How do you follow a movie like Creep, one so strange and singular that it feels destined to stand alone? Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass manage it by taking the mysterious premise of Creep and facing it head-on, and by inviting a new, fresh voice to collaborate with their improvisational nightmare.
Desiree Akhavan (a filmmaker in her own right, responsible for Appropriate Behavior and the upcoming The Miseducation of Cameron Post) is Sara, host of a web series called Encounters in which she answers the most off-putting personal ads she can find and films the results. It sounds mean, but isn’t, really. There’s something in Sara that responds to loneliness and desperation, and we can feel her matter-of-fact empathy for these weirdos. But Encounters’ viewership is pretty puny, and Sara needs something spectacular to build up interest.
Enter Aaron (Duplass), the very same creep we remember from Creep (although there he called himself Josef, until he put an axe in Old Aaron’s head and took on his name). He publishes a personal ad seeking a videographer, asking for fans of Interview with a Vampire to apply. Sara perks up at this patently bizarre offer, and in a text exchange with Aaron he asks her if she scares easy. She tells him no.
We soon realize that’s very true. Aaron spends the first few hours trying to unsettle Sara - jumping out at her, telling her the green smoothie she’s drinking is poisoned, introducing her to Peach Fuzz (the insane wolf mask from the first film), taking off all of his clothes and asking her to do the same within ten minutes of meeting her so they can eliminate any boundaries between them. Sara is low-key game for all of it, and Akhavan’s unshakable poker face makes her a perfect foil for the attention-seeking Aaron, who soon acknowledges, with no small amount of admiration, that she’s a "tough nut to crack."
On the outside, it seems Creep 2 is hitting many of the same beats as Creep, but with one important difference. From the beginning, Aaron admits to Sara (and us) that he’s a serial killer. What he wants is to make a documentary with Sara about "the most prolific serial killer alive," with 39 kills and counting. Aaron’s nearing 40 and feeling a bit "midlife-y," and he’s no longer finding the joy he once did in killing those closest to him. While it’s clear that Sara doesn’t believe that he’s a serial killer, she’s a good sport, and thinks Aaron’s delusion makes him a fascinating but harmless subject for Encounters. She’ll know better soon.
What follows is a blackly hilarious, increasingly intense showdown between two very engaging and unusual characters. Akhavan brings such a fascinating new energy to Brice and Duplass’ creepy playground. Sara’s quite savvy, but Duplass’ Aaron is so vulnerable and off-key charming that we see her start to fall for his game. Even knowing what we know about this character and what he’s capable of - and Creep 2 opens with a very bloody reminder - we start to fall for it, too. Duplass is as darkly disarming as ever here, skating this seemingly impossible balance of guileless and terrifying.
Fans of Creep - and everyone should be - will find much to love in Creep 2. It achieves the first film’s quality of surprise and elevates the stakes with an outright confrontation of what Aaron is and what that might mean for our likable heroine. It’s very funny and even occasionally rather sweet, but it’s also a profoundly uncomfortable look into the mind of a man who wants to be your best friend before he butchers you.