One of the hallmarks of typical horror movies is that the characters are invariably stupid. No matter how much you holler at the screen, they still open that closet door, they still run the wrong way down that dark hallway and they never get away when given a perfectly good opportunity to do so. Most of the time they're so stupid you find yourself actually hoping they'll get killed just to put them out of your misery.
"Jeepers Creepers" is just such a horror movie -- made all the worse by the fact that writer-director Victor Salva ("Powder") actually tries to justify the idiotic actions of his primary pinheads.
When 20-ish brother and sister (Justin Long and Gina Philips) see a dark figure dumping bloody bodies down a remote roadside culvert while on their way home from college, they spend an entire scene convincing themselves that the right thing to do would be to go back and crawl in the culvert to see if anyone is alive in there. One suggests they just call the police. The other replies, "There's no pay phone for miles!" then adds, "What if it was you?"
If Salva weren't clearly trying to satisfy the audience that these arguments are in some way sound, I wouldn't dwell on it. But the fact that he apparently thinks they are is an insult to our intelligence.
Oh, and did I mention that they decide to go back and investigate after the killer has chased after them in a spooky old armored van and run them off the road?
Needless to say, the brother falls down the culvert into a dungeon filled literally ceiling to floor with the preserved remains of mutilated murder victims. He doesn't try very hard to get out either -- not until his flashlight has fallen over every inch of the place for grossly dramatic effect and he's gone in for close-up ganders of several corpses.
For the rest of the film the kids are on the run from what turns out to be some kind of undead bat-winged demon that feasts on victims' body parts to regenerate his own. "Every 23rd spring for 23 days it gets to eat," whispers the ominous local psychic (Patricia Belcher) in a pointless bit of random, flick-specific mythology.
Nobody else in this eerie rural county seems to know or care about the demon, despite the fact that so many people have disappeared in these parts that the police station walls are plastered with missing persons fliers. They're not in on it or anything. It's just that the movie wouldn't be scary if everyone were out trying to catch the beast -- it wouldn't have a chance.
There's the potential for quality terror in "Jeepers Creepers." The idea of some indestructible incubus prowling rural Minnesota for body parts is a reasonably fresh one and film offers up some cinematic tricks that would amplify the tension if there were any to begin with.
But it seems Salva worships at the altar of the Almighty Gimmick, and as gimmicks go, using the 1930's hit parade ditty "Jeepers Creepers" as a scare tactic is arguably the most asinine in the history of fright flicks.
"If you hear that song, run!" advises the psychic. Oh, puh-leaze! At least give us some kind of reason why a supernatural demon would chose to whistle a jaunty little jukebox tune while he guts his human game.
The picture is hip-deep in continuity errors and technical problems too. My favorite is the close-ups of "The Creeper" in which you can clearly see the contact lenses he's wearing to make his eyes a villainously opaque gray.
But Salva waits until the end to really slap the audience in the face with a finale so sequel-baiting that it doesn't even resolve the brother-sister story arc before showing The Creeper in his dungeon preparing to wreak more havoc just before the credits roll.
Here's hoping "Jeepers Creepers" bombs so I won't have to sit through any more of this drivel in years to come.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Friday 31st August 2001
Box Office USA: $37.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $37.9M
Distributed by: MGM Pictures
Production compaines: United Artists, American Zoetrope, Cinerenta Medienbeteiligungs KG, Cinerenta-Cinebeta, VCL Communications
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Fresh: 49 Rotten: 59
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Victor Salva
Starring: Gina Philips as Patricia 'Trish' Jenner, Justin Long as Darius 'Darry' Jenner, Jonathan Breck as The Creeper, Patricia Belcher as Jezelle Gay Hartman, Eileen Brennan as The Cat Lady, Brandon Smith as Sgt. David Tubbs, Peggy Sheffield as Waitress Beverly, Jeffrey William Evans as Restaurant Manager, Patrick Cherry as Binky Plutzker, Jon Beshara as Officer Robert Gideon, Avis-Marie Barnes as Officer Natasha Weston, Steve Raulerson as Cellblock Officer, Tom Tarantini as Austin McCoy, William Haze as Officer with Hole in Chest, Kim Kahana as Camper Driver, Chris Shepardson as Dying Boy
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