By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 9, 2014 at 7:16PM
SXSW often features a movie that Mark Duplass has dabbled in. Thriller "Creep" is this year's model.
As busy as he is, multi-tasker Duplass ("The League," "Cyrus," "Your Sister's Sister") enjoys collaborating with young filmmakers--in this case recent Cal Arts grad Patrick Brice, whose thesis film "Maurice" played Rotterdam and won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Doc at the Florida Film Festival. They co-wrote and filmed this found-footage two-hander off a ten-page outline. Instead of writing a long script, they skipped to the shooting phase, spending a few weeks at a remote cabin near Big Bear, California. Their first footage was "terrible," admits Duplass. And then they reshot. And reshot, "shooting as we go."
Obsessed with watching the odd behavior of real people, Duplass never forgot his own three-hour experience dealing with breaking down a loft bed that he was buying that was supposed to be unassembled: "This guy talked about his divorce, how 'Star Wars' was evolving. He had no sense of personal space, made intense eye contact. I was terrified for my life. It stuck with me."
After Brice, Duplass and editor Christopher Donlon got the picture close to where they wanted it, Duplass showed an assemblage to micro-budget horror-meister Jason Blum, recognizing that this story about a naive filmmaker (Brice) who answers a Craig's List ad to make $1000 to film a stranger for eight hours had crossed over to the dark side. Blum upped the chills and thrills with requisite sound cues and pop scares. "It keeps you in the mood," says Blum.
"It's exciting to us to have that tonal weirdness," adds Duplass. "We wanted to let it ride."
Duplass plays Josef, an in-your-face weirdo in exercise gear who enjoys putting his skittish cinematographer on edge by stripping naked for a bath and popping out of dark corners in a wolf mask he calls Peachfuzz. The movie is as funny as it is creepy and elicited laughs and fright in equal measure during its world premiere at the Stateside in Austin.
The two-hander is dependent on a single camera POV, which limits its options cinematically. But Duplass is a compelling actor who never flags, and Brice holds his own. Will our young man escape unscathed? With tiny flicks like this, who knows where it will go?
The ax that is featured in the movie? It's real.
I talked to Blum and Duplass at the Four Seasons, below, as sales rep Josh Braun was navigating offers from various buyers. Magnolia and TWC's RADiUS were at the screening.