Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was still in cinemas when Christopher Smith debuted a much more realistic film about London, cocaine and imprisonment.
In a premise worthy of Bridget Jones herself, Kate (Run Lola Run‘s Franka Potente) is on her way to harass George Clooney when she falls asleep on the platform at Charing Cross and ends up locked inside the station. Quite how the staff missed her in such a garish yellow dress is never explained, nor is her decision to follow a dog into the tunnels rather than wait by the entrance to be let out. She is assaulted by a coked-up colleague (Jeremy Sheffield) until he is attacked in turn by an unseen assailant, who pursues Kate through the Underground over 80 gruesome minutes.
If you don’t mind the credibility gap, this British-German fright flick is a fun Tube-set thrill-ride with splatters of wit and political commentary. Like its predecessor Death Line, it has a social hierarchy built into its geography (an affluent woman is sucked into the city’s bowels en route to meet a celebrity) and a surprisingly sympathetic villain who learnt to speak underground. It is not just about homelessness but voicelessness, making us care more for the capital’s underclass (one of the sewage workers is a former prisoner) than the stuck-up protagonist.
While Potente is presumably cast for her running experience, Sean Harris is brilliantly physical as the monster. It is nice to see him cut his teeth on this low-budget, no-frills, some-nonsense slasher before breaking into the obligatory British villain role in Hollywood, most notably the Mission: Impossible movies. The pale creature design fits the subterranean station setting (he fits right in at The Pasty Shop), his caterwauling eerily familiar in a city where one becomes desensitised to the sound of screaming, sirens and foxes having sex. The attempts to give the character backstory are ultimately redundant in a picture that doesn’t even tell us what Kate does for a living, so strong is the emphasis on loco over motive.
Creep‘s true creep is the Tubular bellend who tries to rape Kate at the start; the rest is a PTSD nightmare into the reality of women travelling alone at night. Smith shoots economically and effectively, exploiting the environment for its rats, sewage and miles of disused tunnels. Inspired by video nasties and An American Werewolf in London, he slits so many throats they ought to rename the station Larynx Crossed. This nastiness is levelled by pointed morality and black humour, with a smart closing scene and a sick ER reference that justifies the awkward Clooney plot point.
Although it lacks the depth of Death Line or the claustrophobia of The Descent, the engineering works to make Creep a nifty old-school nasty. Fans of train-based horror should jump on board without delay and whatever you do, don’t sleep on it.