Jeepers Creepers

“You know the part in horror movies when somebody does something really stupid, and everybody hates him for it? This is it.”

The Scoop: 2001 R, directed by Victor Salva and starring Gina Philips, Justin Long, and Jonathan Breck

Tagline: WhAT’s EATing you?

Summary Capsule: Bro and sis outwit the boogeyman in rural country.

Justin’s Rating: One crazy cat lady and five tubby felines

Justin’s Review: Nowadays, whenever I go into a horror movie, I bring my Big Shield of Critical Analysis. I don’t necessarily want to, but ever since Scream, and probably before it, there’s been a lot of suckiness in the horror genre. That’s why I have my Shield, to deflect the blows of mindless clichés that have been perpetuated, regurgitated, and reheated into secondhand servings. If you’re trying to scare or freak me out, it doesn’t help to have the Traditional Victim Killed During The First Scene or the Let’s Fall In Love While Avoiding Axe Blows bit. Hey, I’m not even that demanding! You don’t have to be wholly original, just do it good.

Jeepers Creepers is not completely original, but it does a lot of things well.

The bare-bones opening takes us on the road to horror. Siblings Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long) are taking the long route back from college, driving country roads and doing what brothers and sisters are wont to do. Namely, bicker, play stupid road games, and make up detailed rules on how to insult each other. I LOVED this. I was so excited that, barring some weird hick ritual, there was no way that these two leads would fall in love with each other; it left open so much more room to develop their characters in different ways. They’re both very likable people, and thus we want them to live.

The whole setup comes as they pass an old church where some wacked-out guy in a big hat is dumping covered bodies down a pipe. Not good. Big Hat gets in a souped-up truck, and proceeds to run the siblings off the road. Not gooder. The truck sort of reminded me of something out of the PlayStation game Twisted Metal Black, so naturally I expected a little more than just straight out ramming. Gimme missiles or long range artillery, thank you.

Then there’s always something unsettling and spooky about isolation in the country. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting away from civilization, but the farther away you get, the fewer safety nets you have in place. You got your children of the corn, your texas chainsaw massacres, your blair witches, and sometimes those antique flea markets. And don’t forget the Amish, your number one source of brutal buggy attacks.

Jeepers Creepers is all very terrifying in the leap-out-and-hit-you-suddenly sort of way, but that’s no excuse for Darry to become temporarily insane and drag them both back to verify the dead bodies. The movie convolutes the heck out of itself to justify why he does this, but other than a fleeting stab at heroism, it’s nothing more than just another idiot digging his own grave. If it were me, there would have to be something mighty impressive, like a solid gold narwhale, to get me poking around the Drain Of Corpses. And while it’s fun and scary and morbidly fascinating in many parts, I did eventually have to whip out the Big Shield, because the kids’ decision impairment grows a mite bit faulty from then on, to put it nicely. Just when you think they’re finally going away or getting help or doing something remotely smart, it just becomes some convoluted excuse to go RIGHT back to the killer and his house ‘o horrors.

Jeepers Creepers felt like an adaption of a Stephen King story. That is to say, it’s different and would probably play out a whole lot scarier on paper than on screen. There’s a psychic and unbelieving cops and even Cat Lady. I was reminded of Log Lady from Twin Peaks. People with that many cats ARE a horror movie in themselves. I like the simplicity and the effort to make a modern urban legend, but axe-weilding manaics just ain’t as scary as they used to be.

Shalen’s Rating: Zero out of two bleeding eyeballs induced by watching this movie.

Shalen’s Review: Here’s another film where another person has already reviewed it, so I can basically just skip the synopsis and tell you what I thought. Unfortunately, if I did that Justin would not put up my review, because there’s always the possibility some impressionable youth will wander onto this page and be scarred for life.1 So basically it’s about a brother and sister who discover some psychotic hiding bodies, decide to investigate, and stumble onto a really ridiculous attempt to set up another supernatural, invincible bad guy a la Freddie Krueger.

It starts out well, and then fails utterly. If this film was really going to be scary, it would have to have ended right after Dary and his sister make a phone call from the diner and then see the Creeper’s truck driving past. It could have been a great short film. Instead, from that point on things just get more and more ridiculous. The characters’ idiotic behavior gets progressively more so, and at least one line suggests that they know they are doing stupid things. Does that stop them? Of course not.

I suppose I would be lying if I said this film was not scary at all. For example, the lousy pop music cover of “Jeepers Creepers” that plays on the radio in one scene is absolutely terrifying, especially if you’ve ever heard the Louis Armstrong version. (“Change the station! Find some Rolling Stones! Killers! Anything!”) The scene of bodies nailed to walls and ceiling like, as one character puts it, “A psycho version of the Sistine Chapel” is fairly effective. The problem is that that scene occurs fairly early in the film, and nothing that comes after it comes anywhere near it in the freakiness category. It can’t hold a candle to the horrifying segue the film makes from character-driven to script-driven. Take, for example, the frequent car failures that seem to occur exactly when our dynamic duo are about to escape from the Creeper, or the way Dary ends up in the Creeper’s hideout to begin with, or the way he and Trish pause to have an argument in the besieged police station next to a plate of one-way glass.2 No one does things because those things are a logical extension of their personalities or situation, but because the script requires it.

My favorite example of the way this film goes wrong is this: Trish and the psychic are in the police station, listening to the sound of gunfire as police try to kill the Creeper. The psychic, in response to some remark of Trish’s, says “He’s eaten too many hearts for his to ever stop beating.” Let’s line out the logic:

Premise: The Creeper is invincible.

Evidence: He has eaten the hearts of many people, THEREFORE

Conclusion: He cannot be killed.

It’s one of those nonsensical statements horror movies often include, in the hope that they will sound compelling enough that viewers will not notice they don’t mean anything. For this to work, the viewer needs to be effectively scared out of his or her mind, the way I personally was while watching The Sixth Sense for the first time. That’s a little much to expect from this kind of movie, especially considering it’s most likely to attract an audience of horror die-hards3 who scoff at even such baroque touches as the Creeper apparently French-kissing a severed head.

Not to say this movie is boring. Not at all. The director and scriptwriters have thrown in several interesting mini-mysteries for us to consider in between moments of gore.

Mystery #1: The license plate on the Creeper’s truck had me going for quite a while. How did he obtain a vanity plate in the first place? Did he go to a dealership? How did that work, exactly?

[Creeper walks into the office and hands a clerk a piece of paper.]

Clerk: You want a plate that says “Beating U?” Why?

Creeper: [Impales clerk with ball-point pen.]

Manager: Not again.

Mystery #2: That fancy decorative axe the Creeper uses. Where did he get it? A Ren Faire? Spartan Cutlery? On eBay, with the proceeds from his thriving mail-order preserved-organ business?

Mystery #3: Why the Creeper was smoking cigars next to the flammable corpse preservatives4, because there is no other reason for him to burn down his own hideout. It can’t be for secrecy, because afterwards he promptly troops down to the busy police station to mix it up with a number of law enforcement personnel.

Yes, indeed, it’s just one thing after another with this exciting motion picture event. The Creeper is the film’s biggest weakness, which is a very bad thing considering he is the central focus of the entire picture. I mean, consider other unkillable horror baddies, such as Freddy Krueger. Freddy starts out as a child molester who dies. Fair enough. This doesn’t necessarily explain why he then turns up as a malevolent supernatural force, but at least it’s some sort of explanation for his behavior and motivation. The Creeper, on the other hand, presents no evidence that he even started out human, so we have no frame of reference for what he is supposed to be. If he’s a demon, why does he need to do what he does? If he’s some sort of periodical cicada from Hell, why 23 years and 23 days? Why that number anyway?

Don’t even get me started on the fact that, in order to whistle, you must be able to purse your lips. I’m guessing that’s why he tends to do it facing away from us.

En fin, this is a useless film. Watch the first fifteen or twenty minutes, then turn it off, because at that point you’ve seen all there is that’s worth seeing. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.

1 Considerably less so than he would be if he watched this movie, however.

2 See the line quoted up at the beginning of this review.

3 Ha ha.

4 You know, the ones that can keep a body intact for seventeen years when it’s stored uncovered in a damp area.

See! This is what Battlefield Earth can do to a normal human’s psyche!

Intermission!

  • Victor Salva originally wrote the role of the Creeper for Lance Henriksen.
  • After the end scene, there was an extended ending cut out of the movie where it turns out that everything was just a story told by a person named Gary (also played by Justin Long) to his girlfriend, Lisa (also played by Gina Philips). She doesn’t believe him and they leave the place that they were camping at so they don’t miss the bus. But instead of getting on the bus, they hitchhike and get picked up by a green truck. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the Creeper’s truck and as the scene fades out, Lisa turns on the radio where “Jeepers Creepers” is playing.
  • In the final scene, the role of The Creeper (usually played by Jonathan Breck) is played by Justin Long instead
  • The Creeper, without makeup, appears as a policeman.
  • The song “Jeepers Creepers” is performed by Paul Whiteman and his Swing Wing
  • BEATNGU
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Sorta, after the credits the Creeper’s truck rolls across the screen.

Groovy Quotes

[after running over the Creeper]
Darry: Is he dead?
Trish: They never are.

Trish: You know the part in horror movies when somebody does something really stupid, and everybody hates him for it? This is it.

Trish: Do you think they even have a phone?
Darry: I’m guessing no phones and a lot of guns.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Joy Ride
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Jeepers Creepers 2
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