'Jeepers Creepers' Review: What's Eating You?
I may have touched on this elsewhere, but I’m not really a horror fan. Some of the concepts are interesting, and I can certainly appreciate when a film manages its tensions well, but overall, I don’t get the appeal of being scared senseless. Living with a runaway imagination married to a bevy of anxiety disorders, even a film with scares as obvious and limp as Drag Me to Hell threaten nightmares hours after viewing.
One thing I can always get behind, however, is a good monster flick. A creature feature, no matter how low-budget or potentially terrifying, always piques my interest. I grew up with the Godzilla classics and saw Jurassic Park at the bright age of two, so movies with a beastly villain are practically in my blood.
And that’s what puts me in two minds after watching 2001’s Jeepers Creepers. Directed by Victor Salva, this frightener follows two college-age siblings, Darry and Trish Jenner (played by Justin Long and Gina Phillips, respectively) as they flee from a mysterious and haunting assailant on their way home for vacation. On the one hand, it’s a horror movie with all the terrific trappings, save the gore porn that took over the genre in the years following the Saw franchise. But it hides its scares until the late game, for the most part, and definitely loves to highlight its supernatural villain. There are stitched up bodies made in to mannequins, and some deaths along the way, but the movie is actually relatively light on blood, eventually moving full-tilt to focus on “the Creeper” and his strange persona.
The film builds tension early and holds on to it through most of the 90-minute run time, but it isn’t until roughly the final third that we sense any real threat to the protagonists. Sure, they get driven off the road by the villain’s massive battle van, and the Creeper remains a looming presence after the reveal of his secret lair… but we don’t really know what he does, what he’s after, or how he kills until VERY late in the movie. Instead, we’re left with a resounding eeriness that doesn’t support any new scares.
Once the creature is revealed, however, it’s a much different pace. He’s got strange powers and a desire to eat people’s organs, not to mention an unexplained fascination with medieval weaponry (well, at least the one axe he lops off a cop’s head with). His final form has some really great design to it, enough that it’s a real payoff when shown in the light at full power.
Outside of these points, however, the film is rather muddled. Long and Phillips do quite well with their roles, but they’re barely given any characterization, and the writing for them is terrible. The Creeper is interesting when we’re just learning about him through the scenery, but the sudden appearance of the town psychic (Patricia Belcher) draws all the mystery from him as she proceeds to plot-dump any and all relevant information to the kids and the viewers.
Plus, how did the Creeper get his van? How does he know to turn it into this crazy Mad Max-level atrocity? Who registered the car? And are we really supposed to believe that he came up with the “BEATINGU” pun himself? C’mon, movie.
As a horror flick, Jeepers Creepers fails to terrify. As a monster movie, it blows all the intrigue out of its main creature. It’s a movie with a great beginning and clearly a novel theory, but it fumbles the execution through shoddy dialogue and a plot that cuts corners everywhere it can. It’s a spectacle in design, of a creation caught between worlds, trying to find a voice.
In the end, I can’t say that I regret watching the movie. In fact, Jeepers Creepers has enough high points that they even outnumber the numerous failings. If it’s real frights, or a clever creature feature you’re after, you’re in the wrong place. But if you’re up for a short flick trying its hardest to fly between both worlds, it’s definitely worth your time. If nothing else, you’ve gotta applaud the style given to our big bad in this one.
Final Verdict: Watch It