The power dynamics conveyed through the complex relationship at the center of 2015's Creep have shifted in the sequel. That film was about the little lies that one tells to ingratiate oneself into the life of a stranger. It was a compact chiller with an ingenuity in its approach to the horror found within ourselves that might make us sympathize with a sociopath. Creep 2, then, is less of a horror movie and more of a dryly astute comedy about how the sociopath from the first film has met his match: When Aaron (co-screenwriter Mark Duplass) tries three times to startle his new guest by jumping out from the corners of a room, it doesn't work.
That probably should have been the first sign for him that things would be different this time. We're getting ahead of ourselves, though, so let's pause to regroup. One thing that careful readers familiar with the first film will realize is that "Aaron" was not the name by which Duplass's character was known before. Putting two and two together regarding the name "Aaron" reveals a kernel of insight regarding the nature of this character, and Duplass is once again superb at only revealing those kernels of insight in a carefully modulated performance that is creepy without ever really trying to be. The man is still a pathetic shell of one. He is also dangerous.
He even asks Sara (Desiree Akhavan), who answers his ad on Craigslist for a videographer at $1,000 a day, over a text message whether she scares easily. She responds confidently that she does not. Even through the barrier of a text message, though, we guess that he doesn't believe her. We're right, too. Otherwise, he wouldn't attempt to jump-scare the bejesus out of her, as he did to his first guest in the previous film. Instead, she's intrigued, and she's especially interested when he comes right out and states his occupation: "Aaron" is a serial killer. He doesn't particularly like that nomenclature, he says, but there you have it. That's his joy in life.
This doesn't, much to his surprise, scare off Sara, whose brief, occasional confessionals to her camera (She hosts video blogs on YouTube in which she meets lonely men to fulfill their needs and document the footage) betray a fear that might be cut with excitement. He's the dream subject, essentially - immediately open about his intentions (He has none to kill her, at least not right away) and his past ("I never lie," he states, "but I do play with facts," and we believe that he believes there is a difference). His suggestion that they strip naked to remove any remaining social barriers between them might say a lot about his philosophy, but her willingness to play his game says something about her confidence.
Akhavan is exceptional at making Sara, who quickly develops her own agenda with this connection, both likable and clearly troubled by what she ultimately sees, conveying a range of emotions in a character determined to take all of this with a straight face. There's a demented glee about the screenplay (much of it likely improvised on the spot) by Duplass and director Patrick Brice (who once again displays a gift for staging sequences of rising tension) that means much of this is also surprisingly, naturally funny. It doesn't quite feel as fresh as its predecessor, but Creep 2 is an effective companion piece.
Desiree Akhavan (Sara), Mark Duplass ("Aaron"), Karan Soni (Dave).
Directed by Patrick Brice and written by Brice and Mark Duplass.
No MPAA rating.
Released in select cities on October 24, 2017.