Trieste 2023 Review: CREEP BOX, Talking to the Dead

Geoffrey Cantor stars in Patrick Biesemans' smoldering feature, based on his own short film.

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Trieste 2023 Review: CREEP BOX, Talking to the Dead

Any last words?

Creep Box
The film recently enjoyed its Italian premiere at the 2023 Trieste Science + Fiction Festival.

Sometimes we're able to talk with loved ones before they die, to express deep feelings of one kind or another. More often, however, we never get to say what we wish we had always told them. What if some startling new technology allowed you to do so?

'Closure, clarification, and comfort' is what is offered by HDTA, a new-ish tech company in New York City that is seeking a contract from the U.S. government "to keep the lights on," as the company exec, Devon (Sean Mahon), repeatedly reminds Doctor Caul (Geoffrey Cantor). Bearded and bespectacled, his brow constantly furrowed, Doctor Caul is preoccupied with the intensity of his research, which, together with the company's technology, enables him to 'simulate consciousness' in persons who have recently died, and converse with them in 'whispers of the dead.'

The simulation is what is meant to offer 'closure, clarification, and comfort' to presumably well-heeled customers. In search of greater returns, however, HDTA has pivoted to offering judicial investigators the potential to hear from persons who have recently been murdered. The CEO pitches the idea that they will be able to offer 'clues and confirmation' about crimes that have been committed.

As for Doctor Caul, he has a personal interest in what the company does, and he is determined to take his research as far as it can go. And then some.

Densely composed with shifting layers of grief and a keen sense of dread, Creep Box is much more about its unsettling atmosphere and disquieting mood than in answering any of the questions that it raises. Accompanied by a near-constant minor-chord musical hum, Doctor Caul begins spending a considerable amount of time in his basement talking with the 'simulated consciousness' of what the police might call 'a person of interest' in a murder case. His (presumably) adult daughter keeps calling and texting him, which he ignores as much as he ignores the constant fretting of his nervous boss.

Expanding his 10-minute short film into feature length, writer/director Patrick Biesemans suffuses the story with muted sorrow. The "simulated consciousness" of the dead can be heard in a chorus of three simultaneous voices -- the film explains why at one point -- which requires quiet and concentration. Perhaps as a result, it feels like every living person often speaks in a whisper, or just louder than that, which reinforces the somber gravity of what they're saying.

As its title suggests, Creep Box is more about creeping than shouting, and more about reflecting than acting. In the film, the dead whisper rather than blurt anything out; ask the right questions, though, and you might be able to rest in peace.

Creep Box

  • Patrick Biesemans
  • Patrick Biesemans
  • Ian Lithgow
  • Allie McCulloch
  • Geoffrey Cantor
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Geoffrey CantorPatrick BiesemansSean MahonTrieste Science + Fiction FestivalIan LithgowAllie McCullochSci-Fi

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