Creep

Like adverbs, found footage* should be used…sparingly (whoops). In the case of Creep, the device doesn’t do the film any favors, spoiling what’s a top-drawer setup, and making the film, while really stellar, not wholly deserving of its critical ballyhoos. But hey, when compared against other found footage films…this one does kick some butt.

Again, the set up is pretty intriguing: Filmmaker Aaron responds online to an assignment to film the dying days of an entrepreneur, Josef, who wants to leave a posthumous video reminder for his son.

His place is in the remote San Bernardino Mountains and Aaron soon realizes that his patron is a bit…shall we say…particular about the kinds of messages he wants to convey and how.

Much like The Shining’s pre- and post- madness Jack Torrance are not nearly as far apart as they should’ve been, Creep reveals (too early) that Josef is…well…the film’s title and then some. He insists a “tubby time” bathtub playtime scene is filmed, where he drops his robe in front of hired videographer.

For Aaron though, a gig is a gig and he chalks up Josef’s eccentricity to his pending demise. That is…until he thinks better of it when Josef asks him to turn the camera off for what is a pretty sinister revelation (not to be revealed here).

A product of the infuriating hit-and-miss Blumhouse Productions, director Patrick Brice (Room 104) shows a deft touch and admirable restraint (at a running time of 77 minutes, almost too much restraint). He also does things with scary masks that the horror scene hasn’t seen in years, and it culminates in a stunning, and off-kilter finale.

***1/2 (out of 5)

*A rule of thumb is that if the found footage conceit could’ve been easily replaced, it should’ve been.

Frenzy

Frenzy, noun: violent mental derangement. 2. wild excitement or agitation; distraction. 3. a bout of wild or agitated activity. Essentially, that’s us when our next book project is due and the publisher wants their manuscript (cheap plug time: Pick up a copy of Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons).

The film of the same name is befitting of its title. Frenzy is a homecoming for the Master of Suspense, and saw Hitchcock’s return to London and the film’s opener, a sweeping, lazy, placid helicopter shot of Tower Bridge and the mighty Thames, is a wonderful tonal setup.

As we land on terra firma, it’s the nasty business of politics that precedes the nasty business of murder: a local city councilor (or possibly an MP) promises to clean up the river…and in the midst of a well-intentioned/well-attended photo-op (journalists + the public) a nude form washes up on the shoreline…the body of a woman…

One of the rabble yells that it’s another “victim of the necktie murderer” and viewers’ minds are immediately sent back to the time of Jack the Ripper, the mysterious Victorian in the top-hat with medical training who terrorized Whitechapel roughly a century prior (for those who are interested, check out our review of Murder by Decree, a flick which features Christopher Plummer hot on the tail of Saucy Jack).

In a nod to the Vigilance Committee leader of  the era, headed by captain of industry George Lusk, the killer here is…Rusk. And in a tribute to Hitch’s father (a grocery man), this film’s set in Covent Gardens.

In a change of pace, here Hitch tips off viewers as to who’s done the dirty deeds. So Frenzy is not a suspense film in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a depiction of how uber-red herring Blaney, a down-on-his-luck drinker, degenerate gambler and ex-barman, has to clear his name when his estranged missus ends up strangled in her place of business.

Without being strangled by the censors, Hitchcock is able to go all out here, and the influence of violent spectacles like The Last House on the Left no doubt left their mark. The result: more violence and mayhem then we’d seen, but still intact…Hitchcock’s incomparable visual style.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of Frenzy on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]