“I think I might be deeply untalented,” Sara (Desiree Akhavan) weeps into the camera early into Creep 2. Who is Sara? Why is she crying? She’s a would-be video artist, struggling to find her own voice in an endless sea of voices. Aren’t we all? Perhaps that’s what’s so relatable about Patrick Brice’s followup to his unnerving 2015 found-footage horror film. We all feel like Sara at times: stranded, vacant, hopeless, and lost. Think about those random nights you’ve spent flipping through Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter, wondering if anyone gives a flying fuck what you might think, or say, or do. When you’re an artist, someone who’s actually trying to say something, that feeling is even worse. Unfortunately for Sara, she feels her “calling” is connecting with lonely men on Craigslist, a thankless task until, naturally, she stumbles upon our favorite titular psychopath.
Yes, Mark Duplass is back as Aaron, wielding axes, knives, and, of course, that terrifying Peachfuzz mask that had everyone laughing awkwardly while they sheepishly escaped to a nearby bathroom to clean their pants. Well, he’s even more terrifying this time around, unpredictably oscillating from being the Nice Guy or the Total Nutbar. Now, since we already know he’s mentally unhinged — ahem, ever since we watched him plunge an axe into Brice’s head at the end of the original — one might think most of the tension is gone. Not so, as it would appear that Aaron has met his match in Sara, who isn’t frightened upon discovering he’s a self-proclaimed serial killer, but 100% on board with the idea of filming him. After all, this is a chance of a lifetime, a way for her to not only find her voice, but say something with purpose. The juice, as they say, is worth the squeeze.
On paper, it would be so easy to say, “You know where this goes from here,” but really, you don’t. That’s the genius of this followup. Brice and Duplass have assembled a completely new mind game for fans, pairing two sycophants together, both of whom are uniquely strange and mysterious. Much like Aaron in the original, we don’t really know Sara, so her intentions could very well be as ill-advised as his, and that’s just one of a dozen questions that float through your mind as you watch them delicately dance together. It helps that Akhavan is similarly well adept at Brice’s organic filmmaking, going toe-to-toe with Duplass as they try to out-weird one another in all kinds of compact spaces, be it narrow hallways or stuffy living rooms. One particularly haunting scene takes place in a hot tub, where Aaron confesses some disturbing deeds to Sara.
She hardly breaks a sweat, though. That’s the beauty of this relationship; we’re always in the dark. But that’s where Brice likes to keep his audience, teetering at the edge of their seat as they wonder whether they should laugh, or cry, or turn away. He nailed that feeling with the original and even managed to bring that uncomfortable tension to his highly underrated 2015 comedy, The Overnight. With Creep 2, you’re never truly convinced the narrative is going the way you think it’s going, and while that may be frustrating to some (aka, those who don’t understand the concept of psychological thrillers), it’s almost enchanting for those looking for one good scare. Seeing how it’s Halloween season right now, and everyone’s starving for some good ol’ fashioned horror, you’d be wise to invite Aaron and Sara into your home. Just don’t take your eyes off them.