Jeepers Creepers

Director: Victor Salva

USA - 2001

    Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!   


I have always been a fan of Victor Salva’s Clownhouse. It’s wildly uneven - the acting is unforgivable, and there are occasional plot holes the size of small cantaloupes - but I’ll be damned if Clownhouse isn’t effective. The film is legitimately creepy. There are even some brief flashes of genius. Overall, Salva demonstrates a fairly solid grasp of psychological horror."Aw nuts! Here comes David Arquette, Mr. T and Carrot Top!"

Jeepers Creepers proves that Clownhouse wasn’t a fluke. Unfortunately, it also proves that Salva has yet to learn from past mistakes.

While making the long trek home from college, siblings Trish and Darryl pass the time ribbing one another, playing road games, and catching up on the gossip of their respective love lives. And being that the long stretch back to the ranch is comprised mostly of back-roads, they seem to have all the time in the world.

The jovial banter soon comes to an abrupt halt when Our Heroes are nearly ran off the road by a huge truck. At first, the driver’s intentions appear questionable. The truck looms dangerously close to Trish’s bumper; the horn honking incessantly. But soon the trucker loses interest, passes the kids, and makes a beeline down the highway."Pardon me, but are you heading towards Denver?"

Shaken but relieved, the duo figures they’ve seen the last of the ominous black truck. Alas, this assumption proves false. Several miles ahead, Trish and Darryl pass an abandoned, boarded-up church on the side of the road. What proves more interesting, however, is the huge pipe protruding from the ground nearby. What proves even more interesting is the large, heavily-cloaked man tossing what appears to be bodies, wrapped in bloody sheets, down the shaft. And can you guess his mode of transportation parked conveniently nearby?

The chase is on. Once again, Our Heroes find themselves in the impenetrable shadow of  the gigantic black truck. But this time the truck doesn’t bother slowing down. It only takes a few good licks before Trish’s considerably smaller vehicle is knocked into a nearby field. Having made his point, the enigmatic trucker once again disappears into the horizon.

After the panic subsides, Darryl then convinces his sister that perhaps they should return to the church and investigate. Naturally, being that 98.3% of all  people in horror films are complete morons, they head back to check it out.

Upon their return, Darryl and Trish find the church deserted. Naturally, this calls for a closer look. Being said moron, It's the world's biggest trimmer for the world's biggest Bonsai.Darryl soon finds himself lying face-first in the aforementioned pipe while Trish holds his feet. He shines a flashlight into the inky blackness and asks if anyone down there requires assistance. Before you can spell “Idiot Plot,” Darryl inadvertently (yet inevitably) slides down the shaft. Down below, he makes a startling discovery: bodies - several of them; sewn together and stuck to the ceiling and walls like grotesque wallpaper.

Our impromptu spelunker escapes; literally scared speechless. But nothing can prepare Darryl or Trish for the grave repercussions that entail their intrusion. Apparently, the creature to which the human jigsaw puzzle belongs does not appreciate trespassers. What it does appreciate, however, is the tangy (yet satisfying) taste of human flesh – and has absolutely no problem adding Trish and Darryl to the menu.

In Clownhouse, the majority of the good stuff is distributed evenly throughout the entire course of the film. In Jeepers Creepers, the good stuff is mostly in the first 45 minutes. But I must admit, those first 45 minutes are pretty entertaining – albeit a bit derivative. Anyone with just a little knowledge of the genre will see immediate similarities between this film and The Texas Chainsaw Mas"Duh."sacre: The truck from Hell. The isolation of those pursued. In-breeders galore.

Label these similarities as you will – thievery, or perhaps an homage; all in all, they prove fairly effective. At least the first half succeeded in giving me the willies. And isn’t that what a scary movie is supposed to do?

But then we come to the unfortunate second half – standard, half-baked contemporary horror (with a dash of Terminator thrown in for good measure). The authorities that don’t believe the kids. The unstoppable killer. Cheap scares that play on your nervous system (eek! loud noises are scary!). The convenient catalyst used to provide unnecessary exposition (in this case, an annoying psychic). It was like the well of inspiration was drained early, and thus a decision was made to half-ass the remainder. It’s no worse than, say, I Still Know What Your Breasts Did Last Summer - but sadly, it’s nothing remarkable, either.

What annoys me most about Salva, however, is his apparent inability to create sympathetic characters. In Clownhouse, the thrPerhaps this is a reference to Nietzsche. Or leads are the most annoying brats since the Tanners from “Full House.” Though considerably older, Trish and Darryl prove to be just as annoying. If they’re not bickering, then I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that absolutely no dialogue is taking place.

Or perhaps Our Heroes are too busy doing something incredibly stupid. There are several instances in Jeepers Creepers where you find yourself yelling, “Hey moron(s)! F*$#ing run!!!”

Say, is that wild ‘n crazy demon ripping out a state trooper’s tongue? Let’s just stand here politely and wait until he’s finished.

I have absolutely no problem suspending disbelief when it comes to things like monsters running amok, supernatural occurrences, and Dimension actually considering a Dolemite remake. But when a demon is within immediate proximity of a prospective human snack, one might surmise that the individual in question might take flight rather hastily.

Or wet ‘em. Perhaps a combination of both.

Observing the creature with eyes wide and mouth agape does not strike me as standard operating procedure. Granted, I have yet to come face to face with a terrifying monstrosity spawned from the bowels of Hell itself; but if I did, chances are pretty good that I’d run my fool ass off. Hey! He's passing in a clearly marked No Passing zone! Why, he *must* be a madman!

Chances are also pretty good that if I witnessed some madman (or madwoman, for that matter) tossing blood-soaked bodies into a makeshift pit, I probably wouldn’t return to the scene to investigate the matter. The job description of “upstanding citizen” does not include making like Scooby-Doo and immersing myself in supernatural hijinks. It just ain’t gonna happen. Trish and Darryl have a tendency to do things any rationale human would avoid without question. Heck, some of their endeavors are so stupid, there are probably certain breeds of goat that wouldn’t partake. Of course, I’m talking about genetically-engineered super goats, but I digress.

At any rate, in order to make a horror film truly horrifying, the viewer must, to some extent, be able to sympathize with the victims. When you have the audience (namely myself) rooting for the creature to devour the film’s obnoxious principals, there is probably something awry in the script.         

So, in summary, Jeepers Creepers has a strong first half, and a significantly weaker second. But Joe, you ask, where does it all lead?

To a dumb joke.

A brainless zinger at the end guaranteed to induce severe eye rolling and exasperated sighs of cinematic frustration. As the credits began to roll I remember thinking, “That’s the big payoff? I wonder how many chimps pounding away at typewriters it took to come up with that?!” Dumb jokes are not worth $7.50 a pop (Admission only. Let’s not get into popcorn and such).

I have dumb jokes a-plenty. Best of all, they’re free. 


What did Eugene Levy do to deserve this?






-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman







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