Jeepers Creepers 2
by Del Harvey
Sequel brings some nice tension thanks to tight direction — but the Creeper lacks menace.
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Maybe I’ve seen too many horror films. Maybe they just aren’t as scary as they once were. Watching this one, I realized with disappointment that the original, campy horror film had gone the way of all those Friday the 13th/Halloween/Nightmare on Elm Street sequels and converted a mythical beast into just another slasher killer. Nevermind that they took the mystery of this mystical creature completely from the storyline and replaced it with relentless, mindless wholesale slaughter. After all, that seems to be what the typical audience craves. Two teenage boys who were in the same theatre remarked that they enjoyed the sequel much more than the original. As did a fellow reviewer who is known for his love of dramatic and independent films, and who understands the value of a good story. Hmmm…perhaps it’s me?
If you saw the first Jeepers Creepers, you have the pre-requisite background on the titular villain, the Creeper. For me, the thing which made that film so enjoyable was a suggestion of the creature’s origin, hinted at but never explained. The creature inhabited a dark, damp basement in an abandoned building. Like Predator and Alien, he seemed to be something from another world, or else an archaic remnant from an unknown past who had fallen through the cracks in time. Through all the subtle campiness of that film, those elements stood out as most intriguing for me. I was obviously in the minority then, as the majority of the movie-going public voiced disappointment in the lack of maniacal butchery. When I heard they were making a sequel, and that Victor Salva, writer/director of the first film, would be returning, my hopes grew that the mystery of the creature would be revealed.
Instead we are given a quick tagline followed by enough gruesome deaths to fill a good 100 minutes. In the opening scenes a young boy is tying scarecrows to their poles in the heat of summer. Dad (Ray Wise—Twin Peaks) and older brother are busy working while the younger boy erects scarecrows. This serves as a nice little jolt to re-introduce the Creeper and reinvent him as a mindless hunter-killer. And there is the opening preface of white text on black screen which simply reads: “Every 23 Springs for 23 days it gets to feed.” I can just hear some producer telling Salva: “Wow. Let’s turn that into a movie.” And that is pretty much what you get.
For the bulk of the film the Creeper terrorizes a school bus full of teens, murdering them in variously creative ways. Thanks to Salva’s capable direction and the camera work of Don Fauntleroy, the film’s suspense and terror is tight and holds your interest for the film’s entire length. There are several completely ridiculous moments, and these are obviously served up simply for the Hell of it for their gross out or scare factor.
You might say I’m being harsh in my critique of Jeepers Creepers 2. In all fairness, it is one of the better of this type of film. That isn’t saying much when you consider how formulaic these things have become. I believe Hollywood producers these days are handing out five-step instructions whenever a Horror film goes into production — it’s that predictable. In fact, there were five film previews before Jeepers Creepers 2, and four of them were ostensibly horror films. House of the Dead is of the gore-and-guts variety and has been made simply to satisfy that crowd’s tastes. Nothing wrong with that. Underworld presents itself as a cross between Wes Craven’s Dracula, The Matrix, and The Prophecy; the result is very slick-looking and very superficial. I’ll pass. Cold Creek Manor features big stars Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid, some high production values (that’s a Hollywood term meaning it looks like they spent big money), and little else. Nothing scary in that trailer whatsoever. The fourth preview was for Cabin Fever left no lasting impression other than it looks like a blatant copy of Sam Raimi’s superb and classic Evil Dead series; I’ll take the original any day. And given the alternative of Freddy vs. Jason, In that case I prefer Jeepers Creepers 2. Now, if that were Mercury vs. Timberlake, I might tune in.
Should you see Jeepers Creepers 2? If you’re looking for a halfway decent horror film with some good thrills, yes. If you’re looking for anything new, wait for the DVD rental.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and lives in Chicago. He is a devout Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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