Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creep (C.H.U.C. double feature with 1972's Raw Meat!)

Creep (2005)
Dir. Christopher Smith
Starring Franka Portente, Sean Harris, Vas Blackwood

This is the first in my two-film series about London Underground Mutant Cannibals, which I have affectionately dubbed C.H.U.C.s (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Chaps). This is a modern take on the classic subject of mutated cannibals who live in the London subway (“Underground”) tunnels, and was directed by Christopher Smith, who’s BLACK DEATH you may remember I recently enjoyed due to its interesting structure and concepts, despite its somewhat uneven execution.

CREEP is, I think, a better made film, but not well made enough to really justify the fact that it’s pretty generic in every regard. It’s your standard trapped-with-a-serial-killer scenario, this time set in the London Undergound which doesn’t seem nearly as creepy as the filmmakers seem to think it is. They have to fall all over themselves to think of reasons someone can’t simply get out (cell phones don’t work, door is locked, security guard refuses to help, pay phone doesn’t work, other guy only helps once it’s too late to do anything) but it still seems like an imminently survivable situation.

Here’s the story: Franka Portente (RUN LOLA RUN) is a German-accented Londoner who falls asleep inside a subway station and wakes up to find the place has closed (nobody checks the platform before they lock the door and leave for the night, apparently). But she’s far from alone; her rapey would-be paramour is down there too, as are two drug-addled homeless kids, a security guard, a stray sewer worker, and of course our titular creep. So it’s a regular after-hours party down there of potential victims, most of whom are dispatched in short order in fairly mundane ways (the Creep, despite appearing to just be a kind of skinny humanoid imbred, possesses super strength and --before we first lay eyes on him-- likes to do things like climb along the ceiling or underneath the subway cars and grab people, which I call bullshit on because once we see him it becomes unclear how he accomplished this feat).  

Portente does a nice job of seeming like an unusually resourceful, logical victim for this kind of scenario, but doesn’t add much to the proceedings aside from being basically competent. Which could be said for the whole film: pretty competent, but doesn’t add much. I just couldn’t get past the fact that every single scare in this film has been done somewhere else much better and frequently more imaginatively. It’s standard in almost every way, never really embarrassing itself but never giving itself much reason to stand out either. The film is more interested in jump scares and gore than it is in building atmosphere or paranoia, so it’s a bit more damning than you might assume that it doesn’t have much to add to the basic genre structure.   

There is one thing which is pretty cool, though, and that’s the implied backstory to our Creep (Sean Harris, looking like Gollum crossed with Mer-Man). As our heroes penetrate the abandoned catacombs beneath the city, they come across a secret, abandoned abortion clinic which houses evidence that seems to suggest that the Creep (who we find out is named Craig) was born there along with many other creepy deformed cannibal children. That raises a number of disturbing possibilities; was Craig’s deformity a result of an abortion gone wrong? Was the doctor secretly keeping babies he was supposed to be aborting for some kind of twisted experiments, or, even creepier, to sort of half-raise as his own family?

Things get even creepier when Craig drags a victim down there and straps her into the ol’ abortion chair. He proceeds to clumsily mimic the actions of a doctor, strapping on filthy bloodstained scrubs, mimicking washing his hands (with no running water), sighing theatrically. He’s watched this being done many, many times, but it’s a perverse parody of actual medicine, just as Craig is a perverse parody of a human. Creepy. Then he grabs a rusty saw and the film gets back to trying to shock you with gore. Meh.

Overall, not a bad effort but not really a good enough one to recommend it very strongly either. If subways creep you out, this might be your thing, otherwise there’s just not a whole lot of interest here.


  1. I'd agree that there's nothing really unique about this, but (and maybe I'm just being soft on it) I thought the execution was solid and it was a lot of fun. It had a reasonable feel for suspense and pace, a handful of fun scares, a few creepy ideas. Which is a lot more than you can usually say for slasher movies. Then again, I'm predisposed to this kind of crap.

  2. I should have probably put this in the review, but I'm actually somewhat predisposed *against* a movie like this for the simple reason that the slasher subgenre almost never really works for me. For whatever reason, I just don't really find the concept that scary or respond well to its usual tropes. So this is a perfectly servicable example of how to do a generic slasher with some solid execution and a couple good ideas, but if you're gonna get me going with a slasher concept you're really gonna have to do better than just solid application of the formula.