“Creep” comes along at a time when the British horror industry is experiencing a resurgence of sorts, with recent years bringing forth films such as “28 Days Later” and “Dead Man’s Shoes”. In this context, director Christopher Smith’s debut film can be seen as more of a traditional genre throwback, and as such has little in common with the more revisionist works mentioned. Despite a few modern trappings, the film is very much an old fashioned scare show that mixes elements of the slasher and creature feature subgenres along with a premise lifted from the 1972 chiller “Raw Meat” (a.k.a. “Deathline”). The two films are suspiciously similar in a number of ways, and both are based around the bloody exploits of a deformed cannibal killer who skulks in the shadowy recesses of the London underground transport system.
With “Creep”, Smith at least attempts to update the original film, if not in terms of plotting then through a nice attention to detail regarding the setting, which adds a sense of realism to the more clich’d aspects of the scenario. The writer/director also wisely decides to sidestep the tired irony and dull teen casting which have been inflicted upon the genre of late, and as a result, “Creep” is generally quite successful, and whilst not pushing the envelope in the least, it certainly delivers the goods, both in terms of grimy shocks and plentiful gore.
The plot follows an unfortunate night in the life of Kate (Franka Potente, “The Bourne Identity”), a somewhat unlikeable German party girl who falls asleep one night on a London underground platform, and awakes to find herself alone and trapped. As she searches for a way back to the surface, she and a variety of other characters fall foul of the titular creep, a flesh hungry mutant that seems to have been the result of some unexplained experiment, and now roams the tunnels, snatching people either to eat them, or for an even more unpleasant purpose.
Smith seems only too aware that the film features an unambitious, unoriginal narrative, and attempts to draw attention away from this fact by throwing in a good amount of atmosphere and action. He does this quite successfully, and whilst he perhaps goes a little too far in his portrayal of the labyrinth of gothic tunnels and abandoned facilities beneath London in order to make the film fully plausible, this at least gives the proceedings an interesting, evocative setting ripe for terror. In fact, the whole premise of the plot is shaky at best, as it seems rather unlikely that the ghoul could manage to rack up so many victims without drawing attention to himself, or being discovered in his poorly hidden lair.
But Smith can be forgiven these lapses, as no matter how unbelievable, “Creep” is a very atmospheric film, both in its early depiction of instantly recognisable London life, and its latter scenes of dark, oppressive tunnels that seem to have been influenced by the “Resident Evil” series of videogames. There are a good number of genuine scares, and the whole film has a claustrophobic feel which the director exploits to the full with uncomfortable moments, often involving the legions of rats which the creep seems to command. Similarly, in terms of blood, the film will certainly satisfy fans, with a good amount of splatter, and a couple of genuinely foul scenes that are sure to raise a shudder.
Revealed around halfway through the film, the monster itself is good value for the money spent, coming across as the sadistic, crack addict brother of Gollum from “Lord of the Rings”. Although Smith is annoyingly vague about his creature’s origins, the cannibal nevertheless manages to deal out enough bloody carnage to be one of the more memorable genre creations of the last few years. As much as anything, it is quite gratifying to watch a film which relies on good old fashioned latex and gore makeup as opposed to the lazy CGI creatures which are sadly becoming more and more predominant in the genre.
As well as being decidedly pedestrian in terms of plotting, the film does have a number of flaws, mainly in the fact that its central female lead is an arrogant character for which the viewer cares little. Although Potente’s acting is competent enough, she is sadly saddled with lazy writing that reduces her survival efforts to little more than running, screaming, and falling over at inopportune moments. In addition to this, the rest of the cast seem only to have been written in to provide potential corpses, as though they had ‘kill me’ stamped on their foreheads in big red letters.
At the end of the day, these are fairly minor criticisms, and indeed ones which can sadly be levelled at the majority of films in the genre. Taking this into account, “Creep” is certainly an above average effort, and whilst not particularly outstanding, it provides solid entertainment with enough scares and blood to make it appeal to fans of the form.
Christopher Smith (director) / Christopher Smith (screenplay)
CAST: Franka Potente …. Kate
Sean Harris …. Craig
Vas Blackwood …. George
Jeremy Sheffield …. Guy
Ken Campbell …. Arthur
Paul Rattray …. Jimmy
Kelly Scott …. Mandy