A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Portland Horror Film Festival: The Creeping movie review

Jamie Hooper’s directorial debut overcomes its technical shortcomings with heart, outstanding performances, and an elemental understanding of the ghost genre.

“He’s here.” Jane Lowe in The Creeping

Ghost stories are some of humanity’s oldest and most familiar. Its tropes and beats and props are well-known and established – the creaking door, the rattling chain, the eerie moan, and, of course, the sheeted spectre.

The plot elements in ghost stories are almost as universal. There’s the quest for justice from beyond the grave. There’s an attachment to some person, place, or think. Every once in a while, there’s the occasional demon. Perhaps more than any other genre, with ghost stories it’s less a matter of what you say than how you say it.

A good ghost story doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. And that’s why Jamie Hooper’s directorial debut, The Creeping, is a damn good ghost story, if not without its shortcomings.

A good ghost story doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. And that’s why Jamie Hooper’s directorial debut, The Creeping, is a damn good ghost story, if not without its shortcomings.

The Creeping tells the story of Anna (Taliyah Blair) who travels to Somerset to take care of her Nana (Jane Lowe), who’s suffering from dementia. Anna’s recovering from a personal loss, the death of her father, and feels that returning to the home where she spent so much time as a child will do them both good.

It doesn’t take long for the unearthly goings on to commence. Every night at 3:23 a.m. Anna experiences unexplainable events and ghastly, terrifying visions. Comforters and bedsheets are violently ripped from her as she sleeps. A shadowy presence lingers just out of sight. 

Things begin  to unravel at a breakneck clip once the hauntings begin. Every night at 3:23 a.m. Anna is terrorized by the apparition. At wit’s end, she struggles to solve the mystery of the spectral disturbance. She makes a visit to the local churchyard to visit her mother’s grave, only to discover via the church vicar that there was more to her grandfather’s death than the official narrative.

Family secrets are the meat and potatoes of the ghost story genre, and The Creeping dishes up a particularly potent and nasty stew. It all comes to a crashing climax that is equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking.

The Creeping Review

The Creeping is an auspicious debut from director Jamie Hooper, with outstanding performances from the small cast, a wonderfully eerie setting, a compelling mystery, and some genuine scares.

The performances and chemistry from the three main characters – Anna, Nana, and Nana’s assistant Karen (Sophie Thompson). Much of the movie focuses on dialogue, where the emotional and psychological implications of the supernatural mysteries, grief, and trauma are played out. It adds emotional heft, elevating The Creeping beyond its independent stature. Watching Nana racked with sobs when the weight of memory returns is beyond heart-shattering. Hearing Anna dryly observe, when talking about her father’s passing over a glass of white wine “I’m just not sure I was ready to lose him, ya know? It’s like I’ve become unmoored since he’s gone,” offers an emotional intelligence and insight not often evident in low budget horror, that hints at great things for all parties involved. 

It adds emotional heft, elevating The Creeping beyond its independent stature.

The Creeping has sometimes been compared to recent high-budget horrors like The Conjuring. The made-for-TV ghost specaculars of the BBC are a more relevant comparison, though. M.R. James’ Ghost Stories for Christmas or the original The Woman In Black remind us that a movie doesn’t need to be expensive to be terrifying. In fact, they’re often scarier as they’re forced to rely on creativity, imagination, and implication. Jonathan Miller understood that a ghostly, unknowable figure beneath a bedsheet is inherently terrifying.

The Creeping uses that effect to brilliant effect. It puts you in the place of being a kid and hearing a bump in the night, of peering into inky black shadows looking for threat. It has its shortcomings – the effects can be, at times, slightly dodgy and they may’ve revealed both the spirit and the mystery slightly too early – but it doesn’t stop The Creeping from being a genuinely creepy, at times downright terrifying, but also moving and entertaining ghost train ride. Keep your eye out for if it comes your way. Keep your eyes peeled for the cast and crew, as well, as you’re going to hear more from each.

The Creeping showed as part of the seventh annual Portland Horror Film Festival, happening now through the end of the weekend at the Hollywood Theater and Clinton Street Theater in Portland as well as streaming online.

Portland Horror Film Festival


ig: @PortlandHorror

Portland Horror Film Festival Facebook Page

The Creeping



ig: @TheCreepingFilm

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