chick-lost-in-subway-tunnels chiller, and a good one. CREEP (2004) won’t make
anyone’s list of the greatest horror movies of all time, but it contains some
effective scares, a neat look, and, in German starlet Franka Potente, an
attractive leading lady.
Subway tunnels have been a longtime staple of horror flicks, from classics
RAW MEAT and
ALLIGATOR to more recent efforts like MIMIC and the Argentine
MOEBIUS. The early 00’s was a banner time for subway horror, with
Hungarian KONTROLL and the English-German co-production CREEP all appearing
around the same time.
CREEP was shot on location in German subway stations (though set in
London), having been written and directed by the debuting Christopher Smith
(who’s since hit pay dirt with his even-better-received follow-up SEVERANCE).
It was picked up for American distribution by Lions’ Gate Films, who gave it a
straight-to-DVD release despite the fact that it’s better than many of their
theatrically released genre features (like HIGH TENSION and SEE NO EVIL). The
reason? I’m not sure, but will hazard a guess that it may have something to do
with the fact that all the characters speak in foreign accents, which, if what
I’ve been hearing lately from European filmmakers is true, is a turn-off to
Hollywood execs, who believe audiences won’t pay to see an accented film.
Kate, a German living in London, is a high-powered model-agency booker who
leaves a party late one night en route to a trendy nightclub. She decides to
take the subway, but falls asleep on the platform and misses the night’s last
Awake, Kate tries to venture back up aboveground but
finds the station locked up for the night. She heads back down to the subway
platform and manages to catch a train...not realizing that the conductor has
just been murdered! She’s too distracted by the appearance of a smarmy guy from
her agency who happens to be the train’s only other passenger; he tries to rape
her, but she manages to fight him off...only to see him pulled out of the train
by an unseen assailant.
Kate disembarks onto another subway platform and, after traversing a
labyrinthine series of tunnels, stumbles upon a homeless couple. She
unfortunately drags one of the pair off with her to find help--unfortunate
because her actions end up costing the poor guy his life at the hands of the
still-unseen killer loose in the area. When Kate alerts a security guard to her
predicament he also meets his end.
It’s not long before the killer nabs Kate, enclosing her in one of several
water-filled cages, another of which holds a black guy named George (Kate
reflects on the irony of this, as she was apparently on her way to meet a person
named George). She and George succeed in working their way free and briefly
felling their assailant, who turns out to be a former surgeon who’s become a
psychotic mutant after years of living underground. This freak wants to make
Kate and George part of his demented collection of surgical victims--but not if
they have anything to say about it!
Obviously the storyline of CREEP is hopelessly ludicrous from start to
finish. But it’s lively enough that one doesn’t have time to think much about
how it is that the killer waits until the third act to nab the heroine, thus
allowing her plenty of time to make quite a ruckus...or why it only occurs to
her to contact a security guard after she’s gotten lost and witnessed
several killings...or how the antagonist would be able to run the incredibly
elaborate medical laboratory he operates under the streets of London without
ever being found out.
For all that the film looks amazing, with an agreeably garish color scheme
lensed on crisp Kodak stock. First time director Christopher Smith does a fine
job building suspense and keeping us constantly on edge, even if his narrative
is scarcely plausible.
In the lead role Franka Potente (from ANATOMY, THE BOURNE IDENTITY and RUN
LOLA RUN--some wiseasses have jokingly referred to CREEP as RUN KATE RUN) is
quite charismatic and not a little eye-catching (particularly since she wears a
skimpy mini-dress throughout). Her character is developed far beyond the
perimeters of the doe-eyed innocent we’ve come to expect in this sort of fare--Potente’s
Kate, by contrast, is world-weary and temperamental. Helpful and resourceful
though she is to the other characters trapped belowground, she’s also downright
bitchy on occasion. Indeed, the deaths of many a supporting character are often
direct results of Kate’s none-too-thoughtful actions.
UK Film Council/Zero West
Director: Christopher Smith
Producers: Julie Barnes, Jason Newmark, Martin Hagemann, Kai Kunnemann
Screenplay: Christopher Smith
Cinematography: Danny Cohen
Editing: Kate Evans
Cast: Franka Potente, Vas Blackwood, Jeremy Sheffield, Sean Harris, Kelly Scott,
Ken Campbell, Paul Rattray, Kathryn Gilfeather, Grant Ibbs, Joe Anderson, Sean
De Vrind, Ian Duncan, Debora Weston, Emily Gilchrist, Craig Fackrell