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Jeepers Creepers 2
Directed and Written by Victor Salva
Jeepers Creepers 2
 
Principal Cast
Ray Wise -- Jack Taggart
Jonathan Breck -- The Creeper
Travis Schiffner -- Izzy Bohen
Nicki Aycox -- Minxie Hayes
Drew Tyler Bell -- Jonny Young
Billy Aaron Brown -- Andy 'Bucky' Buck
Kasan Butcher -- Kimball Ward
Lena Cardwell -- Chelsea Farmer
Marshall Cook -- Boy
Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Newbert

Created from a nearly pure mercenary impulse, Jeepers Creepers 2 is writer and director Victor Salva's sequel to his surprise hit from a couple years ago, Jeepers Creepers, which made use of a pun on the popular song lyric ("Jeepers creepers, / Where'd you get those eyes?") as the raison d'être for a horror film about a man/monster that steals body parts from the living to replace its own. Its entrance in the first picture came behind the wheel of a vehicle whose license plate read BEATINGU; this could be seen either as a meta-narrative statement from the Creeper itself or as a personal statement of Salva's resolve. When his Disney-financed film Powder (1995) was originally released in theatres, Salva's past as a convicted sex offender was brought to public light by one of his alleged victims, timed to undermine the box office. Salva continued to make films and by 2001 could be said to have beaten the odds to at least some extent; when Jeepers Creepers brought in $15 million during its opening weekend, there was a sense of mild shock. In this sequel, a passing station wagon bears the sticker I'M NOT A COMPLETE IDIOT -- PARTS OF ME ARE MISSING! That's probably the director thinking of a trilogy.

Jeepers Creepers 2 is fairly impotent as a horror film, but surprisingly effective as an action-adventure film. After a fantastic prologue in which the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) poses as a scarecrow to steal a young boy from under the watching eyes of his father, Jack Taggart (Ray Wise), and his older brother (Luke Edwards), the action shambles to a deserted highway and a broken-down schoolbus carrying a high school football team and an entirety of three cheerleaders, one of whom happens to be conveniently visited by prophetic and expository dreams so as to provide background for those unfortunate enough to have missed the first movie. The Creeper takes advantage of these meals on wheels and moves in for the kill; meanwhile, Taggart prowls the highway, looking for revenge, and comes across the bus -- but not too soon. Thrills, of a sort, ensue.

Most of these kids are so annoying that we can't help but eagerly look forward to each individual and inevitable demise, which will remove them from the screen and has the effect -- not uncommon in horror films -- of putting us in the position of wishing for the Creepers' success; we become vicarious sadists. Because there's so little else at stake besides our own pleasure in watching this piece-meal slaughter -- it's the wish-fulfillment fantasy of the picked-upon -- there's no suspense, no fear, and consequently no horror film. The basic story breaks down into Creeper vs. kids and Creeper vs. father, which doesn't develop into plot per se, but into a well-paced series of violent incidents that could have unfolded in a hundred different ways, all designed to cull out the slow and the boring and to show off Salva's redoubtable sense of style.

Salva has an understanding of the basic techniques of horror cinema (he's especially fond of composition in depth, where the action in the background is almost always more interesting or important than the foregrounded action; check out John Carpenter's Halloween [1978] for an illustrative example), and his conception of the Creeper is genuinely loathsome and almost Lovecraftian (kudos to Brian Penikas for great makeup effects on a budget). But the sum total of the movie is that the action has more thrills than the scares, thanks to Salva and some better than you might expect CGI work. A ten-minute sequence in the middle, where the father, in his Ahab-mad quest, attempts to harpoon the Creeper with a truck-mounted spear gun of sorts, is a tiny gem of editing by Ed Marx, and by itself is almost worth the ticket price.

Most of the characters are intended as disposable and so, naturally, are the performances; almost everyone gets a quickly identifying character tag for easy reference: The Blubbering Coward, the Overly-Confident Teenager, the Macho Jock, the Nerd, etc. The standouts: Nicki Aycox is a charmer as the aforementioned psychic cheerleader, and Ray Wise is worth every penny he was paid as Taggart; you may remember him as Laura Palmer's father in television's Twin Peaks. No one can deliver a thousand-yard stare like he can. When he looks over the cornfield after his son is nabbed by the Creeper, the intensity of his gaze is like a thousand-watt bulb flipped on in a darkened room, so we shouldn't be surprised to find Salva returning to it in one setting after another. Taggart's stare and the Creeper's toothy grin are played like hole cards by a director whose greatest strength is visual flair.

I like the way the Creeper is, for the most part, kept a mystery; it creates a weirdness that adds surreal flavor to what is, after all, a clever grafting of Jaws (1975), stalker films, and monster movie gumbo. But it remains mildly disappointing and somewhat bland. By no means terrible, but by no means terribly memorable. As Victor Salva describes his own oeuvre, "atmospheric and macabre, with no happy endings, but not to be taken totally seriously." As you wish.

Copyright © 2003 David Newbert

David Newbert worked for public and university libraries for several years before joining the college book trade. He lives in New Mexico, where the aliens landed.


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