Mumblegore is a relatively new term that has blossomed with the low budget, yet character-driven, indie horror films that have been released in the past decade. It was born out of the Mumblecore genre, introduced in 2002 with films such as Funny HA HA (2002) by Andrew Bujalski and Puffy Chair (2005) by the Duplass Brothers.
Mumblegore takes that genre into the realm of horror, with films such as You’re Next (2011), The Sacrament (2013), and V/H/S (2012) as prime examples. Due to lower budgets and almost no studio pressure, these films are much more experimental. A few directors and writers have been credited with the birth and rise of this strange subgenre. Adam Wingard (You’re Next, V/H/S), Joe Swanberg (V/H/S), and Ti West (House of the Devil, The Sacrament) are just a few of the people working to create strange yet terrifying stories that push the boundaries of horror.
I want to expand the definition, which is my goal with this column. I will try to venture outside of those well-known directors and scour the corners of the Internet to expand the idea of mumblegore.
To start off this column, especially in honor of found footage month, I seem to contradict myself, since I’m starting with one of the big names in this subgenre, Mark Duplass and the found footage horror, Creep (2014). However, I can’t claim to expand mumblegore unless I talk about its shining examples, right? Duplass wrote this psychological thriller with director Patrick Brice as Brice’s directorial debut. Duplass and Brice are also the only stars in the film, making this a true two-man show.
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When you’re strapped for cash, sometimes you resort to responding to Craigslist ads for work. I’ve been there, it’s no fun, and you find some strange people. This is the exact situation videographer Aaron (Brice) finds himself in as he responds to an ad for an assignment where he’d earn $1000 per day. Josef (Duplass), author of said ad, wants Aaron to film videos of Josef for his unborn son. This includes a strange video of Josef in the bath. His behavior continues to confuse Aaron as he dons a wolf mask named Peachfuzz and performs for Aaron. All of this behavior seems strange, but harmless. But the more time Aaron spends filming Josef, the more sinister Josef becomes. Josef becomes the Craigslist boogeyman, and Creep becomes a cautionary tale of reaching out to strangers through brief ads online.
Creep was inspired by Duplass’ own experiences with strange ads on Craigslist. In an interview with The Austin Chronicle, Duplass recounted one of those experiences that involved buying a loft bed in New York City. He explained that the seller, who didn’t seem to understand personal space, was very into talking about his divorce. Duplass said that it got to the point where the seller “was crying, and I remember thinking, this is so amazing. Craigslist has brought two disparate strangers together, and allowed him to have the chance to emote to me, and for me to listen to him. At the same time, if I don’t leave here soon, something terrible might happen.” Thus, Creep and Josef were born.
Duplass and Price initially wrote the film under the title Peachfuzz, which emphasized the importance of the wolf mask. They ultimately changed the title, though, because they didn’t want audiences fixating on who or what was Peachfuzz. They kept rewriting, shooting, and just creating before a surprising figure joined their team: Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions. While this didn’t make the film’s budget skyrocket or launch it out of the mumblegore genre, Duplass said to The Austin Chronicle that Blum helped give their film focus. His support gives Creep a distinct advantage over other mumblegore films, which are not often given such support. Blum also helped the team realize that the film’s home should be Netflix; if they were going to give it a wider release, Creep would have been too sanitized, losing what makes it so strange. It’s a good thing Netflix took a chance of the two-man team and let them keep Creep the way it is. Without that support, perhaps we wouldn’t have such a prime example of the mumblegore genre.
The found footage genre lends itself well to the low budget nature of mumblegore. With such a small budget, Creep keeps it as tight and simple as possible with one camera and only two men interacting with each other. Found footage also often appears raw and unedited, which again gives mumblegore filmmakers a little leeway in the post-production process. But, really, Creep was a mumblegore interpretation of a saturated subgenre. In just focusing on two guys and their strange, blossoming relationship, Creep moves away from jump scares and gimmicks to create a breath of fresh, and sometimes repulsive, air.
With just a handheld camera and two characters played by the film’s writers, Brice and Duplass were able to create a horrifying, character-driven film with a simple story. It is a film that creeped under my skin and had me triple checking that all my doors were locked. Duplass and Brice took such a simple concept and created a monster that could lurk in any corner of our lives. In looking at Creep, we can start to see the elements of mumblegore and what exists at its core so we can expand this tiny, strange subgenre.
What’s your favorite mumblegore film? Which films would you like to see me cover in the coming months? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!