The Scariest Things Review: The Creeping (Portland Horror Film Festival and Panic Fest 2022)

Fangoria! Woo!
Jane Lowe as Lucy in The Creeping (2022)
Image courtesy of Cryptoscope Films

Directed by Jamie Hooper

In this day and age, it is hard to pull off a haunting old-school ghost-under-a-sheet movie. The Creeping manages to succeed at this feat with the two main ingredients required: compelling protagonists and a tragic back story. It all stitches together with a melancholy and sympathetic execution.

The setting is ripe for a solid ghost story. In an old English cottage, a young girl, Anna (Taliya Blair), is read a ghost story from her loving father, Harry (Jonathan Nyati). Anna loves these scary bedtime moments, but when she goes downstairs to investigate a bump in the night, she gets surprised by a series of classic ghost signs and is chased back to her bedroom by an apparently aggressive spirit. Cue a slamming door! (BANG!)

Adult Anna (Riann Steele) returns to her childhood home after the death of her father to look after her aging and dementia-addled Nan, Lucy (Jane Lowe) with the help of her loyal caretaker Karen (Sophie Thompson). Almost upon her arrival, Anna begins to experience strange phenomena and it becomes clear that the house is haunted. As Anna unravels the mysteries of the past she uncovers a family secret that threatens to destroy them all…cue thunder and lightning! (BOOM!)

Anna (Riann Steele) in The Creeping (2022)
Image courtesy of Cryptoscope Films

Liz Williams Review: ★★★ out of ★★★★★

The Creeping is a well-made film with solid performances from the excellent cast- a who’s who of British TV and film. A throwback to movies of the ’70s and ’80s, it is much more of a “cozy” film and not a capital “H” horror movie. While it isn’t reinventing the wheel or doing anything particularly new, if you like well-crafted, traditional ghost stories à la The Conjuring or The Others, this would be one to watch on a dark and stormy night.

Eric Li Review: ★★ out of ★★★★★

A film like this has some significant hurdles to overcome for it to be effective for contemporary horror fans. If you are going to do an apparition under a bed sheet, you had better provide the foundation for a trick like that to take hold. By establishing a wonderfully tragic story for the ghost, its story is anchored with a sympathetic poignancy that resonates.

The movie also paces itself very well. It is not a slow builder as much as it is a continual builder. The key to this is that all of the characters, even the ghostly source are well-drawn and nuanced. The acting performances ring true, with even the side characters adding depth to the core of the story. The script is thankfully void of cliche, and the characters feel fully formed and not one-note.

The Creeping shrouds its mystery well too. Is it the mother who tragically died giving birth to Anna? Is it the grieving grandfather who passed away shortly after? Is the spirit benign or malevolent? Is the ghost connected to the house or to Anna herself? The movie provides answers, but it allows the audience to muse over the possibilities. I very much enjoyed how this puzzle came together.

This film also provides multiple terrific ghost-under-a-bedsheet trope moves, some of the best seen in ages, proving that this old chestnut still has the ability to spook and amuse.

Harry (Jonathan Nyati) in The Creeping
Image courtesy of Cryptoscope Films

In addition to the films that Liz alluded to, other strong comparable films would be The Innocents, The Haunting, and The Changeling, for thematics and styling. As with most ghost story movies, this is an ideal gateway film for fans who like their scary in spooky form rather than the visceral. Ironically, one of the best jump scares, which had one member of our audience shriek loudly, was in director Jamie Hooper’s coy and clever theatrical introduction.

The Creeping has been working its way through the film festival circuit, and we caught it both at Kansas City’s Panic Fest where it was part of the “Best of the Fest” and at The Portland Horror Film Festival, where it was the kickoff film of their festival.

Stay tuned to The Scariest Things for trailers and release dates. You can follow the film on social media to find out where it is screening next.

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