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One of the decade’s most surprising, uncomfortable genre films is Creep, in which Mark Duplass proves that his mumblecore charm has a very, very dark side. Helmed by and co-starring Patrick Brice, the no-budget film created dread and unease through simple character development—what easily could have been a melancholic comedy becomes a horror film in just the last few moments. It’s easy to understand why Blumhouse wanted to capitalize on that magic through a few more installments; but how do you follow up a film that is entirely based on the element of uncertainty? Brice and Duplass have answered that question, delivering a hilarious, disturbing sequel which improves on everything that made the first film fascinating.

The plot of this film sounds fairly similar to its predecessor. Ambitious documentarian Sara (played by the incredible Desiree Akhavan) finds a new subject in Aaron, a self-proclaimed serial killer who hires her to document his life and “art.” Sara doesn’t know what we do, that Aaron is telling the truth. As she pursues her story, revelations surface and motivations blur until the outcome becomes impossible to guess.

It isn’t necessary to watch the first film to understand this one, but any fan already knows that Duplass’ Josef—now named Aaron, after his previous victim—is insane. Thus, watching another film in which he stalks an unsuspecting victim would be pointless. Brice is aware that he can’t simply follow the recipe, though, and intentionally subverts expectations by focusing on character rather than scares. Inherently, these explorations must be slow-paced and enigmatic. Part of the fun (and fear) comes from trying to guess whether Duplass is being genuine or not. Viewers who disliked the first film’s patient pacing will find more horror here—both Duplass and Akhavan appear to have a blast jumping out at each other in a few meta jump scares—but that isn’t the film’s sole focus. It’s slow, deliberate, and far more haunting because of it.

Both films are portraits of a very disturbed but sardonically entertaining mind at their core. This one expands on Aaron’s psyche, his past, and hints at what happens when things don’t go his way. Akhavan brings her own intensity, and becomes just as unsettling at times, while ensuring that Aaron’s antics don’t stagnate by challenging him and the audience. Her deadpan focus brilliantly compliments Duplass’ goofy demeanor, more so as the film gets darker and darker. These characters go places that we don’t expect, and in a lesser team’s hands, it wouldn’t have worked. There is genuine talent behind these films, however, and that confidence shapes them into something unique.

Considering that this is a sequel produced by a major production company, its nuance and depth come as a shock—a pleasant, lingering one. The slow pace and lack of violence might prevent it from pleasing a huge audience, but the film’s importance should be taken into account. Brice and Duplass have created one of the most subdued and charismatic horror characters of this decade. It’s hard to imagine how they will continue this trend in a third installment, which seems inevitable after the quality of this one, but the attempt will undoubtedly be fascinating. That word describes the series as a whole, particularly this advancement: a complex, funny, and even melancholic exploration of a narcissistic outsider who wants love on the most horrifying terms.

Movie Score: 4/5

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In case you missed it, check here to read more of our coverage of the 2017 Sitges Film Festival!

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