I implore you to research Victor Salva’s past transgressions and decide for yourself the moral implications of watching, reviewing, and buying his films. For the purposes of this release review, I will refrain from any more comments on his pedophilia and molestation charges.
Jeepers Creepers review
There’s something alluring about the roadside horror film, an archetype used in quite a few classics. Those backwoods highways get at a psychological terror of being alone: long stretches of road, wide open landscapes, and few cars. There’s a peace that comes from driving, but tension is heightened when humanity seems at its most desolate. If you’re stopped in the middle of nowhere – either the car breaks down, or someone comes along to run you off the road – there’s nothing that you can do without a cell signal or a passersby. You’re stuck, without help, without police.
Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers runs with that idea of traveling along unpopulated back roads, and for most of its opening scenes, the scenario is realistic and predominately a mutual human fear. Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long) are heading back home from college in Trish’s beat-up Impala, taking the vacant scenic route before getting run off the road by an insane driver in a damaged truck; their fear increases when the scene the same man dumping sheeted bodies into a drainage pipe next to an abandoned church.
Salva understands the psychological horror of this setup – there are assholes on the road who think nothing of tailgating someone, and Darry and Trish can’t be sure that what they’ve seen is actually a body dump, so they begin to question their own experiences. Jeepers Creepers‘ most effective moments are when the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) is entirely flesh and blood, simply a man with hostile motivations and a church basement full of dead people.
So one can mostly forgive the film for its plot contrivances early on, like Darry’s insistence on exploring the gross storm tunnel in a serious lapse in judgment. Salva’s writing relies on his characters making dumb decisions, but he also remarks on that – at one point, Trish refers to Darry as the character in a horror movie the audience is yelling at. Jeepers Creepers‘ first half hour is so well-structured, so tense, that it’s easy to forget that the characters wouldn’t be in the situation if they didn’t choose to do stupid things.
But that good will only extends so far, and as Jeepers Creepers continues, it loses a lot of the tension that makes its first act so fun. Part of that comes from Salva’s attempts to include more characters; as Darry and Trish make it to town, more people take away the feeling of loneliness that pervades at the beginning of the film. Instead of allowing the minimalism to continue – that cat-and-mouse game between the kids and the Creeper – Salva attempts to make things more complex, to push the plot into new territory. Rarely does it work as well as the simplicity of dangers on the open road.
Salva’s Creeper becomes too complicated. At first, he’s a creature dressed like a man, interested in eating human beings. It’s easy to see how that translates to the events of the film. But as Jeepers Creepers elaborates on his form – he seeks out body parts to use for himself based on the smell of fear on the victim, and somehow the song “Jeepers Creepers” plays when he’s around – the film runs into a number of issues. If the Creeper targets certain people, then all of the people he kills in the process of getting to Darry are just wasted meat. Sometimes the song plays, sometimes it doesn’t. Jeepers Creepers is better off leaving all of these requisite pieces vague, but as it introduces more and more supernatural twists like the psychic Jazelle (Patricia Belcher), the film runs afoul of some poor plot structuring.
The Creeper begins to lose his mysticism as Salva gets closer to him, too. Unfortunately, he begins to devolve into a cartoonish monster, doing flips over cars and running on car hoods. The quiet understatement of Jeepers Creepers’ first act falls away, leaving something more ridiculous and harder to relate to.
It’s unfortunate that Jeepers Creepers suffers from these flaws in the back half, because Salva’s opening is memorable and often terrifying. But it’s a problem a lot of films tend to have as their creatures become more prevalent: it’s difficult to further the plot while keeping the monster at a distance, and that loses a lot of the tension that’s been built. Overall, Jeepers Creepers has a lot of suspenseful moments that get lost as the conclusion creeps along, and the film is often as unbalanced as its Creeper character.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.