The Creeping - FrightFest European Premiere Review
Director: Jamie Hooper
Starring: Riann Steele, Jane Lowe, Karen Marrow, Jonathan Nyati, Peter MacQueen
Written by: Jamie Hooper, Helen Miles
Produced by: Jamie Hooper, Helen Miles
Cinematography by: Ben Hecking
Original Score by: Stephanie Taylor
A concerned young woman moves home to look after her ailing grandmother and soon finds herself fighting a malevolent presence with a dark secret.
Jamie Hooper's feature film debut is, at its core, a simple, atmospheric ghost story that evokes sentimentalities of classic 70s and 80s horror films and its absolutely brilliant. 'The Creeping' isn't just a copy and paste haunted house film. Although it does utilise many tropes that fans of the genre will be used to, it also addresses themes of childhood trauma and a crippling illness and uses these as a backdrop to create a genuinely haunting viewing experience.
Somerset 1985. After the death of her father, Anna (Riann Steele) returns to her childhood family home to care for her grandmother Lucy, who is suffering from dementia. With the help of in-house carer Karen (Sophie Thompson) Anna attempts to rekindle some of her Nan's spark by asking questions about her parents and her own childhood. But Anna begins to experience some strange and spooky occurrences shortly after arriving. "So many memories tied to this house." she claims while familiarising herself with the property. We get some flashbacks of her as a young girl with her father and we find out that her mother died shortly after she was born as a result of the birth. Despite this, it is never established that her father has ever shown any resentment towards her. The two have always shared a close bond. In the opening scene he is telling her a ghost story and it's implied that this is something they do every night together.
Later that evening, at precisely 3.23am in fact, something bangs Anna's bedroom door, trying to force its way in. Anna screams as the door blasts open and "something" enters. A ghost story come to reality. But Anna's ghost story is only beginning.
It's evidently clear from the outset that Hooper is a huge fan of horror cinema, particularly those films from the 70s and 80s. There's a scene in the beginning of the film that feels like a direct influence from the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' and there's clear influences from 'The Changeling' and 'Poltergeist' too. As previously mentioned most of the scares are classic haunted house stuff like the random opening and closing of doors, flickering lights, weird noises in the middle of the night that sounds like furniture being dragged across a wooden floor. You know, that kinda stuff. But it never feels like parody or misuse. The first encounter with something supernatural is really creepy. Anna, asleep in her bed in the dead of night, loses her bedsheets very slowly in a scene that is very similar to one from Leigh Whannell's 'The Invisible Man'. It turns out to just be a nightmare...or is it?
The scares are rare but done very well, heightened by a cerebrally pounding score from Stephanie Taylor, and most of them are really just to enhance anxiety and loneliness of the cottage that Anna and her Nan live in. There's more than one scene in which Anna has to pull a bedsheet off a human shaped object and she always does it excruciatingly slow for some reason.
There's a little bit of exposition here and there but mostly the script is quite tight and thankfully not overwritten with lengthy dialogue. Too many times horror films spend too much time explaining themselves to the audience but that's not the case here. There is a revelation towards the end and the way it's handled is probably the only negative aspect of the entire film. We end up seeing the ghostly apparition as it interacts with the lead characters and I'm not sure if we really needed to see it in physical form but the cast make it worth while as its an extremely emotional moment. Speaking of the cast, Riann Steele is fantastic as Anna and Jane Lowe knocks it out of the park as Lucy. I loved the look of the film and in particular how DoP Ben Heckling moves the camera very slowly throughout the desolate rooms and lets it lingers eerily in the quiet corridors of the cottage. The purposely crawling pace is highly effective in creating an unsettling and haunting atmosphere and despite my few gripes I was genuinely surprised at how compelling the finale was.
- Gavin Logan
'The Creeping' received it's European Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 27th