, one wonders if the script was put together in a similar fashion. It feels a bit cut and paste.

The second problem is completely unfair, but unavoidable. If you've seen Descent, you can't watch this film without comparing the two. The dark, underground set. The pale, mole person villain. The female protagonist. The UK accents. It is unfair, but inescapable. Creep is a fine film in its own right, but it is not as good as Descent and suffers by the comparison. Actually, I couldn't help wonder if the writer/director, one Christopher Smith (which sounds like a fake name), won't follow the same trajectory as Descent director Neill Marshall. Like this film, Marshall's first flick, Dog Soldiers, was a good flick that didn't quite make the "great" cut due to some clumsy bits and uneven tone. Perhaps, like Marshall's fledgling effort, Creep is the promising opening jab that will be followed by a stupendous uppercut. Smith's next flick, Severance, described as The Office meets Friday the 13th, might just make him one of horror's A-list names. I'm curious to find out.

I'm probably being too hard on Creep. It is guilty of not being as great as it wanted to be – though it does a good job with what's it got and is a solid horror flick. If it asks to be compared to a horror film of The Descent's caliber, it deserves credit for aiming higher than, say, being yet another remake of a '70s horror flick. Using the sensuous Famous Female Aviatrixes Film Rating System, I'm giving Creep a solid Helen Richey. Sure, she's no Amelia Earhart, but she set a 10-day air endurance record (with mid-air refueling). That's pretty boss in its own right.


Anonymous said...

I almost thought you said a Helen Ripley, which would, if her first name was Helen, be a great rating. Although Ripley wasn't the pilot, IIRC.

However, the Office meets Friday the 13th ? Is it meant to be a comedy or a horror flick ? Because sometimes those slasher movies are unintentionally funny..

CRwM said...

Do we ever learn Ripley's first name? Couldn't it be Helen?

As for Severance, I haven't seen it yet, but I suspect it will be something like a Shaun of the Dead take on American Psycho with a little bit of The Osterman Weekend thrown in for spice.

I have no idea whether it will be any good or not - though I hoold out hope for it. Creep was a good start and I've got a weakness for satires of cube/office culture. I can think of no subset of humanity in more dire need of slashering than white collar shlubs like myself.