Sunday, June 12, 2011

DVD Reviews: Two More by Creep Creepersin: he and Peeping Blog

Text © Richard Gary / FFanzeen, 2011
Live image © RBF
Cover images from the Internet

As promised in an earlier blog, here are a couple more of Creep Creepersin’s indie, shot-on-digicam full-length releases. He is fast becoming one of my favorite DIY directors, showing an artistic side to his releases. The reason I put these two reviews together is for a number of reasons: they co-star both Ariauna Albright (who RBF met in the early 1990s at a Chiller Theatre show in Rutherford, NJ) and Creep, himself, is the main actor. In both, they are unnamed. These are more psychological in nature than most of Creep’s works, and if fact, Peeping Blog could easily be considered as he’s sequel.

Written, produced, directed by Creep Creepersin
MVD Visual, 2009 / 2011
70 minutes, USD $14.95

”…and drop a smile passing in the hall
But there’s no laughs left ‘cause we laughed them all
And we laughed them all in a very short time…”
- Paul Simon

“You oughta scratch from the human race
You are a waste of a name
A waste of time and a waste of space
You’ve only one claim to fame:
I don’t like you.”
- Stiff Little Fingers

For the opening of the “making of” short, director (etc.) Creep Creepersin states, “I don’t remember really writing it or doing it; I just remember we decided we were going to make a movie, and we made the movie.” From the detail given by him during the commentary, however, that is obviously not the case, but is Creep playing mind games in a film full of mental questions.

This is the third film of Creepersin’s I’ve seen in a row. While it’s one of his early full-length efforts, it’s also among his best. he is a tight psychological drama about an unnamed man and his ever increasing descent into mental illness.

When we first meet “he” (as the character is listed in the credits; apparently it is always lower case), played by Creepersin himself, he’s just gotten out of bed as we watch him bring his very crunchy feet into the shower, while still wearing his glasses. This is to symbolize, I’m assuming, his tenuous connection to what’s really going on in the world though he does his best to see it.

His long-suffering wife (listed in the credits as “the wife”), both touchingly and scarily played by scream queen Ariauna Albright, comes to the bathroom door in a thick leopard print robe open over a black, cleavage-exposing bra that she wears for most of the film. She is obviously unhappy and dour in her life, especially the one she shares with him. Wait, is that a kitchen knife in her hands?

As the credits roll over yet another Creepersin breakfast eating scene (is he obsessed with this meal and tooth brushing, or what?), we start to see how the cracks in the relationship are imbedded, as he obliviously drinks his coffee with long, loud slurps, and mashes the food into his mouth. Not a turn-on for her (or us), as we watch her winch at every sound and action. We also shortly learn that she wants a baby, and holds him responsible for her lack of progeny (despite neither having ever been tested). It becomes explicitly clear quite quickly that they both are having psychological problems. It almost seems like she has a form of severe depression, or PTSD.

After believing the wife has a kitchen knife early on, it become increasingly clear that he’s becoming delusional. For example, after being out of work for an undisclosed period of time (though the impression is it’s been quite the while), he receives a letter that to him says “Proceed,” in big, handwritten letters, but when she reads the same paper (i.e., the real world), it’s a job offer. The viewer gets the distinct impression that he is not exactly excited about it.

Along with these little bits of weirdness, he starts envisioning a hit man (Matt Turek) after him (supposedly hired by his wife who, as we see, gets the idea from doing crossword puzzles; question is, is the puzzle his delusion, or hers?), two business men who hide in the house, a silent watcher with a thick head scarf over her face, a radio dj that talks directly to him in his car, and a couple of times he even sees himself laughing at him and taking physical control of a situation. His most frequent vision is a woman (Malina Germanova) who speaks only in Russian (with English subtitles, but he understands her and answers in English) and will only answer questions, between demanding he run out and buy her cigarettes. It is during this exchange that the viewer starts to realize the extent of his damage, as he keeps pleadingly asking her, “What am I supposed to do?” And then, of course, he’s convinced he’s being watched, in one of the few funny dialog moments that leads into a tense scene.

There are goofy moments here and there that could easily be snipped, such as he singing a nonsensical vagina-referenced song during an extended, unedited close-up shot of him driving for those cigarettes. This reminds me of a similar shot of the Doug character in Ding Dong Dead; it’s definitely the same car, too, by the “grey” alien figurehead on the dashboard.

Speaking of Creepersin-isms, there are some stylistic choices that are reminiscent of his excellent Frankenstein film here, such as someone talking another language with subtitles (in F, it was the voice played backwards) or just nonsense (as an open box does here) without any reference, but in both cases, the protagonist understanding and responding normally. I actually like this gimmick, but hope he doesn’t overdo it in the future. And as for the filming itself, Gary Griffith does an outstanding job of cinematography (or as it is put in the credits here, “shot, edit and manipulation”).

[Ariauna Albright in the early 1990s – photo © RBF]

Creepersin does well to elicit the right emotions from the audience, and though he does a bit of scenery chewing here and there, his inexperience as an actor works for him as the clueless and frightened “he.” Albright absolutely shines as his long-suffering wife, her own anger and resentment usually held just below the surface. Despite the minimal dialog through the film, she is clear in her state of anxiety through her face and body motions. She really should be doing larger films (this being said though this is sadly the first of her in action I’ve seen, despite her long list of indie horror flicks).

There is an interesting 13.5 minute short on the “making of,” with Creep, Turek, and Griffith, who tell anecdotes of the filming. But the most attention-grabbing for me, in a bemused way, was how both Turek and Griffith say Creep’s real name, which is overdubbed by Creep himself saying, in a deep and creaky voice, “Creeeeep.” Of course, it’s easy enough to lip read that they’re actually saying [CREEEEEP]. There are also trailers to some of Creep’s releases.

In the solo director’s commentary, Creep describes in loving detail how the house used for this shoot was not only his home at the time, with his wife/producer Nikki Wall (who also plays one of the voices, as she did in Frankenstein) and their kids, but it’s where he grew up in Cypress, California. The house was also used in Ding Dong Dead and Peeper Blog (they have since moved to Burbank). It takes place at Christmas time (or, as “the wife” insists in the film for an unexplained reason, Xmas), and actually was filmed in December 2008, after a three-week pre-production, yet the house is full of Creepersin’s family horror memorabilia, making it look more like Halloween; this isn’t a complaint, just an amused observation…heck, I’ve had my share of posters, imitation skulls and monster models on my shelves during my day.

Creep goes on to point out continuity errors that would most likely be missed, like while he’s standing outside observing his neighbor’s (real) Christm…Xmas decorations, comparing it to his own, the audience can see the silhouette of his son in the upstairs window watching the filming. I love the humanity of that kind of thing, when a director not only admits to the flaws in his own films, but actually embraces them, as he should. It was also brave of Creep to admit that, “Watching it was harder than making it.”

Peeping Blog
Written and directed by Creep Creepersin
MVD Visual, 2011
75 minutes (bonus: 30 min), USD $14.95

Let me start off by congratulating Creep for this film winning a Jury Award at the 2010 Polly Staffle Grindhouse Fest (aka Pollygrind), in Las Vegas.

That being said, lets discuss the film…

Didja ever see the Family Guy where Peter wins the Golden Ticket and runs home, tripping on the sidewalk in front of his house, and he sits there for a good minute or two holding his knee in pain, going “Oooo, ahhh”? Well, if you found that tiresome, you may want to hesitate before viewing this. Personally, I found that particular scene hysterical, even after numerous viewings.

After a brief intro where the unnamed protagonist (whom I shall refer to as the Peeper) creates a stalker blog site online (looks like Blogger to me, home of this very review), we are introduced to a scene that is one continuous shot that lasts for nearly 20 minutes. Filmed on digicam in the Peeper’s car (from the alien head on the dashboard, it’s obviously Creep’s car in real life, which was also used in he and Ding Dong Dead mounted on the dashboard, it follows another car (probably also belonging to the Creepersin clan, judging by the pirate skull head decal on the back window; perhaps Nikki Wall’s?) into a mini-mall full of chain stores. We then sit and watch the stalker’s prey (I’ll call her the Peepee…er, let’s make that Peeped), played by Ariauna Albright. She stops into a shop (won’t say the name, only that it is probably a Seattle First-Nations’ word for “bitter coffee”) and we watch sits at an outside table as she drinks her cup and talks to someone outside the camera range (perhaps a real-life fan?). After finishing the drink, she walks back to her car and we follow her out of the lot. Through all this, the only sound is the Peeper’s breathing and some minor ambient noise filtering through the car window.

That is one of the cool aspects of this film, that all the audience gets to see and hear is what the Peeper sees and hears through the very camera he’s using to stalk (hey, saves on having a camera and sound crew, too; this must be one of his lowest budget efforts yet).

The next extended shot is of the Peeper cooking what looks like either a hot pocket or burrito in a nuker (aka microwave oven), and we watch him eat it in extreme close-up (lifting a home-made full-face mask to do so). Yes, once again, a Creeper film where we get to watch someone eat a meal by themselves. He’s consistent, I must say, though I’m grateful we don’t watch anyone brush his or her teeth again. The following shot is as the Peeper hides behind a coat rack and the Peeped walks into a very white-motifed living room. She also nukes her food and eats it alone, perhaps a commentary on their mutual loneliness? A lot of Creepersin’s characters are lonely, even when they are with someone (such as in he). It’s then the audience becomes aware that the plate she is using has the same design as the one he used, and he’s inside her apartment. How he got there is unexplained, and why she can’t see him standing behind a coat rack even though she walks directly past it a number of times is, I guess, a suspension of disbelief. Meanwhile, he watches her sit on the couch in front of the television while eating. When she steps out of the room, he runs out to smell her knee-high boot, and then runs back to behind the coat rack.

After a phone call, the Peeped leaves and the masked Peeper walks around the apartment and into her bedroom, opening drawers, smelling intimate objects, and laying down on her bed. He’s in his usual spot when she arrives back, but she is not alone. Her sister (I’ll call her Sister, played by indie scream queen Elissa Dowling), who has just had a big fight with her boyfriend, is with her. Sister is invited to stay while the Peeped she goes out to work.

When the Sister steps out for a ciggy-butt, the Peeper walks around the apartment, putting down the camera to smell the Sister’s jacket. And, of course, the Sister comes back sooner than the Peeper expects. At that moment, things pick up more than a notch. Also, this is the point where I stop describing the plot (didn’t think I’d tell ya the whole story now, didja?).

If I had to describe this film in single words, what comes to mind is “dreary” and “humorless.” In fact, this is the least pleasing Creepersin release I’ve seen to date. With minimal editing, dialog, or any pleasantry whatsoever, it is a difficult show to watch, and it is all one chapter on the DVD, so you cannot jump to another scene. While not torture porn per se, such as the Saw or Hostel films, the violence of misogyny, both internalized and acted upon, makes this more than uncomfortable and claustrophobic. By putting the audience inside the camera with him, we are equally peeping voyeurs as well. For this reason, I think this is my least favorite of Creepersin’s work that I’ve seen to date. I’m not saying it’s badly done, and cinema violence is not something that I’ve shied away from in the past, but I was prickly watching this to its conclusion. Perhaps that’s the point? If so, then it is effective, and therefore not a bad film, just uneasy.

During an interview on the extras, Creep comments that Ariauna wanted to do a project where she was victimized because during all the years of her making indie horror films, she’s never been in that situation. Apparently, there was no script (despite Ariauna wanting one) to Peeping Blog, all of the dialog being spontaneous. Creepersin also goes to great lengths to show that the mask worn by the Peeper is not the same one worn by the imaginary he in he. Making masks, by the way, is one of Creepersin’s hobbies, he explains in a different film’s commentary.

Other than the trailer, another bonus feature is a 21-minute behind the scenes – err – documentary? Ariauna and Elissa lounge around the living room between shooting, and Ariauna comments on the hardness of a dildo she is smacked with in the film by the Peeper. That takes up a couple of minutes, and the rest of it is a very shaky camera following Ariauna around a Ralph’s supermarket (she even looks directly into it and smiles at one point as she passes by). Most of the image, however, is of the shelves, the ceiling, or Creeper’s thumb over the lens. Not the most exciting footage. Then they both get into their respective cars, and we watch as Ariauna sits in hers for a while (well, actually, we get to see the back of her car; is that the sound of Creeper’s real impatience I hear during this?), and then takes off. While the camera follows her out of the lot, she makes a left and the car with the camera makes a right. We follow along a few blocks until we get to the house Creepersin grew up in, where they filmed both he and Ding Dong Dead.

While this feels like a one-day project from inception to completion, it is at the least effective, even though I was turned off by the ending. And yet, I still look forward to more work by Creepersin.

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