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.

Wolf House

Homo homini lupus est.* Why, oh why, do filmmakers have to subject us to herky-jerky terrible found footage movies like Wolf House? Well for starters, they’re cheap as heck to produce. And storyboarding them isn’t as rigorous.

Found footage/documentary-style films are highly polarizing. After all, the notion that people’s lives are so unimaginably compelling that every single second of their existence absolutely has to be documented by some idiot…well, that’s a tough sell, even to the most battle-tested reviewer who’s sick to his eye teeth of up-nostril shots.

And that’s not to say the odd found footage film isn’t decent. It’s a bit like the occasional salmon that survives a spawning run. When it comes to Wild Eye releases in particular, Head Cases: Serial Killers in the Delaware Valley is an adroit, if flawed, piece of work and worth a watch.

Wolf House, though, is a slop bucket of genre cliches: the “put that damn camera down!;” one character doing a mock David Attenborough wilderness voice-over; the night vision view that focuses on friends and what might be lurking in the dark; and of course, a guy so worried about his pending demise that he records a message he thinks will be viewed posthumously (subjecting the poor detectives to hours of solipsistic garbage and dizzying camerawork).

The Wolf House narrative is simple. Friends go missing in Niagara County, Upstate New York. And this is their story.

The setup is “cabin in the woods.”

Everything’s going splendidly, and one of the guys, who looks like a linebacker Travis Bickle, proposes to his girlfriend who’s described as a “real looker.”

One morning he shoots a creature that’s not a bear but what could either be a Sasquatch or “the last surviving Bigfoot.” And then things go predictably haywire.

There are doubled up references to Harry and the Hendersons as well as to Steven Spielberg (jeez, if your conceit is that the guy obsessively documenting the proceedings is a budding filmmaker, at least craft a few decent camera shots!).

Also, Wolf House uses split screen, but Annie Hall this ain’t. In fact, it’s the only time where there’s respite from motion sickness. And even THEN it’s a useless conceit, as the split screen is for, get this, a TRANSCRIPT of a 911 call. “Caller, what’s your emergency?” “Another bargain basement turd of a found footage film. Send help immediately!”

*1/2 (out of 5)

*Latin for “Man is a wolf to man…”