** Warning! This review contains spoilers. **
Note: The text for the Film portion of this review is copied verbatim from my earlier review of the cinema release.
Creep is Britain's answer to the horror creature feature, a lean, mean exercise in tension and atmosphere. Unfortunately, while similar monster-oriented horror movies like Bubba Ho-Tep have recently enjoyed some measure of success thanks to a combination of good writing and decent scares, held together by solid direction and great performances, Creep has more in common with second-rate efforts like Jeepers Creepers.
The plot is fairly straightforward. Franka Potente is Kate, a young socialite who likes to spend her time at loud parties, mixing it up with the local yuppies. Tonight, she thinks she's going to hook up with George Clooney, but unfortunately she finds herself without a ride to the venue and decides to take the underground instead. Bad move. After falling asleep while waiting for her train, she finds herself locked in the station for the night, all alone... or is she? Turns out that various other individuals are hanging out in the vicinity, including Guy, an acquaintance who wants to get into her pants (Jeremy Sheffield); a young homeless couple (Paul Rattray and Kelly Scott) and their Jack Russell; and George (Vas Blackwood), a sewage worker. Also on hand to crash the festivities is a bloodthirsty creature that lurks in the shadows and has a penchant for hauling its victims off into the maze of tunnels and causing much blood to fly. With such a party pooper in their midst, will Kate and her unlikely accomplices be able to survive the night?
The film gets off to a bad start, with an overly-long prologue involving two hapless sewage workers being stalked by the beast, and never really picks up. We then cut to a noisy party where we are introduced to Kate, a flat and unlikeable individual. This same trait is occupied by every other member of the cast: there are unfortunately no real characters, only cardboard cutouts introduced for the sole purpose of putting them in dangerous situations and watching them run around screaming. Run Lola Run's Franka Potente has more than enough experience with running, which is a good thing, because it is essentially all that her character is required to do. And run she does, first in high heels, then barefoot, then in a pair of boots that seem to materialise out of the blue. Potente gives it her all but sadly can do little with writer/director Christopher Smith's weak script, which dutifully trots out every single "bump in the night" cliché known to man. Potente's performance is actually characteristic of virtually the entire cast: everyone puts a great amount of effort into the movie, but unfortunately, for all their talents (barring Jeremy Sheffield, who can't act), none of them have enough screen presence to elevate the material.
Smith's direction is little better. The look of the film is characterised by grimy, badly framed and unfocused shots that are hapharzardly thrown up on the screen with little sense of pacing. Occasionally, he throws in the odd interesting composition, but by and large the film looks ugly and without flair. The decision to shoot the film in scope was also an unwise one, for all too often the main action is clustered into a traditional 1.85:1 area. The best element of the film, surprisingly, it not the creature, who turns out to be a bizarre approximation of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and the demon from Hellraiser, but rather the sound design, which is often inspired, adding some atmosphere to what would otherwise be a very flat film. Flashy 5.1 sound effects alone can't save this production, however. Creep wants nothing more than to be a straightforward stalk-and-slash monster movie with loads of tension and some great kills. Unfortunately, though, it ultimately provides none of this.
For all the film's faults, Pathé have at least put together a solid audio-visual presentation. The transfer, naturally in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio and anamorphically enhanced, looks very good indeed, with seemingly no edge enhancement to speak of and a pretty reasonable amount of detail. Additionally, the black levels are spot on - an absolute must for a film that spends so much time in darkness. Some shots do look a little blurry, but the exact same shots were affected in a similar way during the cinema presentation I attended, so I assume that this is a fault of the photography rather than the DVD. Indeed, the only real complaint I can make about the transfer is that some shots take on a slightly crushed look, indicating an inadequate bit rate (possibly as a result of cramming the film and a large number of extras on to a single disc). The film had a rather grainy look to it at the cinema, and although this grain is present to some extent on the DVD, it is at times lost as a result of the compression. Still, a solid effort all round.
The audio, too, is very good, eschewing DTS in favour of a traditional Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which does a fine job of carrying over the film's rather imaginative sound design. English subtitles are provided for the film itself (but, unacceptably, not for the extras); however, they rest squarely on the black letterboxing below the image itself, which means that projection display users who mask the unused portions of the image will be unable to read them.
The first extra on offer is an Audio Commentary featuring writer/director Christopher Smith. He immediately gets off to a bad start by comparing some of his footage from the title sequence to the work of Wong Kar Wai, and continues as he set off, making sporadic and not particularly insightful comments, many of which suggest that he has a rather inflated opinion of his own abilities. Comments like "this bit is quite funny" and "this is really clever" are rarely worthwhile inclusions, and leave a rather unpleasant aftertaste when you are aware that the person making these comments is the writer/director himself. To be fair, he does attempt to provide some trivia about the film's production, but often he resorts to over-explaining the film's rather obvious subtext, and this track is by no means a must-listen.
A 34-minute documentary entitled, appropriately enough, The Making of Creep, follows. This is somewhat better than the commentary, because it allows us to hear from numerous different participants, including Franka Potente, but it does suffer from an overuse of lengthy clips from the film. Smith, of course, is the predominant speaker, and again he does himself no favours by comparing his film to those of celebrated filmmakers like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Woody Allen. He does come across as being knowledgeable about the various films of the genre in which he is working, but at the same time seems to think that his film is something more than them, when it is clearly not. Overall, though, I did enjoy this documentary: it is slickly produced and quite informative.
An 11-minute production design featurette follows, entitled The Look of Creep. Predominantly featuring production designer John Frankish, this is a pretty interesting look at the designing of the film's look and locations, including a significant amount of footage of models and concept drawings. A 10-minute Makeup Featurette is also included, covering the gore effects and the makeup used for the monster.
Up next is FrightFest Q&A, an 11-minute questions and answers session taken from 2004's FrightFest horror festival, featuring Smith and Potente, and an unidentified interviewer (possibly Alan Jones, although I'm not entirely sure). It tends to ramble a bit, and for some reason the questions are presented in the form of static text-based screens rather than allowing the interviewer to speak to himself, which results in the interview having a rather disintegrated feel, but it is definitely worth watching, if only for Franka Potente's rambling diatribes, most of which seem to have little to do with the questions asked.
Alternative versions of the opening and ending sequences are presented next. These different versions were not actually shot, so are presented in the form of storyboard drawings and concept artwork with Smith explaining the ideas behind them. Also included is a series of alternative titles, e.g. "Cellar Dweller" and "Piccadilly Nightmare".
Finally, the theatrical trailer and 6 TV spots are also included.
Creep is presented in a nice little package with excellent audio-visual quality and a decent line-up of extras. However, the quality of the film itself makes it somewhat difficult to recommend. Ultimately, I feel that this is one for monster horror completists only.