It has almost become a rule in slasher movies that the opening scene, while useful in setting the mood, is completely unrelated to the plot. When a movie like Creep comes along to break this rule, while having the opening scene both set the mood and have an actual impact on the plot later on, I almost want to give it a gold medal right away. I’ll give it a bronze for now though, as it’ll have to work for the gold.
This opening scene shows two sewage workers working underneath London. After a false jump scene, they discover a tunnel that they’d never previously seen, and before you know it, one of them is dead, and the other is looking into the face of the killer. We don’t get to see the killer at this point, although when we finally do, it’s probably one of the most effective and terrifying jump scenes I can recall, while also not adhering to typical rules of these kinds of shots. Instead of quickly cutting in and out, we get a couple of seconds to stare at the deformed face of the killer, and that makes it all that more frightening.
That doesn’t happen until much later in the film though; you wouldn’t want your audience to get a look at this thing too soon, would you? After the initial murder, we meet our main character, Kate (Franka Potente), someone who probably needs to cut back on her alcohol intake. She’s at a party making plans to find George Clooney (who is apparently in town) but her friend has abandoned her. We now find out that Kate is an impatient woman, as she decides to take the train after failing to catch one taxi. Her time must be very important.
She can’t even wait eight minutes for the train to arrive. To pass the time, she downs about half of her petite vodka bottle before falling asleep. Upon awakening, she finds out that the “last” train has already departed, and that the station is now locked up for the night. Shame, that is. But then a train pulls into the station anyway, and she gets on it, along with one other person that she doesn’t notice.
I’ll leave you there because that’s probably the best way to get you to want more about the story, while also not spoiling too much. If you’re already wondering how the station got locked down without anybody seeing her, well, I thought about that too. Ultimately, you’re going to need to suspend your disbelief quite frequently in order to get the most out of Creep. I didn’t have much of a problem doing this considering I was too busy being scared silly by this movie.
Okay, okay, that’s exaggerating a tad, but to say that this is a scary movie is not. I had a blast with Creep, and I was more than just a little bit scared. It lives up to its name in being creepy, working largely because of the environment that it’s set in, as well as the atmosphere that it makes for itself. It also doesn’t rely on jump scares all that often, even though the occasional one is well-placed and effective. The silver medal would be awarded at this point.
It also works on a human level, with a snotty, posh and downright mean main character, one who seems to hate everyone who isn’t directly useful to her. At one point, she meets a homeless man (Paul Rattray) who begins to explain how he and his girlfriend are trying to find a house before Winter hits. She cuts him off before he can finish, telling him that she really doesn’t care. How rude is that! But as we progress, she begins to learn the consequences of her dismissal for others. Granted, early on, we might as well hope that she dies, as she has no initial redeeming traits. But because we’re put in her shoes and are fairly scared at this point, we don’t think this way — we only do in hindsight.
I don’t know about you, but being trapped in a subway system is something that I wouldn’t like to experience. Have you ever taken the subway at night, when maybe only a couple of other people are on the train with you and one of the lights of the train is slowly going out? And then the train starts coming to a screeching stop, and one of you blurts out “I sure hope we don’t get trapped down here.” Imagine that type of scene, and then throw a killer into the picture. Yeah, that’s the beginning of an exceptional premise right there.
Eventually, we do get a good look at the ugly body that has decided to take up killing the people of the subway system. Sometimes, movies that have gone to great length to hide their killers lose a lot of the scares once we get a good look at them. That’s not the case with Creep, which manages to maintain its level of scares even after we’ve seen it for minutes at a time. We even get some hints as to how it originated, although we’re not explicitly told. You have to think about where it came from and why it has decided to become a murderer, because you won’t be given such answers.
A man named Sean Harris does play the creature that haunts our characters, and whoever designed the costume and makeup here deserves an award (an actual award — not just the gold medal that I might give out here). He is unrecognizable underneath whatever it is that makes his character that way, although he still manages to sink a great deal of emotion into his character. It’s his eyes that do all the talking here. If there’s one standout star, it’s him, even if we never truly see what he looks like.
To top everything off, we end on an ominous note, and I’m still not exactly sure what the ending means — nor do I think I want to. This is a film that ends with the perfect hint of irony, or maybe it doesn’t end ironically at all, and instead with a faint hope of a world improved. There’s also the chance to take it in the absolute worst possible way, and all three of these possibilities come to us thanks to a faint smile. And here is the gold medal, director Christopher Smith — you deserve it.
Creep is an example of how to make a horror movie. Sure, it suffers from logical problems and you need to suspend your disbelief through a lot of it, but because it keeps you heart pounding and your hand over your mouth, you only notice these things in hindsight. I was terrified through portions of this movie, while others simply left me in awe. It’s set in a dark place, and this just helps add atmosphere and mood. If you need a movie to watch that will make sure you leave the party early to avoid taking a late subway home, this is the one.