USA/Germany, 2001. Rated R. 87 minutes.
Cast: Gina Philips, Justin Long,
Jonathan Breck, Eileen Brennan, Patricia Belcher, Jon Beshara, Avis-Marie
|Grade: C||Review by Carlo Cavagna|
hat can I tell you about a movie like Jeepers Creepers that you don't already know from its title? It is precisely what its title advertises it to be: a second-rate, low-budget horror film with only one goal: to make you jump straight out of your chair as many times as possible over its 90-minute running time.
The Big Picture
Where Jeepers Creepers is better than the average jolt-a-minute thrill ride is during the prolonged exposition, during which writer/director Victor Salva (Powder) spends some time establishing his characters and atmosphere. Trish (Gina Philips) and Darius (Justin Long) are a pair of average college kids driving home from school on an isolated stretch of rural highway famous for a number of disappearances and tragedies twenty-some odd years ago. Their banter is written with some care. Trish and Darius play childish games and exchange silly insults, just as you'd expect from a couple of kids who have grown up together. They have a natural, easy rapport that obviously derives from a deep, intimate sibling bond.
As they're driving, some maniac in an ancient pickup truck nearly runs them off the road. Later, they pass the same guy unloading what looks like a human body wrapped in a sheet. Darius wants to investigate, but Trish, in a moment of post-modern self-awareness reminiscent of Scream, compares their situation to the part in movies when someone does something really stupid. It's the only such moment in the film. The screenplay has to get from A to B, after all, so Darius wins the argument. What he discovers is… well, I can't give away everything.
Actually, Victor Salva himself should have considered not giving away everything. After building a tense atmosphere of dread for 30 or 40 minutes during which we can only use our imagination to figure out what's going on, Salva makes the mistake of divulging too much. A monster that appears when the song "Jeepers Creepers" plays on the radio? And eats only at certain times and for certain periods of time? And who can fly at unbelievable speeds but also drives a truck? Huh? I could go on, but again, I'd be giving away too much.
It's patently evident that Salva's premise makes no sense, so the less said about it, the better. The same goes for the monster--the less seen, the better. What's scarier, some shapeless thing whose nature and appearance you're unsure of, or an actor (Jonathan Breck) in a rubber suit?
Despite the presence of all the B-movie horror clichés--bickering and none-too-bright kids, an unreliable car, skeptical cops, a old psychic everyone thinks is crazy, some pretty fake-looking special effects, and an open ending that invites sequels--Salva's direction plays it straight, taking it all quite seriously. This works excellently for a time, and it seems for awhile that, like The Others and Session 9, Jeepers Creepers understands that atmosphere and intelligence is the key to successful horror. But then plot becomes too ludicrous to sustain the mood Salva establishes in the first third, all traces of intelligence vanish, and the wheels come off. Jeepers Creepers is not tongue-in-cheek enough (or at all) to be a fun cult picture, and not masterful enough to keep you awake at night. But it is a slightly above-average slasher movie, so if that's your thing, go for it.
© September 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2001 Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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