Peeping Blog (2010) *
It’s the Achilles heel of the whole found-footage subgenre of horror movies, and I end up talking about it at some point every time I review such a film: why is anybody filming this stuff in the first place, and why do they keep filming even after shit turns ugly? In Peeping Blog, Creep Creepersin offers the best answer to those questions I’ve seen yet. The viewpoint character is the villain, and he’s filming because he’s both a voyeur and an exhibitionist, recording his crimes for dissemination on his “how to be a successful psycho stalker” website. It’s a conceit that ties the signature stylistic innovation of early 21st-century horror cinema directly into a whole constellation of early 21st-century fears and anxieties, and as usual for Creepersin, it’s an idea of substantial merit. A film that did it justice would surely go down in history as one of the classics of the 2010’s. Unfortunately, however, Peeping Blog does not do the idea justice. Indeed, Peeping Blog is fucking terrible.
On February 23, 2009, a guy whose name we’ll never learn, and whose face we’ll never see except concealed behind a mask made of aluminum foil and masking tape (Creepersin himself), starts keeping a blog. His first post pretty much implies it all: “1 in 12 women will be stalked at some point in their lives. 15% of those women will be killed by their stalkers. And I just got a camera…” Everything we see from that moment on is the product of that camera, although it’s unclear whether or to what extent the man behind “Peeping Blog” plans the events that it captures. Either way, the camera is mounted on the dashboard of his car as he follows a woman (Ariauna Albright, from Witchouse and He) to a suburban Starbuck’s to spy on her as she drinks her coffee, and he brings it with him later (how much later I wouldn’t like to guess) when he breaks into her empty house to piss in her toilet, eat her Hot Pockets, and smell her underwear. This guy obviously has a more ambitious agenda than merely being an Olympic-class creep, too, because rather than sneaking out of the house when he hears the woman’s truck pull into the driveway, he takes up a concealed vantage point behind the coat rack in the living room. (And before you ask, no. There is no way in hell a huge guy like Creepersin could possibly remain unseen behind any of the things the peeper uses as cover inside his target’s house. The resulting implausibility is far from the worst thing about Peeping Blog, but it sure doesn’t help.) Whatever the peeper’s plans, they become complicated when his target’s sister, Janie (Elissa Dowling, of Vaginal Holocaust and Corporate Cutthroat Massacre), comes over seeking advice about her failing marriage. I’m sure a resourceful guy like him will find a way to turn the second woman’s arrival to his advantage, however.
If I were writing single-sentence reviews for one of the annual print video guides (those things still exist, right?), my statement on Peeping Blog would be: “Creep Creepersin really needs to curb his addiction to boring shit happening in real time.” From our first view of the woman’s vehicle waiting to turn left against traffic to the peeper trailing her back out of the Starbuck’s parking lot toward her home, the coffee shop stalking consumes nearly twenty minutes— this in a movie that runs no more than an hour and a quarter! Furthermore, those twenty minutes pass not merely without dialogue, but without sound of any kind beyond the peeper’s breathing and the occasional automobile noise. There’s no monologue during the drive to explain how or why the psycho selected this particular woman, or to indicate whether he’s been staking her for any length of time, no scene of target acquisition to provide context for the whole undertaking of spying on her— but we sure are treated to every sip the woman takes of her coffee, and to every turned page of the book she brought with her to the café. Similarly, we later get every bite of that goddamned Hot Pocket (to say nothing of its every second in the microwave) and every drop of piss when the peeper avails himself of his victim’s bathroom. It’s enough to make hearing every word of Janie’s “to hell with my useless husband” rant seem positively gripping by comparison. And after all that, the inevitable violence happens not off-camera exactly, but well beyond the edges of the frame. It’s infuriating.
At least equally infuriating is what all this unfiltered inaction means for the concept at Peeping Blog’s core. That is, apart from the opening screen shot of the peeper’s inaugural post, there’s no specific indication that any of this footage is supposed to be accessible via some pervert’s personal website. At best, it feels like one of the raw-footage discs from which the peeper’s blog posts would later be assembled. It would have been much better— and a much more successful realization of Creepersin’s stated aims— to create instead a dummy version of the peeper’s site, and to present the movie as if the camera were the eyes of somebody clicking their way through its content. Picture it. 2/24/09: The masked and vocoded peeper offers tips on choosing a victim, with links below to short clips of the woman at her workplace or visiting spots around town that are part of her routine. 2/25/09: A lecture on how to trail someone without getting caught segues into a much shorter version of the Starbuck’s scene. 2/26/09: “Okay, folks. This is the big time. Today, I’m actually going to break into the bitch’s house and have a look around…” Seriously, how disturbing would that have been? How much more charge would the Hot Pocket have carried if, while waiting for it to heat up, the peeper had expounded for his followers on the power dynamics of infiltrating somebody’s home and using their stuff as if it were your own? Imagine how much more horrid Janie’s fate would seem if it were the centerpiece of a blog post reading, “Admittedly, I didn’t expect the sister. But as you can see, I eventually figured out how to fit her in.” Few things in this business are as annoying as the waste of a good idea, and Peeping Blog is the complete waste of a great idea.