There are three key take-aways from Creep (2014).
- Josef has killed before.
- Josef will kill again.
- Josef is a filmmaker, albeit an incredibly unethical one.
Where Creep is a slow descent into the unknown, Creep 2 (2017) is the process of unpacking what we’ve witnessed in the last installment. This ‘unpacking’ is done by our new protagonist, Sara (Desiree Akhavan) who like Josef, has her own agenda. Sara runs a youtube channel called ‘Encounters’, where she interviews strangers who post craigslist ads ranging from “Mommy me” requests to folks just looking for someone to talk to. Even though most of her subjects are weirdos, no one really seems to stand out, and because of this, her channel’s not doing so hot. Sara momentarily gives up, uploading her last ‘Encounters’ episode, where she tells her total of 9 viewers that she believes herself to be “deeply untalented”, and despite having thought that there was something unique about her work, it must come to an end.
The morning after, Sara sees Josef’s ad on craigslist, looking for a videographer with honesty, emotional bravery, hopefully a fan of Interview with The Vampire, and a willingness to ‘go deep’. Josef enters Sara’s life as a saving grace. With some really bad intentions, sure, but he presents himself as exactly the type of subject Sara wants for Encounters. Hopefully this gets Sara out of her funk.
Sara Loves Her Juicy Fruit
When they meet, Josef introduces himself as ‘Aaron’ (easter egg for Creep viewers), and tells her right off the bat that he’s a serial killer. She doesn’t believe him, of course, which works to his advantage throughout their time together. Regardless if Sara believes Josef or not, he still makes for a really interesting subject for Encounters. Josef confides in her that killing feels like a job now, and he’s not sure if he can find his passion for it again. Maybe he’s lost his magic touch, he thought he had something special, but it seems to have gone away. Sure, you could say that this is just another one of Josef’s lies, but considering the cold-open where Josef opens up to his friend Dave about feeling unsatisfied and lost (before killing him), i’m going to say that this feeling is very real, it seems to be one of the only consistent things in Josef’s character.
But this sounds familiar, right? The struggle to make something of substance is not only what ties Sara and Josef so intimately together, but it’s also a common experience among creatives. There is a constant push to make something meaningful, something that will resonate with others and hopefully leave us feeling fulfilled. It can be incredibly draining and discouraging when it feels like that fulfillment will never come, even when our existence as creatives shouldn’t depend on it.
Maybe it’s the shared feeling, the need for a shocking subject, or the Francis Ford Coppola quote that Josef whips out of nowhere, but Sara agrees to make a documentary with him. A documentary about Josef, the most prolific serial killer that no one knows about. From that moment forward, Sara and Josef are in a cat and mouse game, and instead of Josef pushing Sara’s buttons like he did with Aaron, the tables have turned. Sara thinks she’s struck gold and wants to get as much out of him as she can, and Josef is hoping Sara will inspire him to kill again.
The chemistry that Akhavan and Duplass share as Sara and Josef is palpable, I could watch these two talk for hours. There’s an overlying tension that is so thick and lingers in every conversation they have, in large part due to the dramatic irony and their hidden agendas. What makes Creep 2 stand out is how similar Sara and Josef are, they have the same goal: to make something good. Sara will go so far as to stay in a house with a man that admits to being a serial killer, pushing him to the brink, resulting in two separate meltdowns. Josef is so desperate that he actually opens up to Sara and shows an authentic vulnerability. He literally bares himself naked within the first 10 minutes of meeting her, if that’s not vulnerable I don’t know what is.
Aaron Loves To Kill
Their time together is surprisingly fun, until it’s not. Josef reveals to Sara that he knows about her youtube channel, something that she chose to keep a secret from him. Perhaps out of the hope that posing as a grad student with absolutely no agenda would get her better material. He decides to play the role she wants, the messed-up weirdo who’s just looking for connection, but the act comes to a halt when he takes her out to the forest and shows her a grave he dug for them (or just her?). This was the plan all along, make a documentary about the woman that inspired Josef to kill again.
To be honest with you, I still don’t know if Josef missed his and Sara’s vital organs on purpose, it’s astonishing to me that either of them survived those wounds, and the fact that Sara was able to crawl out of her grave and hit Josef with a shovel seems almost impossible. Sara and Josef’s connection through this common artist’s struggle is what keeps me coming back to Creep 2. A failed journalist and experimental filmmaker/serial killer going through a mid-life crisis, finding connection through a shared experience that almost has them both meet their maker. The quest to make something substantial, to ‘make’ it, to continuously tear yourself open in hopes that you can create art, it will leave you breathless.