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Creep (2004)

Dir: Christopher Smith


Kate (Franka Potente, “Run Lola Run”, “Anatomie“) is a high living German model living it up in London.
When a female friend bails out on her at a party, they were going to sneak into a bash for George Clooney(!), she rushes into the street to catch up with her.
Failing to grab a cab Kate rushes to catch the last train from the Underground subway, but she falls asleep on the platform while waiting for it.
Waking up she finds herself locked in the station and, after an unexpected brush with violence, at the mercy of a mysterious killer (the ’Creep’ of the title, played by Sean Harris) who haunts the Underground tunnels!

Fleeing for her life Kate meets a young homeless couple, Jimmy (Paul Rattray) and Mandy (Kelly Scott), and together they try to survive the twisted creature that is hunting them…….


Christopher Smith’s feature debut gets high marks from the outset by choosing to use the criminally ignored London Underground (track length wise the biggest in the World) as it’s setting.
He’s also the first Brit filmmaker to use it as an effective Horror movie setting, as the only other examples that I can think of (The classic “An American Werewolf in London” and the cult gem “Death Line”/”Raw Meat”) had an American at the helm.
There is also a drop of the U.S. made, sewer based, monster flick “C.H.U.D” in the mix via the addition of the homeless characters.

The setting does open a few logic problems though during this modern age. The mass CCTV coverage on the Underground nowadays means there is little chance of Kate ever being left on the Station to be locked in, nor does it make the idea of a supposedly unknown killer really work as quite frankly he would have already been picked up on any number of cameras well before our movie plot begins.
Smith does bring in CCTV during a later sequence (so he does not completely ignore it’s existence) but this just hammers home the fact that the ‘Creep’ would have been spotted a long time ago.

But as I generally liked “Creep” a great deal I shall dispense with the other negative (basically all ‘plot’ based) aspects here and now.
There is rather a large contrivance in getting Kate into the Underground for starters, as she certainly would have spent longer hailing a cab than the 3 or 4 seconds she tried for. She had a good 15 minutes or so to catch the last train if all else failed, so a few more tries would almost certainly have got her a cab and thus avoided the whole need to use a train anyway. But hey, then we’d have no movie!

The biggest confusion as far as ‘Creep’ himself goes is the uncertainty of exactly how long he has been up to his murderous tricks. Given the way he casually leaves blood trails in public access areas of the Underground and kills very high profile characters (job wise, like the train drivers) during the screenplay’s timeframe it would seem that his killing must be a new event, as his handy work (as well as the missing people) would have been noticed before, or else he’s suddenly got VERY sloppy while hunting Kate.
The former reason is shown to be untrue as various revelations and sights show ‘Creep’ has been killing for a long(ish) time, whereas the latter reason is given no logical explanation.

The film also suffers (though only slightly) with the time spent on Kate’s troubles before her run-in with ‘Creep’, the lean 81 minute running time means that the time could have been better used during the movie’s second half.

But basically these aspects are all that is wrong with “Creep” (despite the overly harsh reviews you will find elsewhere on The Net) and Smith has generally given us a full blooded Horror flick that delivers on what it promises and is certainly a better ‘Psycho/Slasher’ effort than the dismal attempts seen after the success of “Scream” and more recent turds like “Wrong Turn”.

Using seamless transitions between studio sets, German sewers/catacombs and London’s Underground itself the superb (especially on such a low budget) Production Design (John Frankish) and Cinematography (Danny Cohen, “Dead Man’s Shoes”) combine to create one of the most atmospheric and best looking fright fests for a long time.
The compositions are suitably dark but thankfully never to the detriment of detail and the various locations are not only well designed but also well chosen so as to add visually interesting transitions between locations.
The use of the real London Underground and it’s trains also means there is a lot more ‘money’ on screen than the budget would otherwise allow and for any viewer who has used the Subway system the real locations/setting will be a huge (and welcome) plus.

Contrary to much of the criticism the film received, I for one found many of the characters perfectly likeable and/or open to redemption.

It is vital to the character’s ‘journey’, as the events unfold, that Kate is at first slightly arrogant and seemingly above all the petty worries of the less fortunate folk around her. Smith carefully moves her into situations where she must face and rely on people that she would never normally bother with or care for (as in a great early comment, “This gives notes, try sitting outside a phone box”, to a beggar by a cash dispenser who asks for change) and in fact she will ‘evolve’ into a far more caring and selfless person as her trials intensify. Franka Potente herself does a perfectly adequate job as well and is suitably frantic during Kate’s run-in’s with the ‘Creep’.

Paul Rattray gives a solid performance as Jimmy and despite the character’s social status and ‘lifestyle’ he is shown to be friendly, helpful and to have a far more loving relationship with the frail Mandy (a nice little turn by newcomer Scott) than anything or anyone seen in Kate’s vapid social circle.

As the ‘Creep’ Sean Harris pulls off some fun body movements (his character is basically mute except for a delightfully weird screech) and offers some wonderfully effective moments of blackest humour and general weirdness, a shot of him exiting an air vent by hanging by one arm is a real visual treat. He is also helped by an excellent make-up design and a very realistic (a few latex creases aside) body suit that delivers the essential grotesque deformities.
There is perhaps too much left unsaid about ’Creep’s’ back-story (see above for some examples) and much conjecture is needed on behalf of the audience, but it’s pretty easy to figure out his origin and tragic existence and on the whole he is an effective new killer in the Horror cannon.

Lastly, there is a fun turn (as always, see “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) by Vas Blackwood as a reluctant sewer worker, who adds a dash of humour (in an otherwise thankfully comedy free movie) but also has the essentially straight back-story of doing the unpleasant job to look after his young Daughter.

Gore wise we are given a few brief but effective moments during the first half of the film (with some very 80’s, Italian style Horror editing where Smith cuts back to a death scene to deliver more violence after initially leaving it) and some far more bombastic and violent sequences during the second half.

The ’surgery’ sequence is the main bone of contention for many viewers, with poor sensitive viewers hating it and fully experienced Exploitation fans loving it. This is the only time that Smith truly wallows in a victim’s terror and the circumstances and set-up add a genuinely disturbing (even obscene, though there is nothing wrong with that in this type of plot-line) element to the events. It’s grotesquely nasty for sure but it also (via some black-comic actions by ’Creep’) tells us much about the dementia that pollutes the killer’s grasp of reality as well as showing us that he is simply acting out horrific sights that must have crowded his childhood.

Smith’s direction may not be perfect pacing wise, but he makes some excellent choices. The full appearance of ‘Creep’ as his face materialises from the darkness is very well handled, the opening titles set-up the grotesque set-up nicely, there are some well crafted ‘jump’ sequences and the choice of leaving behind the ‘chased would-be-victim’ set-up of the first half of the movie (which sure enough starts to wear thin by this time) to instead concentrate on ‘Creep’ and his lair was a perfect move and adds fresh energy to the film at just the right time.
The finale also delivers a ‘twist’ (sort of) that leads us almost full circle and ends the movie on a lesson brutally learnt.

Add to all this some highly effective music and warped soundscapes by ‘The Insects’ (for example a sequence involving ‘Creep’ looking at the genuinely sad sight of foetus’s in jars, is made even more disturbing by the addition of the distorted cries of babies on the soundtrack) that compliment the on-screen events well and you ultimately have a Brit Horror movie that is an atmospheric, well made, interestingly located, nasty little treat that just needed tightening up in the logic department.

A well priced DVD from Pathe/Fox means that if you missed “Creep” at the cinema you can pick it up for home viewing in a well put together package, and I recommend you do just that.