Horror is created through the establishment and maintenance of tension and dread. Some of the most interesting horror films are those with the simplest of setups: a group of teenagers stumble across a murderous backwoods family; the recently dead arise and attack the living; a videotape will kill you seven days after viewing it. By setting the film in a familiar context, the viewer more easily identifies with the characters and therefore more acutely shares their terror. For the first half of the film, Creep is eerie, claustrophobic and frightening. Unfortunately, this tense mood is broken and the film never quite recovers.
Writer/director Christopher Smith does a good job creating a genuinely frightening situation, drawing on many common modern nightmares. Hinting rather than showing, the first half of the film is all innuendo, menacing shadows and unfocused movement. Smith also chooses the unusual practise of showing the actions of all characters, not just the protagonist. Usually a horror film would leave a character to his or her hidden fate, to be revealed later for maximum shock; Smith shows what happens when a group splits up. This makes for a refreshing change of perspective and helps the film stand apart from the rest of the genre.
However, almost all of the suspense and tension is replaced by gore and depravity in the latter half of the film. Creep stumbles into the common trap of horror films: removing the horror from the viewer’s mind and putting it onscreen. By revealing too much, the film loses much of its effectiveness.
A good effort, but fails to completely deliver on the setup.