Review: 'Creep 2' Brings Both Heart and Horror in This Unsettling Sequel

The original Creep followed the story of a man who wanted a cameraman to document his daily activities, claiming a terminal illness would cause him to pass away before he got to meet his unborn son, resulting in an escalating series of bizarre experiences unfolding. Following up such a hilarious and horrifying film seemed impossible, but Creep 2 has managed to evolve its premise in unexpected ways, once again taking audiences on an unsettling journey of a sociopath that has both heart and horror.

Aspiring filmmaker Sara (Desiree Akhavan) has a web series in which she responds to ads on Craigslist that would be immediate red flags to others, hoping to tell the stories of people behind the posts. Sara connects with an ad that will offer her $1,000 so long as she doesn't scare easily and is a fan of Interview with the Vampire. This post leads her to meet Aaron (Mark Duplass), who immediately alerts her to the fact that he's a serial killer who has a body count approaching 40, offering her the unique opportunity to tell his story.

It's unclear whether Sara is fearless or merely doesn't believe Aaron, but she agrees to join him on this journey of self-discovery. Throughout the process, Aaron is charming and honest, relaying to Sara the experiences he endured to get to where he is today and his approach to killing people. Throughout their quest together, Sara and Aaron push one another in surprising ways in a game of cat-and-mouse where you're never really sure who is the cat and who is the mouse.

The biggest strength of the first film was that Duplass, who earned a name for himself as an endearing everyman in films like Safety Not Guaranteed and the TV series The League, used his charms in much the same way he did in comedies, with the film's scenarios giving a sadistic spin to his quirky behavior. Right up until the film's final moments, the audience is unaware of his character's true intentions.

Given the way the first film ended, audiences were aware of what "Aaron" was capable of, making the confession of his sociopathic ways a surprising and effective way to push the story forward. Rather than give us yet another story about a victim who tries to determine what Aaron could do to them, Sara's outlook completely changes the power dynamic to get an entirely different tone from the first film. The audience no longer worries about Aaron following through on his violent behaviors, causing us to spend the whole film wondering if meeting Sara was all he needed to leave his murderous ways behind or if she'll potentially antagonize him in ways she'll come to regret.

The brunt of the film's failures and successes rests on Duplass' shoulders, as he not only co-wrote it with director Patrick Brice, but he also appears on screen for a majority of its runtime, merely hearing Akhavan's voice from behind the camera to keep the momentum going. Whereas in the original film, the actor appeared to take glee in his depraved behavior, with Duplass now conveying a feeling of remorse and confusion, allowing the actor to show a completely different side of the character in this layered performance. Whether he flirtatiously tries to goad Sara into doing despicable things or he's giving an emotionally heavy monologue about his personal life, this series of films would not be nearly as effective without Duplass in the spotlight.

Matching the frenetic energy of Duplass is a nigh-impossible task, allowing Akhavan to make the perfect foil for the character, with Sara embracing each and every challenge Aaron throws her way. Compared to the cameraman from the first film (Brice), Sara not only accepts Aaron, but pushes his buttons in non-confrontational yet retaliatory ways, allowing the two characters to grow together.

The original film was effective as a standard thriller, giving audiences jumpscares and overall feelings of unease, a feeling that isn't entirely matched in Creep 2. There are still many startling moments but, as Aaron mentioned in his ad, the film unfolds like Interview with a Vampire and the overall gravity of the horrible things the character has done in their past. As opposed to the traditional thriller, Creep 2 unnerves the audience with the emotional depth of someone who carries out heinous acts, forcing us to question how much humanity could potentially dwell in the hearts of monsters.

As their titles suggest, the Creep films have helped give audiences one of the most eerily emotional killers of the decade, in addition to creating a feeling under our skins that will always make us think twice before responding to an ad on Craigslist.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Creep 2 is available on VOD on October 24th.