Tunnels. Darkness. Psychotics. It’s a powerful trio of phobia and eeriness to tap into. We all know how unnerving London’s archaic, labyrinth, rotting tube network is, and none of us are overly keen on being chased by murderous squealing psychotics in the dark. Creep, the debut feature by British director Christopher Smith, relishes its vivid setting and attempts to scare the bejesus out of us – to mixed effect.
Franka Potente (who, after Creep and Run, Lola, Run deserves a rest – she’s jogged further than Paula Radcliffe) plays Kate, an arrogant member of the trendy urban elite. After humiliating one of her amorous colleagues at a party for the smug and beautiful, she decides to find the in-town George Clooney and pull him. Should we be in any doubt as to her obnoxious, selfish ways, on route to the underground she takes time to sneer at a homeless man and insult a fellow commuter.
Waiting for the train, Kate begins to drink a little whisky, dozes off and wakes up to find the place totally deserted. Suddenly, an ominously empty train arrives. She boards it only to be confronted by Guy – the man who she had turned down at the party. Coked up to his eyeballs, Guy tries to rape Kate only to meet a grisly end himself. Kate realises that there’s something else down there that may be more frightening than a drugged up media-boy.
What follows is a borderline remake of Gary Sherman’s 1972 thriller Death Line, which is not the most prestigious source material to pay homage to. Throw in some clear references to An American Werewolf In London, however, and you’ve got an enjoyable, if unoriginal, stalk’n'slasher. Harking back to the supposed Golden Years of British horror in the seventies and early eighties, this UK/Germany co-funded project serves up plenty of gore and a few shudders and jolts courtesy of the mysterious Creep.
Of course, we don’t see what the Creep actually is until well into the running time. Up until then the only signs are the rising body count, chilling high pitched squeals and a telltale little plague of rats whenever he is in the vicinity. The latter offers the potential that the murderer is a deranged Pied Piper of Hamelin. It’s a hair-raising moment when he does appear though, but the tension quickly dissipates after that. The revelation of the Creep’s origin is quite intriguing, but poses as many questions as it answers.
Like the recent and unpleasant Cabin Fever, the characters in Creep are hard to sympathise with. A rapist, a junkie and a spoilt society girl are not the most appealing people to root for. As the plot unwinds though, Kate learns a very harsh lesson about treating people nicer and becomes vaguely likable. However, the trite morality twist at the end might have a few people wincing.
With some tense moments, great dank visuals and a grating claustrophobic soundtrack from Bristol band The Insects, Creep has plenty going for it, but ultimately disappoints. Gore fans will love a couple of very nasty and graphic demises, including a particularly grim encounter on a cobwebbed operating table.
However, if you like your films a bit more than bloody, the plot holes, weak script and so-so characters might leave you cold. And it seems that still, after all these years, basic lessons have not been learnt. Please, people: if you happen to incapacitate the killer who stalks you – tie him up or finish him off. It’ll only come back to haunt you later if you leave the job half done.