Creep Van is a dumb movie. Let’s just get that out of the way now.
Now, to be fair, my expectations for this film were set pretty low from “Minute One”. An intentionally sleazy, potentially cheesy, low-budget indie horror film? It could be a hidden gem or it could be a dumpster fire. One that I found in the $1 DVD dump bin at the corner discount store. This is already not sounding promising, but as this website has proven time and time again……. I’ll watch anything if it’s only a buck. Well, almost anything.
Creep Van is the 2nd and, so far, final film from Detroit-born director Scott W. McKinlay. His first film was 2006’s Gag, which I have not seen, but do remember seeing displayed on the shelves of my local Blockbuster stores. McKinlay is also credited on 2014’s The Cabining, as well as Troma’s Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV. Not so coincidentally, Creep Van features a cameo from Lloyd Kaufman.
McKinlay would also produce Creep Van, as well as co-write the script with partner Jim Bartoo. Bartoo has a much more interesting resume, working in editing and digital assets on such diverse projects as The Devil’s Rejects, The Hunger Games, and Leprechaun 6: Back 2 Tha Hood.
In Creep Van, a serial killer uses his dilapidated old van to kill anyone who crosses his path. A “For Sale” sign displayed on the side window turns potential buyers of the vehicle into walking targets. One of those potential targets is Campbell (Brian Kolodziej, who appeared in Gag, as well as Flight of the Living Dead and 2004’s The Girl Next Door), an out-of-options slacker who has been forced to move back home and now crashes on the couch in the home of his sexual deviant friends. This helps fill the film’s obligatory “gratuitous nudity” quota, so be thankful.
Having already exhausted his (usually short) stay at a number of low-paying, dead-end jobs, Campbell is finally obligated to take a job at a local car wash. He’s also forced to take the bus as his broke ass can’t afford a car, which hinders his chances at scoring a date with co-worker Amy (Amy Wehrell, who also appeared in McKinlay’s Gag). Actually, no, it really doesn’t, as viewers soon discover.
After calling to inquire about the van, the killer begins targeting and killing those around Campbell. Making matters worse, he’s also drawn the attention of a drug-dealing, “new age spiritualist” named “Swami Ted”, who blames Campbell for a weed-filled duffel bag that has gone missing from the car wash. It doesn’t take long for one to notice that Creep Van doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is to the film’s advantage as I also did not take it too seriously. This “lighter” tone, for as “light” as a film about a madman splattering innocent people with his van can be, helps prevent the film from becoming too heavy-handed and, believe it or not, monotonous.
To further help break up any repetition, the killer quite frequently murders his prey within his van. This is accomplished through devices like sharpened windows, projectiles, and spiked airbags. Our killer isn’t against slamming a head or two in doors either. Some may find the Saw-like traps in the vehicle to be a little too close to the “torture porn” films that were still popular not long before this film’s release, but seriously? How many times can you watch someone get smacked by a car? Err, van?
If you’re watching a film such as Creep Van, you probably appreciate the “red stuff”. In these regards, the film more than adequately provides. Despite the low-budget, McKinlay used some “hometown connections” and was able to secure Almost Human FX (Laid To Rest film series) to provide the film’s grue. While there may be a few CG “touch-ups”, the FX crew’s superior practical effects work elevates the film past its budget, as well as provides a few laughs.
The film loses some steam during its final act, at times almost becoming a parody of itself. However, when background characters start getting bumped off with random car parts, such as mufflers and wipers, one can’t help but wonder if the film may have been better served with a slightly shorter runtime. That said, I never once found myself remotely bored by the film.
Perhaps most surprisingly, performances are quite respectable throughout. Campbell, while a little pathetic, is made quite likable by Kolodziej, and even somewhat (albeit uncomfortably) relatable. For me, though, the stand-out performance is Collin Bernsen (Corbin’s brother) as “Swami Ted”, who rapidly devolves from grizzly to goofy once the Creep Van makes its appearance. Like certain other characters in the film, his presence is bizarre and a little out-of-place, but not obnoxiously so.
In many ways, Creep Van feels like a tribute to 1977’s The Car, with a few moments from the first Friday the 13th film thrown in. For most of the runtime, our killer is unseen with the focus placed primarily on his chosen instrument of death. It’s at these moments, when we see the van creeping up on its prey much like a shark about to chomp into an unsuspecting swimmer, that Creep Van is at its strongest. The suspense is not in “if” the person will be hit, but in “when” and “what will be left behind?”.
As I said at the beginning of this review, Creep Van is a dumb movie. It sets out to do nothing more than provide an hour and a half of sometimes silly, often bloody, entertainment. In those regards, it generally succeeds. Sure, there may be a few rust spots, and there might be an occasional sputter…. but those willing to kick Creep Van‘s tires and take it for a spin may just be surprised by how they actually enjoyed the ride.
Creep Van is free to watch for subscribers on Amazon Prime. Link: https://amzn.to/2y8gpxs
DVD link: https://amzn.to/3cHsHMc